Some days, the black kites literally drop from the sky—the air pollution in Delhi, India, can be so intense that flocks of the birds fall to earth. If they’re lucky, they’ll find themselves in the care of Nadeem and Saud, two heroic brothers who are concerned about the animals’ welfare. They’ve set up an improvised sanctuary for birds of prey.
“Delhi is a gaping wound, and we are a tiny Band Aid on it,” comments one of them, accurately reflecting everything we see in All That Breathes. This winner of the Sundance Documentary Jury Prize is also a portrait of a city on the brink of the abyss, and how life finds a way to go on here. We watch as a snail glides serenely by a street bonfire, and dogs roam about the vast heaps of waste.
There is no false optimism here. The brothers are sometimes downcast about the pointlessness of their efforts, but doing nothing is not an option. Against the backdrop of growing tensions that make the situation increasingly desperate—particularly for the Muslim minority to which the brothers belong—there is hope to be had from the simple fact that there are people who do care.