‘All That Breathes’ is one of the most anticipated documentaries or content on the internet if someone was following the discourse around it. Since the film had won the best documentary prize at Sundance Film Festival, I was following each interview and more on the film. Later, the film also won a big prize at Cannes Film Festival. This was the same time when the Indian-Hindi novel ‘Tomb of Sand’ won the International Booker prize. And, then the discourse got built around how Indian art and artists are being recognised globally.
But, Indian documentaries have been earlier recognised globally but don’t get streamed or released in India. For example, another Oscar-nominated documentary ‘Writing with Fire’ is yet to get a streaming release.
About the film
Now, it is finally streaming in India. Yes. HBO brought the rights to the film and has licensed it to Disney+ Hostar in India. And, the film lives up to all the hype, and praise by far.
The film documents the life of two brothers in the non-affluent part of Delhi, as they invest their meagre resources in saving birds. These birds fall from the sky due to Delhi’s polluted air, and more. Everyone who lives under the open sky, and breathes the same air is and should be treated equally. This is a very profound idea. But, in a society where we fail to treat each human equally other creatures don’t make the discourse.
The documentary is a slow burn. The cinematography relies heavily on moving pan- shots, and focus shifting. And, what a delight is it to witness it. With each focus shift, or camera movement you’re anticipating something and you will be surprised each time. In addition, with camera movement, the sound-design also makes the reveal more delightful, and sometimes surprising.
The documentary explores the relationship between humans and other creatures who breathe. There is point in the documentary where one of the brothers say, ‘how alone it is to be a human’. With climate change, and polluted cities, the relationship is much more essential to explore. This exploration makes the consequences seem more profound, and broad.
The political development in the country and the brother’s own identities play a crucial part in the journey of the documentary. But, that is something which I will leave the viewer to unfold.
I have been following Shaunak Sen since his first documentary work ‘Cities of Sleep’. This documentary explores Delhi from the point of sleep. The less said the better. Please watch the documentary, by mailing the director because that film is yet to get a streaming release.
Amidst all the praise, the documentary didn’t win the Oscars. Both BAFTA and Oscars went to Navalny, a documentary on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the cost of freedom of speech. I still feel the politics of ‘All That Breathes’ is so much more profound and subtle amidst the unfolding turmoil of Indian identity politics.
If anything, as a viewer, one needs to look out for works of Shaunak Sen and more like him. That is the least we can do as an audience.
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