‘Being at Oscars a mixed bag of heightened emotions’

What motivated filmmaker Shaunak Sen to make a documentary on two Delhi-based brothers who rescue birds? In conversation with Nayonika Bose, the director of the Oscar-nominated documentary shares his experience of filming ‘All That Breathes’.  He also talks about the challenges documentary film-makers face, the eventful journey of an Academy Awards nominee despite a near miss, and more. Excerpts:

How was your experience at the Academy Awards?

It was a grand deal. It is not a one-day event but a four-five months long process. At first, you are engulfed by the campaign, which involves endless travel. The years-long process of filmmaking gets concentrated into three-four months. It tends to get exhausting. However, you end up talking to people you would’ve never imagined speaking to. I had the opportunity to speak to artists and directors whom I really admire such as Alfonso Cuaron, JJ Abrams, Mira Nair, Riz Ahmed and Dev Patel.

There’s also such a thing called the Oscar Nominees Luncheon, which is a closed event where no press is allowed. This lunch feels very celebratory, during which almost all nominees are present. It feels surreal. Finally, the day of Oscars is overwhelming, and like, a sensorial upheaval… I was not super optimistic about our chances because we had one very strong contender but you’re still nervous. Of course, at times you feel depressed that this entire journey is coming to an end. So it’s a mixed bag of heightened emotions.

How did you stumble upon the story of the two brothers who run an underground clinic for injured kites? What motivated you to pursue the story?

Initially, my story had nothing to do with the brothers. I was interested in the tone and texture of monochromatic gray skies that we have in Delhi, especially, in winters. Other than that, I was interested in the human-non-human relationship, especially in the context of urban ecology. I was looking to explore the relationship between air, birds and humans.

From there on, I got interested in the black kite. This eventually left me thinking — ‘What happens to the birds that fall off the sky?’ I met the brothers. They were among the first people I met during the research. Their work and the small basement garage where they work felt inherently cinematic. That’s how it began.

What does the future of Indian documentary filmmaking look like? Do you believe this is the ‘golden age’ for documentaries in India?

It’s undeniable that in the last three-four years, Indian documentaries are having an unprecedented journey. It started with films like ‘An Insignificant Man’ and ‘Katiyabaaz’.

Indian documentaries are definitely doing extremely well on the global stage. In fact, I would say that Indian non-fiction is doing significantly better than fiction, especially in film festivals. There are definitely more funding opportunities now.

However, I am only cautiously optimistic about what this means, because there still are some issues plaguing the scenario. Viewers’ interest in OTTs, for instance, is often for either crime or more commercial documentaries. Creative non-fiction content is still sparse.

What’s next in store for you? Do you see yourself foraying into the world of fiction?

I am very certain that I want to do fiction next. At the moment, I am very fatigued after months of endless travel. So I need to decompress a bit. But I have started researching and I plan to write something in the next few months.


  • Adam Gray

    Adam Gray is an experienced journalist with a passion for breaking news and delivering it to the masses. With over a decade of experience in the field, he has covered everything from local stories to national events, earning a reputation for his accuracy, reliability, and attention to detail. As a reporter, Adam is always on the lookout for the next big story, and his dedication to uncovering the truth has earned him the respect of his peers and readers alike. When he's not chasing down leads, Adam can be found poring over the latest headlines, always on the lookout for the next big scoop. Contact [email protected]