‘As Far As They Can Run’ is a heartwarming and heartbreaking look at how Special Olympics are changing lives in Pakistan


As Far As They Can Run is a documentary that allows a close look inside the world of Special Olympics in Pakistan.

In many parts of the world children with special needs are taken care of from birth and allowed to grow up with services that help them thrive in a world that is not always set up for them to succeed.

In the United States, many families are lucky to have access to early intervention services that will allow children with physical or intellectual disabilities to receive the services they need to help them learn and grow at their own pace and in their own ways. Unfortunately, that is not always the case in many parts of the world. In the documentary by Iranian American director Tanaz Eshaghian and MTV Documentary Films called A Far As They Can Run, the stories of three such children growing up in Pakistan are told.

This heartwarming and heartbreaking film made its world premiere at the 2022 Woodstock Film Festival, winning the award for Best Documentary Short. The film follows three teens in Sindh Province, Pakistan, their names are Ghulam, Sana, and Sajawel. All three teens have intellectual disabilities that hold them back from connecting with their families. The lack of resources and education about these disabilities is shown at the beginning of the film. These children were sometimes locked up and their legs were often shackled so that they did not run away or get in trouble in town.

The heartbreaking display shows the lack of knowledge by the parents and shows that help from the staff of Special Olympics is really needed in many parts of the world.

Special Olympics allows children with special needs to connect to their families and communities through sports

Special Olympics were first created in 1968 as a way to help create a better world by promoting the acceptance of all people. Since 1989, Special Olympics has been offering training for people with intellectual disabilities all around the world. As shown in the film, these three children were mostly ignored by their families, not out of hatred but out of a lack of understanding. When the staff of Special Olympics came in they encouraged the families to include the children in their everyday activities.

The teens were taken to a training facility where they were taught how to kick a ball, how to run, jump and play. In turn, they learned how to follow directions and how to appropriately act around other people. By the end, the growth was amazing to see and through sports, these participants were able to be productive members of their families.

One of the athletes, Sana’s family had all but written her off. She spent her days chained to a bed to watch TV. Her mother dreamed of her helping with the household chores, a task that she was unable to do at the beginning of filming. In the end, her family was proud of her accomplishments, having won a gold medal at a Special Olympics event. The family went from worrying about her future to finding pride in her accomplishments and lifting her up as an athlete.

The profound impact sports and training had on the lives of these children was life-altering.

As Far As They Can Run is available to stream now on Paramount+.

More. Why We Play. light

Why We Play features stories about the power of sports to bring us together, overcome obstacles, make positive change and reach everyone. Read more here.