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Birds of September

(Touyour Ayloul)

Although Beirut looms over these people’s shoulders at all times, Birds of September represents an unexpected technical variation on the “city symphony.” ...By opting for slow, steady pans (motivated by a car traveling at human walking speed), Francis emphasizes her interviewees’ nostalgia, not the dynamism of the city they live in. (Film Comment)

Each element is only partially graspable – it’s possible to focus on the words, the face or the city behind them, but usually never all at once. At times it feels like tapping into Beirut’s unconscious, the streets and sky merging with anxieties about work, relationships and religion. The concept is stretched thin over its 100 minutes, but it’s a provocative and promising work. (Movie Morlocks)

Birds of September features a structural unity similar to the recent Sensory Ethnography Lab triumph Manakamana (2013), but Francis’s anecdotal narrative and less rigid visual language allows for a formulation of social intrigue unique to this promising first film. (The L Magazine)

A glassed van roams the streets of Beirut, home to a camera that explores the city behind the glass. Along the way, several people are invited to share a personal moment in this moving confessional. Each one comes as a face, a body, a posture, a voice, an attitude, an emotion, a point of view, a memory. Their confessions are true, blunt, and intimate. However, soon enough, the van empties again, and roams Beirut; restlessly looking for something, for someone.

To most people, or at least to me, Beirut is a city in which everything becomes easily familiar: faces, streets, and sounds. All the elements interconnect, boundaries are undefined, everything seems to be constantly moving and intertwining ... Private space and anonymity seem practically impossible at times, and one finds himself constantly overwhelmed, taken by the city's chaos and almost forced to interact with it. This was my impression of this city when I decided to make the film. And the concept of this film is a somehow a reaction to this impression. The 'moving bubble' allowed me to take some distance from the city in order to try to dismantle its elements, filter the sounds and have intimate encounters while staying aware of the space around me. Soon enough, the safe bubble I was in became the bubble of each one of the random encounters I had along the way. Each one of us is in an isolated state of mind; and yet we all share the same space.
(Sarah Francis)

Sarah Francis, Lebanon/Qatar 2013, 99 min, Arabic
subtitles: English, French on request
PAL, region free

Best First Feature - International Mediterranean Film Festival Tétouan
White Goose Award - Best Film at DMZ Documentary Film Festival South Korea
Special Mention Pravo Ljudski Film Festival extra muros Competition Program Award
Best Documentary Award - Silk Road Festival Dublin
'Mention Francois Barat' from 'Les rencontres cinematographiques de Cerbere/Portbou

City, Beirut, Lonliness, Architecture, Portrait, Urbanism, Soundscape, social, anthropological, Essay, Lebanon.

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