“Burning Your Wings”, the flight of a city bird

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In the HLM city where they grew up, in Motherwell near Glasgow (Scotland), they are nicknamed “Scheme birds”. The expression, which gives its original title to this documentary (much more poetic and eloquent than the French formulation “To burn your wings”), could be translated as “city birds” or “neighborhood lads”. With no diplomas, no jobs, no future in a deindustrialized region since the Thatcher years, these idle teenagers spend their days hanging out on the streets, smoking joints, drinking and filming their fights with mobile phones.

In the gang, Gemma, born in 1997, the year of the demolition of the local steelworks, moreover resembles a young bird fallen from the nest. Platinum hair, sky blue eyes, this angel face in a hoodie tries to hide her vulnerability behind a language of carter and permanent rage. “Here, we get locked up or become pregnant”, she launched, before announcing that she would not leave the neighborhood for anything in the world.

Abandoned at eighteen months by her drug addict mother, she was raised by her grandfather Joseph, owner of a boxing club and pigeon breeder. From the contest of the most beautiful bird to training in the ring, he struggles as best he can to keep Gemma on the right track …

From the Ken Loach documentary version

Rewarded in 2019 at the Tribecca and Denver film festivals, Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin filmed the events of Gemma’s chaotic life for several years: her pregnancy at 18, her precarious move into a tower with a small delinquent, the drama which strikes one of his friends, seriously injured following a brawl… On images of great formal beauty, commented on by the young girl, the film captures the slow metamorphosis of Gemma to which her son Liam will give the force to get out. On his shoulder, a tattoo sounds like the hope of a better life: “Let the free birds fly” (Let the free birds fly away). A dark and luminous journey, as harsh as a Ken Loach film.



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