Grabsky's greatest responsibility, then - and something he feels many documentary filmmakers often "get wrong" - was to show respect. "You are not a big deal. You mustn't think that because you have the camera and you're from England, you're from the West - somehow these are "little people" and they should be grateful that you turned up. " Grabsky's subjects had been through war - they had lost relatives, and seen others tortured. They lived traumatized lives. He found that most adults by that time were exhausted and depressed - but their children - like most children - still had hope.
Still, the challenge of creating an honest film required establishing a level of trust with his subjects - and a recognition of Grabsky's own impact on his surroundings. "I think that the minute you pull out a camera you are intervening, and actually it's much more realistic to think to yourself, 'How do I manage the intervention?'"
As a camera at a demonstration might encourage some to say or do something they wouldn't do otherwise, Grabsky was acutely aware of his own intervention in Mir's life. Much of his time with the family wasn't spent filming, but talking with Mir, his family and others - building trust and getting to know his subjects - off camera.
It helped that Grabsky's crew was small - generally only himself and his Afghan colleague - and a small, unimposing camera (beginning with Sony's legendary PD-150), a couple of radio microphones, and an on-board directional microphone. There were times when his colleague, who also developed a high level of trust with the family, would shoot in situations where Grabsky's presence wasn't possible or preferable. As a result, The Boy Mir includes rare insights into the relationship between MIr's parents and Afghan family dynamics, and fascinating glimpses into common misconceptions of the western world.
Perhaps Phil Grabksy's most important consideration was Mir himself. Intervening in an adult's life was one thing - intervening in a child's life was an even greater consideration.
Early in the project, at the close of his second trip to Afghanistan, Grabsky asked Mir if there was anything he would like to have. Mir responded, "A cuddly toy." Only then did Grabsky realize that MIr had never had a cuddly toy. During the rule of the Taliban, human and animal representations of any kind - even children's toys - were banned. Returning home to England, Grabsky shared the story with his young daughter, who had a menagerie of cuddly toys. She chose one in particular - an Applalachian brown bear (an artifact of another Grabsky film about Dolly Parton's "Dollywood" theme park). When Grabsky returned to Afghanistan, he brought the cuddly toy to Mir, and "he was overjoyed when I gave it to him, to the extent that I had to say, you know what, you've got to hide that," to preserve the perceived authenticity of the film, "but he couldn't, because he loved it so much."