70th Berlinale | 2020
"The documentary form gives us the immense ground to rethink the world as we see it: it enables us to capture reality, to work with it and to digest it."
Catarina Vasconcelos 
A Metamorfose Dos Pássaros
World premiere 
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The passing away of their mothers makes Catarina and her own father meet in an emotional place that is different from the one most fathers and daughters know.

Hey Catarina congratulations on A Metamorfose Dos Pássaros being selected for the Berlinale Encounters, what does it mean to you to have this film at the festival?

I was quite moved and thrilled with the selection of “A Metamorfose dos Pássaros “ for the Berlinale Encounters. It took me almost 6 years to make this film which departed from a quite personal story: to have the film at the Berlinale made me think that the film achieved something that could speak with people that weren’t part of my personal context: a film that could speak and touch others, while speaking about a familiar context. I guess I’m still quite bewildered with all of this!

A Metamorfose Dos Pássaros is in Competition for the Berlinale Documentary Award in the Encounters strand, does this add any extra pressure on you? 

It adds an extra joy and as well an extra responsibility. It adds as well more films to juxtapose with “A Metamorfose dos Pássaros”: I’m extremely honored to have my film side by side with so many great films and filmmakers. This happens in the Berlinale Documentary Award and as well at the Encounters Section. I don’t feel pressure: the film is done! But it adds a lot of curiosity for the other films.

What is it about documentary filmmaking that interests you so much?

The documentary form gives us the immense ground to rethink the world as we see it: it enables us to capture reality, to work with it and to digest it. It allows us to experience and to record something that might not happen ever again. This possibility of engraving something real in images is a quite powerful skill that documentaries have: they give us the huge assurance that we can trust our eyes. And, maybe, in this process, we allow our hearts to believe it as well. The possibility of entering and relating to someone’s life, intimacy, problems, country, city, and to feel that we, as well, belong there is a huge transformational power that the documentary form has.

"...it was extremely important to have a script that could always shine a light on us."

Can you tell me a little bit about A Metamorfose Dos Pássaros, how did this film come about?

“A Metamorfose dos Pássaros” is a film about a man and a woman who meet in the late 1940’s, get married and start a family. The man, Henrique, was a naval officer and spent long periods at sea. The woman, Beatriz, took great care of their six children. The oldest of their children, Jacinto, is my father. One day Beatriz dies suddenly, and the family broke apart. My mother died as well. It wasn’t sudden but it was too early. On that day, me and my father met in the absence of the word “mother”.

I started to work on “A Metamorfose dos Pássaros” in 2014. I had just premiered my first short film (“Metaphor or Sadness Inside Out”) and I was living in London. While there I had a phone call with my father who told me about how life was going in Lisbon and told me about a specific wish my grandfather had: the desire to burn all the letters that he and my grandmother Beatriz sent to each other during decades. I had never met Beatriz: my grandmother died two years before I was born. I was quite shocked with such will, and tried to convince my father to not do it. After hearing me for a long time (I felt that I was talking for hours!...) my father said: “Well Catarina, I understand you, but this is the correspondence of a man and a woman who happen to be your great parents. But it is their intimacy and no one should enter there.” Although I didn’t get to have the letters, I was invaded by this wish to know more about this woman, Beatriz, who happened to be my grandmother. The film was born from this belief that the dead shouldn’t die twice.

What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing this film to life?

“A Metamorfose dos Pássaros” is a quite personal journey and departs from the intimacy of my own family. Plus, it is a story that goes through three generations and where the characters are played by members of my family: my younger cousins embody the lives of their grandparents when they were their ages. My brother portrays my father; I portray me and my father…. As you can see it is a familiar saga! Hence, I believe that the biggest challenge to make this film was to be able to be swallowed by my family history and at the same time to emerge from the water, to be able to have a distance that would allow me to create and invent over a reality that was so close to me.

When you're working on a project like this are you about to be flexible with your screenplay or do you like to keep to the text?


It was actually quite crucial to have a script that could guide me and the crew throughout this process. The film came as a blend of fragments, memories, voice over together with a huge inspiration that came out of painting and fine art (Josefa d’Óbidos and Silva Porto, for instance), it was extremely important to have a script that could always shine a light on us. But that doesn't necessarily mean that in some cases what was written didn't follow what we were seeing. And in that moment, we decided with our eyes and hearts.


Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

I come from a Fine Arts background. I didn’t study cinema or filmmaking. So, I’d rather say that I always had a strong connection with the arts. And it is in the art realm that I include cinema. Filmmaking came later. But it came in a time where I couldn’t find a lot of answers for a lot of disquiet. Disquiet brought me to filmmaking and filmmaking didn’t give me answers but it did bring me to a place where I feel that restlessness can find solace.

How much has your style and approach changed since you released your award-winning short film Metaphor or Sadness Inside Out (2014)?

Although it may seem like a common place, "A Metamorfose dos Pássaros" could not exist without me having previously gone through "Metaphor or sadness inside out": "Metaphor" is my first short film and that's where I start my interest in my family's biography, more specifically, my mother's biography. "A Metamorfose dos Pássaros" has many seeds that were sown in the "Metaphor". However, in "A Metamorfose dos Pássaros" I believe that the connection with painting becomes more profound, as does my relationship with the staging of what I see. I also believe that the entire auditory score, created through various voices that accompany the entire film, has become much more complex and dense. There is as well a striking different approach from one to the other: “Metaphor” was a one woman show where I was in charge of all of the different fields. “A Metamorfose dos Pássaros” was made with a team. It was a small but unbelievable strong and generous crew that allowed me to have space to think, to create and who gave me a lot of help in creating the right frames and set. Somehow, I feel that "The Metamorphosis of the Birds" is a deep leap into waters in which I had not yet dared to dive.

What has been the best advice you have been given?

Write everything you want to shoot before shooting.

What advice would you offer fellow filmmakers?

Be free and don’t give up.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from A Metamorfose Dos Pássaros?

I hope they can take this film within them. And maybe hope as well. I guess we all need it.