Meditative documentary All That Breathes is about two brothers’ devotion to protecting black kites against a backdrop of pollution and violence in Delhi
The award-winning documentary All That Breathes is a meditation on life in Delhi through the eyes and hands of two brothers that nurse injured birds back to health. After winning the world cinema grand jury prize at the Sundance film festival this year it is screening at Cannes, and in many ways it is easier to say what it is not than to define what it is. It is not a wildlife documentary, nor a table thumping call to action; it is not a family drama nor a political film – and yet it contains elements of all these, woven into a poetic and beautiful tapestry. The events depicted are less important than the overall feeling.
Much of that is to do with the Indian capital’s role in the film: a scruffy, belligerent character, integral to the story. “Anyone who lives in Delhi knows that you are constantly surrounded by this grey sensorium,” says the film’s director, Shaunak Sen. “This fabric of greyness, this mood, this tone, where the sky and the clouds and the buildings just sort of mesh into each other has fascinated me for some time. The sun is this diffuse blot and the air that you’re breathing in, the whole ecological bubble you are in, feels hostile to your sense of sustenance.