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.
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.
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.