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Mohammad Saud (left) is one in every of two bird-saving brothers profiled within the documentary All The Breathes. Above, he and his worker and good friend Salik Rehman are inclined to an injured kite.

Courtesy of HBO


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Mohammad Saud (left) is one in every of two bird-saving brothers profiled within the documentary All The Breathes. Above, he and his worker and good friend Salik Rehman are inclined to an injured kite.

Courtesy of HBO

The story of two brothers saving a whole bunch of birds — the carnivorous black kites injured by glass-coated strings on kites flown within the skies of Delhi — was nominated for an Academy Award this 12 months. The movie All that Breathes, directed by Shaunak Sen and that includes the bird-saving siblings Nadeem Shehzad and Muhammad Saud, was a essential darling. Despite the fact that it did not garner an Oscar, it received each the Golden Eye award for high documentary in Cannes and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2022. It is at present out there for viewing on HBO and Max.

NPR caught up with the brothers over a video name from their residence to learn how their lives have modified since their Oscar run.

Nadeem Shehzad calls the weeks after mid-July “a blood tub.” It is a super time for kite-flying in Delhi — windy however not too windy. As an alternative of taking of their typical 10 or so injured birds a day, they deal with as many as 20 to 30.

The birds they save are black kites (named as a result of their brown feathers make them look like black as they fly overhead). The brothers have a tender spot for this meat-eating, misunderstood chicken from the hawk household. Individuals consider them as vicious hunters however they hunt solely when they should, say the brothers. For probably the most half, the birds are scavengers, feeding off scraps from slaughterhouses and meat-processing vegetation that pile up in Delhi rubbish dumps. As a result of they don’t seem to be thought of enticing and feed on rotting flesh, they’re an unloved chicken. Some persons are even fearful of them.

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Right now of 12 months, the brothers absorb chicken after chicken, their wings torn and our bodies bleeding, to the chicken hospital they run from their residence. There is a cause for the carnage, a scourge with an harmless status and an ironic identify: the kite. As in, the type people play with.

Many individuals in Delhi have interaction in a well-liked kite-fighting sport through which they purpose to slice via the strings of an opponent’s kite. They use the manja, a kite whose cotton or nylon spool thread is coated with shards of powdered glass. The kite-flying craze reaches an annual crescendo when a widespread competition kicks off within the capital metropolis on August 15, India’s Independence Day; the season lasts until mid-September.

The documentary All That Breathes received the Golden Eye award for high documentary on the Cannes Movie Pageant in 2022. Pictured at Cannes: Salik Rehman (left), a good friend who works with the bird-saving brothers profiled within the movie, and the 2 brothers: Nadeem Shehzad (second from left) and Mohammad Saud (proper). The movie’s director, Shaunak Sen, stands between the siblings.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Photos


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Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Photos


The documentary All That Breathes received the Golden Eye award for high documentary on the Cannes Movie Pageant in 2022. Pictured at Cannes: Salik Rehman (left), a good friend who works with the bird-saving brothers profiled within the movie, and the 2 brothers: Nadeem Shehzad (second from left) and Mohammad Saud (proper). The movie’s director, Shaunak Sen, stands between the siblings.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Photos

It is a sport with deadly penalties, because the glass-covered thread can lower via greater than different kite strings. It could slice via flesh and bone – a hazard for birds and, sometimes, people. Earlier this 12 months, a 7-year-old woman using along with her father on a motor scooter acquired tangled in a stray kite string and died, her throat slit.

For years, the brothers have tried to construct consciousness about these lethal kites whereas struggling to avoid wasting the chicken victims. They labored out of their cramped basement, with just one worker, shut good friend Salik Rehman. Within the documentary, the elder of the brothers, Nadeem (who prefers to go by his first identify) says poignantly, “Birds are plummeting from the sky. Delhi is a gaping wound and we’re a tiny band support on it.” Additionally they rescue birds affected by air pollution.

After the success of the documentary, All that Breathes, that band-aid has turn into a bit of greater.


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Donations come flying in

“This 12 months, we’ve got extra assist,” says youthful brother Saud.

After the documentary was nominated for an Oscar, the producers, Tangled Financial institution Studios, donated $25,000 to Wildlife Rescue, the non-governmental group that the brothers have been operating since 2010 to fund their work. Different donations poured in from all around the world, leaving the brothers feeling totally overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. They’ve acquired one other $25,000 via small donors alone, says Nadeem. He says 50 to 100 individuals attain out to him on social media each week, asking assist. These contributions typically take him abruptly, he says, such because the $500 despatched by the oldsters on the Rolling Hills Pet Clinic Hospital in California, urging him to deal with his hardworking employees to an evening out and dinner. He plans to take action in September, after a busy summer time of tending to injured birds.

“I have never been in a position to thank everybody who’s donated but. I am nonetheless responding to emails,” he says.

The cash has been put to make use of. The brothers have been in a position to transfer the chicken hospital out of their residence and right into a single-story constructing they’ve rented subsequent door. They’ve employed 4 extra individuals, together with a veterinarian. The donations not solely assist the salaries but in addition assist cowl the transportation prices for injured birds.

The brothers acquire injured kites from 5 different chicken hospitals throughout Delhi. These hospitals say they don’t seem to be geared up to deal with and feed carnivorous birds just like the kites. To date this 12 months, the brothers say they’ve saved 2,246 birds — an enormous leap from the 1,000 or so handled in a typical 12 months.

“Earlier, we might decide up the birds each alternate day,” says Nadeem. Ballooning transport prices meant that they could not go every single day, and inevitably, some birds would die.

“Now we will rent an uber or autorickshaw for a every day decide up,” says Saud. “So we will get to the birds lots sooner for therapy.” The brothers say their dream is to have their very own devoted chicken ambulance.

Throughout filming, the brothers had a makeshift chicken enclosure on the second flooring of their residence, lined in inexperienced mesh. They’ve now moved the enclosure to the terrace on the third flooring and rebuilt it with tiles and chrome steel, making it simpler to scrub. Blue tin sheets line the roof.

It is a form of relaxation cease for birds which have healed and been launched, says Nadeem. Day-after-day, practically 50 kites that they’ve cared for flit out and in of the world, consuming, ingesting and resting within the shade. It is a form of bridge between the hospital and the birds’ wild world.

“It is a area the place they’ll get stronger, check their wings earlier than they take flight,” says Nadeem.

The brothers have additionally invested in cameras, scanners, computer systems to doc their rescues.

A deferred dream

On the finish of the documentary, Nadeem was making ready to check veterinary science within the U.S. He was accepted at a personal college in North Carolina however wasn’t in a position to go as a result of his $5,000 scholarship would solely cowl 10% of the prices. “It is all the time been a dream to check within the U.S.,” he says.

He nonetheless hopes to get formal scientific coaching to complement the information he and his brother have gained on their very own. For instance, the manja kite strings trigger such deep and complicated wounds to birds’ wings that some can by no means fly once more. Many veterinarians instructed them that these wounds merely can not heal utterly. Nevertheless, Nadeem says they’ve devised their very own method for aligning muscle, bone and tissue. They’ve photographed and documented how lots of the birds they’ve handled, even these with the worst of accidents, had been in a position to fly once more. Nadeem hopes to embark on analysis and share his information with the broader neighborhood of veterinarians and rescuers.

A flutter of hope

The brothers say the birds they can not save weigh closely on their minds, however they take coronary heart that they may help with most accidents.

It is a sentiment that many wildlife rescuers are conversant in, says Dr. Ulrike Streicher, rehabilitation director and veterinarian on the Cascades Raptor Middle in Oregon. When the movie was proven on the annual Nationwide Wildlife Rehabilitators Symposium in March 2023, she says, many within the viewers felt the brothers’ pains and struggles very strongly. “It’s a robust crowd — individuals who see unhappy, heartbreaking and horrifying issues every single day,” says Streicher. “Seeing that [the brothers] did this work beneath such very restricted circumstances and within the face of political and social unrest and insecurity introduced them to tears,” she says.

At the moment, the brothers’ kids are starting to take an curiosity of their rescue work. Nadeem’s daughter, Inayaa, is 6. Saud has an 8-year-old son named Aalif and a daughter, Zara, who is sort of 2. The ladies love birds, Nadeem says.

Aalif seems within the documentary, and after the Oscars ceremony he acquired a particular award from college for serving to his dad and uncle. Saud says his son was enormously proud. “It meant extra to him than the Oscars.”

Kamala Thiagarajan is a contract journalist primarily based in Madurai, Southern India. She studies on world well being, science, and improvement, and her work has been printed within the New York Instances, The British Medical Journal, BBC, The Guardian and different shops. Yow will discover her on twitter @kamal_t

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