At the end of the 19th century a hunted killer on an errand of revenge is forced to reconcile with the truth of his nature

Jacob Wiebe’s “A Song For William Bird” takes viewers on a haunting journey into the depths of the human soul, set against the backdrop of the late 19th century. In this mesmerizing drama, a hunted killer grapples with the harrowing reality of his existence while on a quest for vengeance. As the protagonist confronts the truth of his nature, the film delves into themes of pain, grief, guilt, and the struggle to let go of the burdens that define us.

Wiebe’s directorial vision shines through in the film’s stark black-and-white cinematography, evoking a sense of timeless melancholy and introspection. “A Song For William Bird” offers a profound meditation on the human condition, inviting audiences to contemplate the complexities of redemption, forgiveness, and the enduring quest for inner peace. Through its poignant storytelling and atmospheric visuals, the film leaves a lasting impression, resonating with viewers long after the credits roll.

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

Film, as painting and writing and drawing for me, is an exorcism of feelings and experiences I would otherwise have no means to metabolize. Having been through a difficult moment in my life, A Song for William Bird became the expression of that moment.

As a writer/director are you open to changes or suggestions when you start shooting or do you like to stick to what has been written?

I prefer to hew as closely to the words of the screenplay as possible. I work carefully on the rhythm of dialogue, the flow of syllables, and the particular idioms of the time period I am writing for. But there are cases in which what I have written simply doesn’t work when spoken aloud; or when actions or lines bump against the actor’s molecular understanding of the intentions of the character. In these cases changes must be made; wherein collaboration improves the project. This is true of each department, not simply the script and the actor.
A film unit is a living organism comprised of many people, all of whom collectively contest with time, terrain, weather and individual human need. As such, my original intention must be rendered elastic at peril of its death. And from out of that elasticity, if the living organism’s component parts are harmonized, the result of that collective effort has potential to yield superior ends than my initial imaginings intended. My own small brain can only figure out so much; but the combined brain power of a team of artists surging together can accomplish great things.

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

The washing of the corpse of Ada, at the riverside. I assumed it would be easiest, for it had no dialogue, and the character intentions were clear within the physical mechanics of the scene. Simply show the actors where to be and what to do, and I believed the engine of their actions would propel the emotionality without need of further instruction. I was incorrect; and in being unprepared for this eventuality did not know how to mend it. I simply knew the scene was not working, and failed to bring it to the place it needed to be. Sometimes simplicity is deceptively complex. Perhaps it always is? Yes, that is probably the case. I will need to think about that.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

It reaffirmed my love for it, and the great happiness of working with a team of people I am so happy to be alongside. A family of friends, covered in mud and blood together. I hope we can be together again.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

Be ambitious. We have too many forgettable films. Make something true to the uniqueness of who you are. Pull from the depth of yourself. Draw blood, and leave a piece of yourself on the set. Serve film, and do not try to make it serve you. Do not make a film simply because you believe it could be made; make a film because your soul demands you make it.

What do you hope people will take away from A Song For William Bird?

I hope that those who are struggling will feel seen, that their interiority will be reflected in the images of the film, and that they will feel less alone.

What are your favorite short films?

Hairat by Jessica Beshir.

Which movies you can say directly inspired this film?

I cannot point to any films that were the direct progenitors of this one. Marketa Lazarova is often on my mind though.