According to the advertising These Birds Walk is about the great Pakistani humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhie, who runs The Edhi Foundation I prepared to watch a movie about a man who sounds like a fable in his own life time and I girded myself against a knee jerk expectation of poverty porn.
What is poverty porn?
In my dictionary it is a condescending look into the lives of the poor, stripping them of the respect they deserve, turning them into objects for a First world audience’s voyeuristic pleasure . I think this movie very narrowly avoided the last accusation but at points it came dangerously close to losing that integrity. What saved it were the subjects of the documentary themselves.
The filmmakers Bassem Tariq and Omer Mullick are Pakistani Americans who set out to make a “positive” movie about a nation often only associated with negativity in the Western news media Their original aim was to profile Edhie and raise awareness about his great work with the poor of Karachi.
However their subject turned everything on its head, asking them to concentrate on the work of his foundation and the people around him in order to know him. Beautiful thoughts form a wise man, who is that rare combination of kindness and strength without ego which requires no description or recommendation other than his work.
I can only congratulate the makers on such captivating piece of film. The stars are Asad a once directionless ambulance driver who now deliveries lost children to their parents and Omer a young boy full of the bravado and innocence of childhood. Bassem and Mullick’s greatest feat is capturing the essence of all the children at the home for runaway boys. All their streetwise naivety, their songs, their running and fighting allow people across borders and continents to connect with them as children rather than subjects.
What I found fascinating was that a lot of children and families used the home as a temporary safe haven in which to escape hunger or anything else they needed protection from .Most returned happily enough to their family but some, like the ambulance driver Asad, would stay on making it their home.
A picture forms of a unique and caring institution in a city often portrayed as a cruel and busy metropolis, on the edge of collapse. This was great cinema, it made me sad and as a mother I cried but it also made me laugh and it made me smile.
It is well worth anyone’s time because it allows us to connect at a very personal level with those often ignored and overlooked.
Written by Sadaf Haider
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