‘All That Breathes’ Director Shaunak Sen Interview — Contenders Documentary   –

Director Shonk Sen says that his award-winning film All those breaths Can be seen as “a love story between a man and a bird”.

The birds in question are black kites – a type of raptor – that soar in large numbers over the skies of Delhi, India. The men he is referring to are brothers Muhammad and Nadeem, who have played a role in rehabilitating black kites and other birds that are suffering from the city’s suffocating air pollution. Terrible air quality has become a fact of life for both avians and humans.


RELATED: The Contenders Documentary – Full Coverage

“When you live in Delhi, you’re constantly thinking about air,” Sen said during an appearance at’s Contenders Film: Documentary program. “Air itself is a tangible, visceral, tactile, heavy and gray phenomenon, and a kind of grayness constantly tears your life into pieces.”

The film, which won top prizes for documentary at Sundance and Cannes, shows the brothers and their young assistant Salk nursing sick birds back to health in a bleak basement of a building that used to be a machine shop. It is double. Sen describes their efforts as “micro-gestures of radical hope”, “I think thinking about the present as a kind of life raft. And every bird that falls down “Later flying out of that cage is a little miracle. And I think that for the environment… it’s very important to keep your head down and soldier on despite what’s going on.”

Despite spending a lot of time in the makeshift rehabilitation center, the director says he kept some safe distance between himself and the recovering birds.


“Remember these are not cute songbirds,” he noted. Rather, they are “big, magisterial and often formidable raptors. These birds can mess you up, they’re really sharp. And of course, these guys have achieved a level of skill unimaginable over the years.” It’s hard to do. I haven’t reached a point of comfort with them yet.”

Check back Wednesday for the panel video.

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