Playing like a real-life Ken Loach or Andrea Arnold feature, this remarkably candid and often surprisingly poetic documentary centres on Gemma, a fiercely resilient 18-yr-old growing up in unlovely Motherwell to the south-east of Glasgow, whose voice-over narration comes in a softly-spoken but thick Scottish accent (sub-titled). Constantly in trouble, she lives with her grandfather, Joseph, because her mother is in jail for shoplifting fuelled by a drug problem. Pigeon-fancying Joseph trains her to be a boxer, providing skills that help her to survive in the streets as she comes of age in one of the most deprived towns in Scotland. Superbly constructed, often feeling more like a narrative drama than a documentary, Scheme Birds unfolds over a number of years, as we witness the unfolding of tragic events that could not have been predicted when filming started.
Scheme Birds won the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary at the 2019 Denver International Film Festival, and won Best Documentary Feature and Best New Documentary Director for Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
“This extraordinary documentary weighs the bleak details … against moments of lyrical beauty and even humour.” – Screen International.
“The most profoundly skilled, empathetic and moving film of the year” - Lena Dunham.