Part of SFFILM Festival
Repeating motifs—sleep, birdwatching, buildings in decay—weave together two distinct storylines in Qiu Sheng’s mysterious, atmospheric debut. In one story, land surveyors investigate a tilting building, while in the other a group of kids searches for their friend who has vanished from school. Though both feature a character named Xiahao, the narratives intersect in ways that only deepen the mystery of what is taking place and when. With nods to the work of Hong Sang-soo and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Suburban Birds crafts a tale where the past seems to literally invade the present.
“Time bends in this sly, often-lovely drama, which pivots on a young surveyor whose past catches up with him while he’s out in the field. At one point, he walks into a seemingly deserted classroom, initiating an enigmatic journey into the past that keeps bumping into the present. Using splashes of primary color, punctuating zooms, visual echoes and narrative ellipses, the Chinese writer-director Qiu Sheng puts a fresh gloss on Faulkner’s observation that the past is never dead. It’s always here, vibrating in every red scarf, bird song, and moment.” — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times