Asylum Birds

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Hassan M Nejad's debut film, made in collaboration with the Nomad Cultural Forum, Asylum Birds is one of those rare cinematic gems which marks the appearance of a truly remarkable new talent. Though it's only five minutes long and apparently shot using a cheap digital camera, it has a sense of visual power - and how to use that power - which many established directors could only dream of achieving.

Opening with an image of grey skies and a bird soaring high above grim buildings, eventually fading from sight, Asylum Birds offers a poetic examination of the notion of freedom, saying a lot more with its imagery and simple subtitles than it could have done with drama. The idea of birds representing freedom is an old one, but is rejuvenated by the simple beauty of Hassan's camerawork, which even uses the limitations of the equipment to its advantage, letting overexposed shots create an appropriate sense of being dazzled. Through the movement of the birds, we develop an awareness of the restricted world in which we all live, yet the triumph of this film is that it still manages to be uplifting. It seems to say that freedom is worth celebrating even for those who cannot share it.

A fine example of the power of good cinema to show rather than tell, Asylum birds provides a fresh look at asylum issues which may startle those who have grown complacent about them. As much by virtue of what it does not say as what is said directly (as when the narrator fantasises about feeling safe enough to sleep 'with eyes closed'), it evokes a world which is at once alien and dangerously close to home. It is also a beautiful piece of cinema in the simplest sense - a delight to watch. Hassan is clearly one to watch for the future.

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2007
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A poetic exploration of the concept of freedom.

Director: Hassan M Nejad

Year: 2005

Runtime: 5 minutes

Country: UK

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