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Shaunak Sen’s Doc Wins Big At Sundance

admin   January 30, 2022

Video artist and Delhi-based filmmaker Shanuak Sen was awarded the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for his documentary film All That Breathes at the just concluded Sundance Film Festival.

The film is set against the darkening backdrop of Delhi’s apocalyptic air and escalating violence, two brothers devote their lives to protect one casualty of the turbulent times: the bird known as the Black Kite.

The India-UK Co-Production film (Producers: Aman Mann, Teddy Leifer) received support from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and a development grant from the Sundance Documentary Fund in 2019.

This is for the first time an Indian filmmakers has won the top prize at the World Cinema Documentary Competition Sundance Film Festival.

The Grand Jury Prizes went to Nikyatu Jusu‘s feature directorial debut “Nanny,” for the coveted U.S. Dramatic title, along with Christine Choy’s “The Exiles” for U.S. Documentary, Shaunak Sen’s “All That Breathes” for World Cinema Documentary, and Alejando Loayza Grisi’s “Utama” for World Cinema Dramatic.

The Audience Awards were earned by U.S. documentary “Navalny” and Cooper Raiff’s “Cha Cha Real Smooth” for U.S. Dramatic. “Navalny” also won the Festival Favorite Award.

Sundance Film Festival 2022 Juror Emilie Bujès said: “This poetic film delivers an urgent political story while constructing a singular and loving portrait of protagonists resisting seemingly inevitable ecological disaster – with humorous touches punctuated by unsentimental depiction of the animal kingdom. For maintaining its suspenseful tension when portraying the interior struggles of its characters and the contradictions in spirituality and materialism they confront, we present the [World Cinema] Grand Jury Prize to All That Breathes.”

“This year’s entire program has proven that no matter the context, independent storytelling remains a pivotal tool in expanding critical dialogues, and these stories will and must be shared,” Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente said at the virtual introducing the awards ceremony.

Sundance Festival Director Tabitha Jackson said: “This year’s festival expressed a powerful convergence; we were present, together, as a community connected through the work. And it is work that has already changed those who experienced it.”

Filmmaker Shanuank (younger brother of National Award Filmmaker Raja Sen) is a video artist and film scholar based in Delhi. Cities of Sheep (2016), his first feature length documentary, was shown at various major international film festivals (European premiere at DOK Leipzig) and won six international documentary awards.

Shaunak also received the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Films Division of India Fellowship (2013), theSaraiCSDS Digital Media fellowship (2014), Pro Helvetia residency, Switzerland (2016), the Charles Wallace Grant, as visiting scholar at Cambridge University (2018), the IDFA Bertha Fund (2019), the Sundance Documentary Grant (2019) and the Catapult Film Fund (2020).

10 things to look for in Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes

admin   January 30, 2022

All That Breathes is a poetic tribute to a New Delhi family that has devoted its life to rescuing black kites that fall wounded from the sky.

The documentary focuses on the family, which has been operating the rescue for decades with the help of donations and other funding sources, and then lyrically pans out for sweeping shots of the sky and cityscape.

With stunning cinematography and utmost attention to the tiniest detail (down to mosquitos buzzing over a puddle), Sen follows Wildlife Rescue cofounders Nadeem and Saud and their equally dedicated volunteer Salik.

The film is an ambitiously intricate study of the intersection of environmental collapse, religious tension, and the love of two Muslim brothers for a feathered scavenger unnervingly falling from a smoggy Delhi sky.

It’s a tale of high drama in which the avian stars serve as canaries in a toxic global coal mine soon to engulf us all.

Nadeem and Saud learned about skeletal and muscle structure and the like from being teenage bodybuilders. They learned about caring for “all that breathes” from their mother.

There’s a scene in which one of the brothers mentions a (February 2020) New York Times profile, which seems to have turned on the funding spigot for their Wildlife Rescue.

Sen hopes his film inspires audiences to feel a kinship with the black kites and their bird relatives. “I want audiences to leave the theater and immediately look up,” he says.

When he read a newspaper article about the brothers, he knew he had the emotional anchor of his story. He found the brothers in the basement with huge, heavy cutting machines and other equipment for producing their soap dispensers.

“I think the brothers want to share their knowledge, receive more knowledge and make a bid for more resources so that they can improve their conditions of work,” he says.