Documentary Review: All That Breathes (2022) by Shaunak Sen

At Sundance final week, Shaunak Sen’s “All That Breathes” gained the Grand Jury World Cinema: Documentary Award. This marks one more milestone on this comparatively new filmmaker’s profession. His debut documentary, “Cities of Sleep” (2016) gained reaped accolades after its premiere at DOK Leipzig. In 2019, he earned the Sundance Documentary Grant to work on this undertaking – then known as “Airborne.” Now, together with his completed function in 2022, Sen walks away from the competition as the one Asian contestant to win a Grand Jury prize this 12 months. 

In Sen’s sophomore function, two Muslim males (Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad) work on their hen rehabilitation clinic in India. They’re specialists in “black kites” – the frequent birds that populate the Delhi skies. Their dedication to the avians is aware of no bounds. They swim throughout inlets to rescue injured animals; cover rodents of their pockets; tirelessly apply for grants to maintain operations working. The more and more injured native fauna will not be an remoted incident, nevertheless. With abysmal air high quality, growing anti-Muslim sentiment, and – in fact – kites falling out the sky, the delicate Delhi community threatens to cave underneath stress. Politics and the surroundings are intertwined in Sen’s microcosmic ecology.

Funnily sufficient, this manufacturing is paying homage to one other Sundance entry, Snow Hninh Ei Hlaing’s “Midwives.” In spite of everything, the 2 cowl the tales of humble locals constructing clinics amid anti-Muslim violence. On this setup already, the 2 documentaries are usually not essentially advanced. There are clear delineations of the aggrieved events (Muslims) and their aggressors (extremists). Regardless of this, the documentaries don’t pity their topics. There is no such thing as a actual name to motion for these victims of circumstance; the truth is, one even wonders why the flicks have been made. Are they the product of publicity? Of international grant funding? Or are they merely motion pictures from the center, wanting to share tales untold? In both case, the longer term is bleak for these documentaries’ topics. As hatred threatens to destabilize their futures, the movies learn like an elegy to their topics’ will to vary the world.

In contrast to “Midwives,” nevertheless, “All That Breathes” is rigorously crafted. Sweeping vistas of the open, however polluted skies expound upon the cured kites’ freedom. Off-kilter lengthy photographs deliberate upon whispered conversations behind doorways. A plethora of pans complement Saud and Shehzad’s voiceovers, every of which just about really feel extra poetry than they do prose. Sen’s fascination with the collision between the animal kingdom and metropolis is obvious. The digital camera gazes in awe upon the sheer power of urbanity within the Indian capital – and nature’s capability to adapt accordingly. 

All in all, “All That Breathes” illustrates a portrait of a fragile ecosystem that’s dangerously upset. Right here, the kites mirror Saud and Shehzad. The more severe the AQI will get, the extra kites actually fall in poor health; the extra violent the Hindu political-religious actions develop into, the much less safe the brothers are of their clinic. As the longer term heads into unsure territory, “All That Breathes” spells out a plea for steadiness. On this life, every thing – all that breathes – is linked: underneath the skies, by means of the air, and the Earth upon which we dwell.



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