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Oscar Contender ‘All That Breathes’: When Birds Fall From The Skies Of Delhi, Two Brothers Come To Their Aid

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One of the top contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars this year ranges from the skies above Delhi, India to a basement below the city’s north end.

In All That Breathes, brothers Nadeem and Saud operate a subterranean workshop-cum-makeshift animal hospital where they aid injured and ailing black kites, a bird of prey increasingly vulnerable to Delhi’s intense air pollution.

“I was really gripped by this figure of the black dot in the sky, which is the black kite,” recalls filmmaker Shaunak Sen, “the lazy gliding dots that you see — one of the them starts falling down. And I remember seeing this vaguely while driving my car one day and I was truly gripped with this figure. So, I started researching what happens to birds when they fall down. And that’s when I came upon the work of the brothers. The minute that you walked into that tiny, damp, air-lit basement, and you see the metal cutting machines on one side and these incredible regal birds on the other, it’s cinematically dense and riveting.”

'All That Breathes' director Shaunak Sen

‘All That Breathes’ director Shaunak Sen
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Courtesy of Salim Khan

All That Breathes, from Sideshow and Submarine Deluxe in association with HBO Documentary Films, opened in theaters in Los Angeles on Friday, a week after debuting in New York. The film has been embraced since its world premiere last January at Sundance, where it won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentary. It went on to win the “Golden Eye” (L’Oeil d’or) award at Cannes as the festival’s best documentary, and was nominated this past week for a Gotham Award for Best Documentary Feature and shortlisted for the IDA Awards. 

The recognition has come as something of a surprise to Sen, for only his second documentary.

“Just to get into the likes of Sundance and Cannes, let alone winning them, is already at the top of my desire matrix,” he tells Deadline. “It’s really something that feels not entirely processed. Now to have the film open theatrically in the U.K. and U.S. — my brain is still wrapping itself around it.”

Raptor rescuer Mohammad Saud inspects an injured black kite at his clinic in Delhi, India, May 13, 2022.

Raptor rescuer Mohammad Saud inspects an injured black kite at his clinic in Delhi, India, May 13, 2022

Photo by Javed Dar/Xinhua via Getty Images

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Over the years, Nadeem and Saud, along with their trusty assistant Salik, have rehabilitated more than 20,000 birds, most of them kites. More and more of them are suffering not only from injuries but metabolic bone damage and neural deformities as a result of air laden with harmful particulates. The birds patiently allow the brothers to tend to them, sensing, it would seem, their healing intent. Not everyone on the film team felt comfortable being in tight quarters with what Sen describes as “ferocious raptors.”

“Our producer and my close friend Aman [Mann] is petrified of kites and wouldn’t work close to them,” Sen explains. “I am also not super comfortable, but I can be at arm’s length. And some of us are very comfortable with it.” Comfortable or not, the director felt compelled to film the birds “as wondrous, otherworldly, awe-inspiring creatures.”

The film has impressed not only for its exceptional cinematography (by DOP Ben Bernhard), but for an elegant voiceover culled from stray observations the brothers made over the course of shooting the documentary. 

A black kite aloft

Photo by Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

“When other birds fly, their effort shows. But the kite swims,” they note early in the film. Towards the end they observe, “Life itself is kinship. We’re all a community of air. That’s why we can’t abandon the birds.”

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Nadeem and Saud are not necessarily men of many words, yet what they do articulate carries force.

“The brothers themselves have… rich inner lives, and they’re philosophers of the urban,” Sen comments. “So, we decided to put in these kind of voiceover bits… cut to either the images that invoke their childhood or the magic of the black kite or the ecological absurdity of the city of Delhi. They’re really obviously lyrical set pieces.”

There are humorous touches in the film, which come from the endearing young Salik, who is sort of like a baby bird to the brothers’ older, wiser birds. 

A black kite and human caretaker Salik Rehman in 'All That Breathes'

Salik Rehman in ‘All That Breathes’

Sideshow/Submarine Deluxe/HBO Documentary Films

“Salik brings a kind of unguarded innocence to the film, which is helpful because it contrasts with the seriousness of the brothers,” Sen says. “He gets the laughs and things happen to him — his glasses get taken away [by a bird]. He says absurd things, like, ‘What happens if there is a nuclear war — will the birds survive?’  …You really fall in love with him.”

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Hanging over Delhi is not only smog but, as in the rest of India, rising political tensions as a result of strident Hindu nationalism. The brothers, as Muslims, are potential targets of violence. There is an obvious junction between the toxic skies and the toxic political atmosphere. While the director gestures toward that, he doesn’t make it an overt topic of All That Breathes.

“The sectarian stuff is very obvious in what’s happening. And you can sense the political as a kind of oblique tangential presence in the film, the fact that the city is on the boil and there’s a lot of turbulence developing in the city of Delhi the last two years,” Sen notes. “I was interested in how the real world leaks in, and that’s the way resonances or tremors of the world are sensed. The film is ultimately ecological and does not have a fractal political ambition.”

But he adds, “I feel it’s firmly political in the sense that the brothers are concerned about the relationship between humans and birds, which is its own kind of politics. But that’s what they’re interested in and we had to respect the integrity of their lives and their concerns.”

Sen doesn’t see his film as a nature or wildlife film. Rather, it’s a holistic meditation on the interdependence of living things – of all that breathe. The fate of birds connects with the fate of humans.

An Indian Black Kite flies past the 16th century Mughal monument Humayun's Tomb in New Delhi on February 8, 2019

A black kite flies past the 16th century Mughal monument Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi on February 8, 2019

Photo by ALEX OGLE/AFP via Getty Images

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As airborne predators, kites scan the world below, looking for food. We asked Sen if he saw any similarity between the acute perception of birds and observational skills necessary for a documentary filmmaker.

“Not inasmuch as direct parallels between the kite and our visual jobs as filmmakers,” he responds. “But the act of birdwatching and filmmaking are very, very similar, because what happens is that birdwatching requires you to decelerate, to slow down, no quick movements, sit still patiently and become a part of the wallpaper of the world. There’s a kind of intense, radical looking that birdwatching requires, which is very similar to the kind of fly on the wall approach that a lot of documentary filmmakers have.”

He adds, “It’s just embracing the radical un-scriptedness of the world and just waiting, and eventually life rewards you with surprises. So, I suppose filmmaking is fundamentally ornithological in some ways.”



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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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