All That Breathes is the winner of the l’Œil d’or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Shaunak Sen, All That Breathes is a poetic observation of a New Delhi clinic run by two brothers devoted to saving and protecting black kites. Sen’s portrait of the clinic and the birds under its care serves as a stirring microcosm of the racial and religious divides in India, and the brewing political unrest that offers the film’s backdrop.
“L’Œil d’or goes to a film that, in a world of destruction, reminds us that every life matters, and every small action matters,” remarked the jury in a statement. “You can grab your camera, you can save a bird, you can hunt for some moments of stealing beauty, it matters. It’s an inspirational journey in observation of three Don Quijotes who may not save the whole world but do save their world.”
All That Breathes previously won the Grand Jury Prize for world cinema when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The honour of the l’Œil d’or makes All That Breathes the first documentary to triumph at both Sundance and Cannes.
“These birds might nibble trash, but All That Breathes affords them stature,” I wrote while reviewing the film at Sundance. “Gorgeous cinematography by Benjamin Bernhard, Riju Das, and Saumyananda Sahi captures various birds with arresting profiles… However, when the cameras of All That Breathes gaze longingly upwards, the film harnesses the impulse that drives the brothers to work. The sight of flying birds is a wonder to behold—provided the smog doesn’t shield them from view.”
This year’s l’Œil d’or jury was comprised of Agnieszka Holland, Iryna Tsilyk, Pierre Deladonchamps, Alex Vicente, and Hicham Falah. The jury gave a special mention to Mariupolis 2, whose director, Mantas Kvedaravicius, was tragically killed while filming in Ukraine mere weeks before the documentary premiered at Cannes. Previous winners of the l’Œil d’or include For Sama, Faces Places, and A Night of Knowing Nothing.