This guest post was written by Stephen Bailey, Communications & Branding Intern for Heifer International.
As part of the Little Rock Film Festival, Heifer International awarded "These Birds Walk" with its first-ever Social Impact Film Award. Directors Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq received the award for their resolve in shedding light on a social issue and how it is being addressed in Karachi, Pakistan. The award included a $10,000 cash prize provided by the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site to the directors to finish post-production and distribution of their film.
I was able to screen the movie and was immediately attracted to the films ability to reveal the complexity and depth of the social issues affecting Pakistani youth, while illustrating the incredible resilience and bravery that these young people have.
As children, we learn about the migratory journey that birds take every year. It is an ongoing expedition to escape the cold, resource-scarce winters for warmer, richer lands. We usually frame this commute as leaving home to head south when times are rough, then returning home when sunshine, rain and budding plants once again make the area inhabitable. But These Birds Walk questions the idea of home as an inherent, absolute place and points to the sunshine, rain and budding plants as the true indicators of what home is.
Omar, a young runaway Pakistani boy, still carries the wounds of his abusive parents. Now he tells jokes, plays and grows under the roof of the Edhi Foundation, an organization run by dying humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi that houses street children and returns children (and the bodies of those who have died) to their homes. Omar claims that he only shed a single tear when his parents would beat him, and takes it upon himself to exhibit his strength and virility by bullying his peers at the home for runaways in Karachi.
But one day his taunting catches up with him, and he is brought to tears at the hands of another troubled youth, Mumtaz. Suddenly, his understanding of home is put into question, and his quest for that home leads him to cross paths with the young orphan and ambulance driver for the Edhi Foundation, Asad.
Unlike in the U.S., Edhi ambulances return runaway children and bodies to their families. After struggling through a rough childhood without parents and nearly taking his own life, Asad has dedicated his life to helping children find their homes. But after years of working for the Edhi Foundation, he too begins to question which he is truly able to take home, the children or the bodies.
The message of their film strikes a chord with Heifers Value-Based Holistic Community Development model, an effort to strengthen relationships, agency and capacity through shared values and vision. In essence, by making a community a home for all.
Be sure to watch the official "These Birds Walk" trailer below and stay tuned for its future release in theaters.