I’ve been to Pakistan a few times. Karachi, specifically. I used to go a lot more when I was younger with my family but things change and so in the past 20 years, I’ve only been twice. I’ve always seen Karachi from a certain perspective and with the documentary These Birds Walk, which I only just got to see, I got to see a side of Karachi I wouldn’t have had access to.
In These Birds Walk, filmmakers Omar Mullick, Bassam Tariq went to Karachi, Pakistan to make a film about Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder of the Edhi Foundation, a non-profit social welfare organization. Edhi is someone who has dedicated his life to helping out the impoverished through the foundation, which runs on donations. According to Wikipedia, the foundation:
-Rescued over 20,000 abandoned infants,
-Rehabilitated over 50,000 orphans
-Trained over 40,000 nurses
-Runs over three hundred and thirty welfare centers
Edhi himself doesn’t take a salary from the foundation and lives a very humble lifestyle.
I know, right? Excuse me as I silently weep from the incredible amount of nothing I’ve done with my life…
I thought at first that the documentary was going to be principally about Edhi. Soon after we meet Edhi in the beginning though, we are introduced to Omar, a runaway boy apprehended by the cops, who hand him over to Asad, an ambulance driver employed by the Edhi Foundation. Asad spends his working hours driving around dead bodies to morgues and to relatives’ homes and taking kids to the shelter or back to their homes.
Omar and Asad are the main characters of the documentary – two people directly affected by Abdul Sattar Edhi and his foundation.
And with that, I got a perspective of Karachi that I’ve never seen before.
Asad, driving around while reminiscing about how he got the job as a driver at Edhi Foundation, talked of previously being aimless, with thoughts of taking his own life. Omar talked about taking his own life too. I couldn’t get over the parallels in their thinking of how a thought so serious seemed like such a normal thought.
Even though Asad’s reluctance to sometimes help the kids was apparent in his conversations with Edhi and others as he gets commissions when he drives dead bodies to their destination but not when he drives the boys around, he never lets that show to the boys themselves. Asad reassures them at every step of the way that everything will be okay as he drives them to their homes. Some don’t want to go back home as some parents don’t really want their kids back or were the ones who placed them in the boys’ home in the first place, knowing that the Edhi Foundation can take better care of them then they can.
With These Birds Walk, the filmmakers step back and let the people and the city lead the film’s path. We get to ride around in Asad’s ambulance, get a look of the life of a runaway boy as he resides in the Edhi Foundation boys’ home, and also get a glimpse into the humble life that Edhi himself lives.
It’s a beautiful film and one I highly recommend. These Birds Walk is now available digitally on iTunes and Amazon.