Thursday 11 May 2023

All That Breathes [2022]

 Shaunak Sen, while speaking of the driving force behind his terrific documentary All That Breathes, articulated his eagerness to “touch upon the whole through the particular”, and this parallel embracing of seemingly dichotomous facets made it an especially powerful work. It was both an example of transcendental art and electrifying reportage; an unsettling portrayal of urban dystopia, while also a quietly uplifting piece; as much an expression of profound humanism as of political dissent and defiance; universal and timeless in its broader philosophies, while also extraordinarily “in the moment” in its geographic and contextual specificities; simultaneously muted in its tone, eloquent in its fierce social commentary, and pulsating in its tremendous sense of vitality and urgency. Its primary subjects were two soft-spoken Muslim brothers – Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad – residing in a desolate section of Delhi, who rescue and treat birds – predominantly the majestic black kites – at their cramped home turned makeshift clinic, despite financially and procedural hurdles. Its subject was also the city of Delhi, with its smog-filled skies and grim ecological footprint, alongside its stunning culture of resistance and troubling social fault-lines that’re demonstrated, respectively, by the massive protests that the draconian citizenship laws sparked and the venomous riots that those in positions of power engineered. And, not least, its subject was a nation-state’s irrevocable turn towards muscular majoritarianism and smug xenophobia, wherein the kites – which’re treated as outcasts by veterinary facilities for being a “non-vegetarian” species – become representative of the broader political canvas, thus paving way for touching “the whole through the particular”. While speaking of the film’s haunting portrayals, complex themes and contrapuntal manifestations, one is also transfixed by its hypnotic and rapturous audio-visual compositions.

Director: Shaunak Sen

Genre: Documentary/Essay Film

Language: Hindi

Country: India

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