I Want to Be a Pilot is a 10 minute short from Kenya. We watch a forlorn young boy drift along in the squalor of Nairobi. The voiceover—him or someone speaking for him—is done in a sort of half prose/half poetry style. Whether he in fact lives the life depicted and described, or more likely is an actor portraying an “everyman” version of someone living such a life, I’m not sure.
The voiceover goes back and forth between straightforward descriptions of extreme poverty (his neighborhood is “East Africa’s largest slum,” he hasn’t eaten in several days, etc.) and his hopes and dreams (he wants to be a pilot, to fly away, to go where he won’t have to suffer like this, to have parents, to not have HIV, etc.).
It’s hard not to be moved by something like this, but I don’t know that it hit me as hard as it could have.
Like Life for a Child that I wrote about recently, maybe the subject matter is too close to the charitable appeals on late night TV that, like most people, I’ve learned to completely tune out. Maybe the more poetic narration gives it a sense of unreality, where the extra step of having to translate from art to reality made me feel even more removed from that reality.
Or maybe it’s just the enormity of it. There are millions of people in the world who live just this kind of (usually brief) life of undeserved misery. Perhaps I sensed watching this that letting myself feel too much about that right now would more likely result in a debilitating despair than some kind of empowering inspiration to change the world.
There are probably times this would have reached me at a deeper level, but as it is I’ll just say I Want to Be a Pilot is a reasonably well done, depressing little film.