Catarina Vasconcelos

Portugal, 2020 / 101 min / Portuguese OV with English subt. / Documentary, Fiction

A highly unorthodox documentary that finds Portuguese filmmaker Catarina Vasconcelos sifting through the memories and dreams of her ancestors.

Beatriz married Henrique on the day of her 21st birthday. Henrique, a naval officer, would spend long periods at sea. Ashore, Beatriz raised their six children by herself, writing letters with news from home and their offspring’s up and down to Henrique. But Beatriz died unexpectedly one day. Her oldest son, Jacinto, who always dreamt of turning into a bird, is the father of director Catarina. Jacinto’s wife and Catarina’s mother didn’t die suddenly, but she passed away when Catarina was only 17 years old. On that day, Catarina and her father connected in the loss of their maternal figures and their relationship was no longer just that of father and daughter. In this epic and deeply personal family portrait, Catarina dives deep into her family’s history, sifts through her ancestors’ memories and dreams, and focuses on life in Portugal in the 20th century. She reads about the Portuguese dictatorship, about being a woman during that time, and about what women could and could not be. Through subtle and sensitive reenactments, the director’s grandmother comes back to life, evoking the loneliness of marriage, the melancholy of seeing children grow up, and finally, the absence of a mother.

“A heartfelt tale of metamorphosis that delves into loss and grief, flying away and growing roots at the same time.” Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival


Fri 05/03 16:00 Cinémathèque PT OV with EN subt. Public
Sat 06/03 10:00 Public
Sat 06/03 17:00 Ciné Utopia PT OV with FR subt. Public
Thu 11/03 16:30 Ciné Utopia PT OV with FR subt.

“It’s a deeply personal film that could be labelled as an autobiography, even though it is a clear hybrid between fiction and documentary. Through a beautifully composed movie, we see the foundations and the life of the director’s family – foundations that have been broken, damaged and scarred by the death of the trees that once gave the birds a place where they belonged and a chance to grow, by granting them a solid surface closer to the skies, from where they could learn how to fly.” Teresa Vieira, Cineuropa, 29/02/2020

“’When you can’t remember, invent’ is advice passed on at one point, but what is remarkable here is the vividness of Vasconcelos’ inventions. The sailor who spends lonely moments staring at the tattoos on his calves so he doesn’t forget his parents’ faces. The grief-stricken family sitting so perfectly still that only a cigarette’s curling smoke proves they’re not in a photograph. The montage of old stamps alluding to Portugal’s colonialist past in Mozambique and Angola. Mirrors that bring the outside in, or that, in a lovely sequence of trompe l’oeil images, reflect portions of a forest back onto itself, embedding shards of stolen sky in the soft ground. A breathtaking arrival for Vasconcelos, The Metamorphosis of Birds makes such abstractions seem simple declarations, like in the half-remembered, half-imagined landscapes of generational grief, it is obvious that mothers are trees, fathers are seas and children flit between them like things with feathers." Jessica Kiang, Variety, 25/11/2020

  • FIPRESCI Prize – Encounters, Berlin International Film Festival, 2020 (Germany)
  • International Dox Award, Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival, 2020 (Kosovo)
  • Audience Award – Best Feature Film, IndieLisboa, 2020 (Portugal)
  • Best Director, IndieLisboa, 2020 (Portugal)
  • Zabaltegi-Tabakalera Prize, San Sebastián International Film Festival, 2020 (Spain)
  • Special Jury Prize – International New Talent Competition, Taipei Film Festival, 2020 (Taiwan)
  • Best Film – New Europe - New Names Competition, Vilnius International Film Festival, 2020 (Lithuania)
Cast & Credits
Manuel Rosa, João Móra, Ana Vasconcelos, Henrique Vasconcelos, Inês Melo Campos, Catarina Vasconcelos, Cláudia Varejão, José Manuel Mendes, João Pedro Mamede
Catarina Vasconcelos
Paulo Menezes
Adriana Bolito, Rafael Cardoso
Madalena Palmeirim
Primeira Idade
Portugal Film

Catarina Vasconcelos was born in Lisbon in 1986. After graduating from Lisbon’s Fine Arts Academy, she moved to London where she pursued a MA at the Royal College of Art. Her graduation project, the short film Metaphor or Sadness Inside Out (2014), premiered at Cinéma du Réel in 2014 where it was awarded the prize for the Best International Short Film. It went on to screen at numerous festivals including the Montreal International Documentary Festival (where it won Best International Medium-Length Film), DOK Leipzig, Moscow International Film Festival and Doclisboa. Her first feature The Metamorphosis of Birds (2020) premiered in the Encounters section at the Berlinale 2020.

  • 2020 – A Metamorfose dos Pássaros (documentary)
  • 2014 – Metaphor or Sadness Inside Out (short)