The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has announced Bird Island as the winner of the 2019 Healthy Workplaces Film Award, for shedding light on the “human fragility” of a worker suffering from fatigue as a result of a long-term illness, with films from Italy, the UK and France, also nominated.

Since 2009, EU-OSHA has presented the Healthy Workplaces Film Award annually at the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Film (DOK Leipzig) to honour innovative films on work-related topics.

The jury were said to be impressed by the way Bird Island, by Sergio da Costa and Maya Kosa of Switzerland, captured an “intelligent, empathetic and even humorous approach to human fragility”, creating a “captivating analogy between the recovery of the injured birds and the rehabilitation of the main protagonist”.

The winning film features a young man, Antonin, suffering from fatigue as a result of a long-term illness, and follows him as he takes up work in a bird sanctuary.

The film combines Antonin’s diary-like reporting with documentary-style footage of his interactions with colleagues and the recovering birds.

The result has been described as “a warm-hearted tale of rehabilitation through patience and care, told in a minimalist yet powerful way”.

Other nominated films included:

  • the Italian film Never Whistle Alone — about whistleblowing in the modern workplace

  • My English Cousin — covering an Algerian migrant’s experiences of work in the UK

  • Taste of Hope — which followed workers as they form a co-operative and take over the French tea factory where they work

  • Nothing to Be Afraid Of — focusing on five women who carry out dangerous work removing mines in Azerbaijan.

Last reviewed 7 November 2019