A story about the strength of Islamabad's street kids found a soaring soundtrack in American rock band Walk The Moon’s 'We Are The Kids’ - a culture-crossing connection made during a stroke of inspiration on a New York subway.
When filmmaker and Walk The Moon fan Shanana Khan Khalil first heard the song on the train, she was reminded of some plucky young children she knew back home in Islamabad.
"Growing up in Islamabad, I spent a lot of time with kids on the streets. I’ve always been intrigued by them due to their sheer resilience. They’re hustlers yet they are children. So I always found myself connecting with them. I befriended a bunch of them and still keep in touch. I’d always wanted to tell their story in some shape but was waiting on what felt like the right story,” Shahana began about the origins of the music video.
“So many years later I was on the train in New York City when I heard the song. I instantly felt like the lyrics resonated with the kids back home and felt I may be onto something," she continues.
Luckily, Walk The Moon let her run with the idea.
"Walk The Moon is such a great band of pure fun, freedom and creativity. I’ve been following them for many years now and I happen to know Nick who is the front man for the band,” Shahana shares.
“When they released their last album Talking is Hard, I took to it instantly and while there are many great songs on the album, I really connected with ‘We Are The Kids’ and saw it through the lens of my own experience with kids in Pakistan. Hence the spark to connect two very different worlds through a universal theme of music. I spoke to Nick about the direction I wanted to take and he loved the idea and they gave their blessing to proceed.”
The 'We Are The Kids’ video tells the story of five kids who stand up to their exploiter. When the protagonist buys a bicycle with money he hides from his boss on the streets, one of his friends turns on him and rats him out. The protagonist is locked up and has his bike taken away - until his friend has a change of heart and helps plot his escape plan and revenge.
“'We Are The Kids’ talks about kids who can’t be defeated and who are their own people. And while I also know the harsh realities in which many [street] kids grow up, I wanted the treatment of the video to be real life meets fantasy – hence the vigilante theme and the colors,” Shahana elaborates on the video’s concept.
“The last thing I wanted was a typical third world country sob story – hence while the subject matter may be dark, I wanted the overriding theme to be one of hope and focusing on the fact that the future really is in the hands of our kids.”
Shahana found actors for her video among the students of the charity school Mashal Model School in Bari Imam.
"[The owner] Zeba Hussain and her staff were very kind in allowing me to come and audition a few of the kids. I selected them and explained the story to them. They all connected with it and I knew I had the boys I was looking for."
Shahana shot with the boys in November 2015 in Islamabad. After the video was released in late May, she organised a screening for her actors at their school, and they were more than gleeful to see their performance.
"The Mashal Model School is a wonderful institution and I cannot thank them enough for the help they provided to me. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to shine a light on this. They’re dependent on donations to run and I implore all that are capable to check them out. These kids are brilliant and deserve our time."
And what does the band Walk The Moon make of the video?
“They love [the video], which is why they’re now promoting it everywhere they can. I think it's great that they’ve highlighted on their social media posts that this video came out of Islamabad, Pakistan which is a great way to feel represented. Thankfully, the response to the video both locally and globally has been great, as most have tuned in to the overall tone and story. So I’m quite thankful. I now want to go back to Pakistan and just meet the boys as they have easily stolen my heart."