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All That Breathes: Shaunak Sen’s Film That Won At Cannes Is A Story Of These Two Brothers From Delhi

The dark and dingy basement in Delhi's Wazirabad was the location for Delhi-based filmmaker, Shaunak Sen's, 'All That Breathes', the film that won accolades internationally. The film won the top documentary honors - L'OEil d'Or (Golden Eye) award, at this year's Cannes film festival. It also had its World premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2022, where it won Grand Jury Prize in World Cinema Documentary Competition.

The modest basement is the workplace of brothers Nadeem Shehzad and Mohammad Saud and is called Wildlife Rescue Centre. The brother duo from Delhi decided to fight a tedious battle for their patients - Sparrows, Black Kites, in a bid to save the birds that adorn the hazy skies of the national capital.

Photo Courtesy: Raghav Kakkar

With one simple intention in their heart - 'No bird should die due to injury, without getting proper treatment, food and water', the brothers kick-started their NGO Wildlife Rescue, from the roof of their house in 2010.

Photo Courtesy: Raghav Kakkar

Speaking about their journey to do something like this, Nadeem Shehzad said, "This whole thing started in 2003 when we were returning from school . We saw one Black Kite lying injured on the road. When we picked it up and took to nearby veterinary clinics, we were told that we do not treat carnivorous birds. Days and years passed by, we kept on seeing injured birds one after the another. In 2003, we came across another injured Black Kite, that day, we took the matters into our own hands and decided to take care of it, we picked the bird and brought it at our home. We gave it proper treatment, whatever we could, we gave food and water. And since then, there has been no looking back."

Photo Courtesy: Raghav Kakkar

The reason why Filmmaker Shaunak Sen was interested to capture the story of this brother duo was because he found some philosophical disposition towards climate change that felt very refreshing and different.

Photo Courtesy: Raghav Kakkar

Talking about the kind of cases the brothers get mostly in their day-to-day life, the brothers said, "One of the major threats for birds and Black Kites is kite flying. Every year, 25,000 to 30,000 birds die in the city due to the thread manja - a synthetic thread that is basically coated with glass and metal. Another major threat is how our cities are developing and destroying the natural habitat of the birds. Lastly, Climate Change is also having an impact on their lives. For example, in month of May and April, in Delhi, we faced a lot of heatwaves and because of that we saw a two-fold increase in dehydration cases on a daily basis. Whereas, the death rate increased to 3 - 4 times this year."

Photo Courtesy: Raghav Kakkar

Highlighting why saving Black Kites is important and how do they help restore natural balance in our environment, Mohammad Saud said, "Black Kites help dead animals and waste that we throw from our households. India is at no one position in slaughter houses. There is a lot of meat refuse that comes out of that, which is thrown into dumpyards as that is not suitable for eating by the humans. This meat dump could have been just stayed in dump yards if Black Kites were not there and hence their presence is crucial to maintain a healthy environment. In a way they help us from getting many diseases, infections by eating that unsuitable waste."

Photo Courtesy: Raghav Kakkar

Since 2003, the brother duo has helped rescued approximately 25,000 birds and Black Kites. They say, "When we see a bird flying in the sky once again after all the treatment we have given, it feels like our paycheck day."

Photo Courtesy: Raghav Kakkar

Talking about their journey from Wazirabad to International Film festivals and awards like Cannes and how winning international awards have changed their life, Nadeem Shehzad said, 'We didn't even think in our dreams that our work will go in some film festival and we will go to take an award for it. It is a very different feeling. Since the beginning of our work, our intention was to take care of Black Kites and other birds, who are injured. We were not ready to accept the fact that these injured birds should be left for dying?'

Photo Courtesy: Raghav Kakkar

The brother duo is now hopeful that this recognition will help them in getting more and more donations for their work and they will be able to save as many birds as possible in the coming years.

Photo Courtesy: Raghav Kakkar

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