Filmed with an international cast speaking French, English and Spanish, and co-written with cinematographer Sara Mishara, Ivan Grbovic’s Drunken Birds begins in urban, crime-infested Mexico and swiftly transports us to the rural farmlands of Quebec, where former drug runner Willy has come in search of a former lover is in hiding from her mobster partner. Willy’s journey brings him into the orbit of farm owner Richard, who is dealing with an unfaithful wife and a rebellious daughter—a dangerous combination.
Speaking at Deadline’s Contenders Film: International awards-season event, Grbovic explained that the idea for the film first came to him in 2005. “I was driving back to Montreal from a shoot in the countryside,” he recalled, “and I stumbled across a little village in the fog. And to my surprise, I saw about a hundred Mexican migrant workers waiting outside the bank in the fog. I didn’t know there were migrant workers back then in Canada, so it was a bit of a shock. I thought it was a dream, and that initial impression was kind of the catalyst for the type of film I wanted to make.”
Although Willy’s story is the framing device, Drunken Birds juggles several overlapping storylines, notably one in which Richard’s daughter Léa is lured into prostitution. Said Mishara: “The film is about exploitation—the exploiters and exploited. And that’s a subject you can only explore from many different points of view … We’re trying to make a film where we’re exploring sort of all the different sides of that issue. We show everyone’s point of view and let the viewer make their own conclusion.”
Added Grbovic, “People compare the movie to [Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2006 film] Babel, and it’s kind of like the anti-Babel, because in that film they try to create a story that feels like the puzzle is completed at the end. We’re kind of doing the opposite—it feels like it’s linked, but somehow it’s more [about] the absurdity of the modern world.”
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