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Maya Kosa and Sérgio da Costa • Directors of Bird Island

"Contradiction is our mechanism, and it becomes absurd"


- At the 9th edition of Lanzarote’s Muestra Internacional de Cine, Maya Kosa and Sérgio da Costa are presenting their beautiful documentary Bird Island, an environmental and poetic fable

Maya Kosa and Sérgio da Costa • Directors of Bird Island

Maya Kosa and Sérgio da Costa, directors of the Swiss production Bird Island [+see also:
film review
interview: Maya Kosa and Sérgio da Costa
film profile
, are not present at the Muestra de Lanzarote, where the documentary was shown this week. Due to their ecological concerns, they prefer not to travel by place, but they accepted to answer our questions via email.

Cineuropa: What attracted you to the world of birds to the point where you decided to make a film about them, and how did you find this place where birds go to heal?
Maya Kosa: In 2013, with some friends, we were living in an abandoned house in a Geneva neighbourhood. We had a large garden where plants and trees were growing freely, which was attracting a lot of birds. Curious about these new neighbours we knew nothing about, we decided to buy a guide and a pair of binoculars to get closer to them. That is how we entered their infinitely complex and beautiful world.

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The idea of making a film came to us around the same time, after we discovered, in that same garden, an injured black swift. Since we didn’t know what to do with this small migratory bird, we searched online for a place where it could be treated. It is thanks to that little bird that we arrived at the Ornithological Rehabilitation Centre in Genthod, next to the Geneva airport.

Why did you decide to use a voice-over narration?
MK: The idea of the narration was present from the start, but it took its final form after a long editing process. Initially, we had asked Antonin, the lead character, to write a diary in parallel with his formation with Paul, the rat breeder. He was meant to write about his experience. We only discovered what Antonin had written in this diary when we started editing, and it was very remote from the character that was composed by our images. So we didn’t keep anything from his writing. However, as Antonin said, the writing of that journal allowed him to be that character even when we weren’t filming, which made the character stronger. The writing of the diary, every evening, was like an extension of the experience he had of the place during the day. When we were writing the voice-over narration, at the end of the editing, we maintained the use of the first person. Beside the intimate experience of the place, we had to discreetly introduce a series of information about the workings of the centre, as well as include the elements necessary to the progression of the story — the connection between Antonin and Paul, for example, or between Antonin and the vet Émilie, or between Antonin and the owl.

To kill in order to save and eat the others… Are we living on this planet in a state of pure contradiction?
Sérgio da Costa: The very existence of this ornithological centre brings us back to a very human contradiction: all the while harming the birds, we are saving them. Contradiction is our mechanism, and it becomes absurd.

The fear of freedom, of getting out of one’s comfort zone, is another theme of the film. Are we able to give up our freedom in exchange for our safety?
SC: I think that we are constantly torn by contradictory feelings and desires. We are internally fighting between self-interest and will. When the threats are too strong and we lack confidence, we tend towards safety. In order to live free, we need to be strong or to feel like we belong to a safe and supportive space. Benevolence and solidarity, these might be the things that we are missing the most, these days.

Do you consider the film to be an environmentalist work or do you prefer to let viewers discover its multiple layers and nuances themselves?
SC: We are hoping to provoke questions in the viewer, in line with the various thematic layers of the film. One of them, of course, is the ecology, which we treat from a psychological point-of-view rather than from a scientific one. The film is a kind of environmentalist fable which, we’re hoping, does not carry a closed argument but instead can provoke an existential crisis in each of us.

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(Translated from French)

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