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Scheme Birds centers on Scottish teenager Gemma and the people in her life: her grandfather, who raised her after her mother abandoned her; her boyfriend Pat; her unlucky best friend Amy; and her neighbor JP. Their scheme is Jerviston, a place where you “either get knocked up or locked up,” where there’s been nothing to do since Margaret Thatcher closed the local steelworks in the 1980s. Everyone finds a distraction to stay out of trouble: Papa keeps pigeons and teaches boxing, the kids drink and commit petty crime, and Gemma finds motherhood. Directors Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin paint an intimate portrait of this fading town, and of Gemma as she comes of age in a place scarred by society’s broken promises. But Gemma’s tenacity and determination shine through her surroundings. Her budding voice accompanies the film’s dreamy cinematography, providing a chilling commentary on the violence and loneliness all around her. Thanks to the sensitivity of the filmmakers, and Gemma’s strong personality, there is a clear strand of hope in this absorbing story of survival. (Julie Roztie, Tribeca Film Festival)