I believe in video as a way to make change. We can change peoples’ minds and situations with video. I use documentary for advocacy when I am on the field.
Before I joined EarthRights School Myanmar I did not think about working for the community. I did not understand my country’s situation, the situation of my local people. While I was at EarthRights School, I learned a lot and gained many experiences both from teachers, tutors and colleagues. Because of this, I became a community activist after I graduated. We founded a network in Kayah State called Kayah Earthrights Action Network (KEAN).
In addition to working as an activist, I compose songs, create photographs and make movies. I deeply believe art- including music, photos and movies- can change our outlook and our community. But it is really hard for me to learn these kinds of things in my environment. I searched for places where I can learn about movies and finally found Yangon Film School (YFS) and EarthRights International’s (ERI) brand new community film project, Earthrights Exposures (ERE). I joined YFS in 2014, and I joined ERE in 2015.
Since ERI focuses on earth rights issues, which I am also working on in my state, I chose to join their documentary workshop. I really enjoyed ERE workshop. I got to know people from Rakhine State and Yangon Division and learned a lot about their communities.
During that training, I made a documentary titled Move about Bay Pout Village, located near Thi La Wor Terminal. It was an honor for me to take part in that documentary as the director. I had only heard about Thi La Wor Terminal before, and I wished to be there one day. I was happy to be at Thi La Wor Terminal and I have learned a lot about it. The theme is about relocation- not only Bay Pout villagers but also people who have already died who are forced to move because of Thi La Wor Special Economic Zone. I screened “Move” in my community to show them that big investment projects have many impacts on communities. By seeing this, they united as a community. It is a change I saw in my field.
When I joined Yangon Film School, I made a documentary titled My Leg about a story of ethnic armed groups and Burmese soldiers who met at an artificial limb workshop in Pan Kan, Kayah State. In November, my film My Leg was selected for the Exground Film Festival in Wiesbaden, Germany this past November. It was a wonderful experience for me to present at the festival. I met many film makers around the world and I can now build an international network. It was a valuable trip for me. I received a Special Mention award but also a kind of deep happiness that encourages me to continue working on documentary filmmaking. I want to thank YFS for submitting My Leg and sending me to Germany, as well as EarthRights International for some financial support and encouragement throughout the experience.
As an associate coordinator for KEAN, I am implementing documentary filmmaking into our documentation program. With the help of ERI, we plan to conduct a documentary workshop at the beginning of 2016 that will include two weeks of training for six to nine young people from our target areas who want to learn filmmaking. Those young people will then make documentary movies in their communities that focus on land, mining and deforestation issues, resulting in three advocacy movies that can be used in their communities’ campaigns.
Our goal is to build a solid relationship with these youth and plan to follow up with a second film-making workshop. As much as we can, we plan to help develop their ideas and creations when they go back to their area. We expect to see many ways these young film makers use video to support their community.
Blog by Soe Moe Aung, EarthRights School Myanmar alumnus and participant in EarthRights Exposures.