After studying law at the University of Melbourne and then spending some years as selectively employed actor, I began media work in 1996 as the producer / director of corporate videos with clients including Melbourne University, Toyota Australia, and the Victorian Institute of Architects. Bernardo Bertolucci, Alan Parker, Danny Boyle, and Quentin Tarantino were my film making role models and Pulp FIction was very much the film I wanted to be making.
In 1998 I travelled to Burma and based on my experiences as a naive but inquisitive backpacker in a Stalinist totalitarian state I drafted my first and to date only book 'Welcome to Burma and Enjoy the Totalitarian Experience' published in 2001 by Orchid Press. I also shot a number of roles of film and the resulting photos, combined with my writing, successfully jettisoned me into a more humanitarian realm of media production.
In 2004, primarily to facilitate the post production of my first feature documentary, Burmese Dreaming, a Documentary Poem, I moved to the Thai-Myanmar border. I was to be based there for the best part of 12 years and during which time I produced reportage photography, documentaries, and advocacy, educational and promotional films both as a ‘freelancer’ and on behalf of organisations including the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, World Education, Oxford University and the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, and Handicap International.
Burmese Dreaming, A Documentary Poem, was finished in 2010 and enjoyed a world premiere at the United Nations’ We the People’s Documentary Festival (London) before being showcased at Hot Docs, and making its US premiere at the Buffalo-Niagra Film and Documentary Festival.
My documentary photography from the border was the recipient of two honorable achievement awards at the Prix 3 French International Photography Awards and was also a prize winner at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (Thailand) photojournalism awards. My photography has been exhibited both in Australia and internationally and exhibitions have been opened by dignitaries including Nobel Peace Laureate Jose Ramos Jorta and former Australian Governor General Sir Ninian Stephen, as well as long time friend and mentor to my humanitarian efforts, former Australian Ambassador to Burma, China and Malaysia, Mr Garry Woodard.
I have had numerous public speaking engagements including speaking at the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the University of Melbourne, and Thamasart University (Bangkok).
I was vice president of the International Society for Human Rights (2002-04) and the founder and co-ordinator of the migrant children’s art project (Kick Start-Art) from 2004-2013.
I currently live in the Grampians, Victoria, Australia with my wife and two daughters and, am working on the draft of a second book as well as a second feature documentary.
Unless otherwise noted, all films directed, scripted, filmed, edited (audio and visual) by Timothy Syrota
2015 Recognise Our Edsucation Realise Our Dreams: advocacy film concerning refugee rights to have their education recognised in the event of repatriation to Myanmar. Client: Save the Children.
2014 Little Burmese Picassos and Frida Kahlos: promotional video supporting a crowdfunding campaign for Kick Start-ART.
2014 You’ll Never Walk Alone: promotional film concerning migrant education, orphans and orphanages. Client: Thailand Children’s Trust.
2013 Invisible Enemies: advocacy documentary concerning landmines and safe guards that should be implemented to protect civil society in Myanmar. Client: Geneva Call.
2012 Nothing About Us Without Us: advocacy documentary concerning refugees rights to have a say in the conditions and circumstances of their potential repatriation. Client: Burma Partnership. Script co-writer, second camera and assistant director: Jude James.
2012 People Not Pawns, Burma’s Ugly Game of Political Detention: educational documentary concerning political prisoners in Myanmar. Client: Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
2012 Elephant Trafficking: advocacy documentary about the illegal elephant trade between Myanmar and Thailand. The Guardian featured film. Client: Ecostorm (UK). I was DOP only on this project.
2012 Hunger Busters: promotional film concerning migrant education & nutrition. Client: Thailand Children’s Trust.
2012 Justice for All: educational film encouraging refugees to access independent legal services. Client: The IRC (LAC project). Audio & audio mix: Jack Chance.
2011 Healthy Babies, Happy Families: 4 x educational films promoting better maternal health practices in refugee camps and remote Southern Myanmar . Client: Oxford & Mahidol Universities, MalariaDocktors, Shoklo Malaria Research Unit. Audio, audio mix, second camera: Jack Chance and Simon D.
2010 Burmese Dreaming, A Documentary Poem: freelance feature length documentary focusing on the dreams, day dreams and nightmares of a refugee on the Thai - Myanmar border.
2010 Fleeing Myawaddy: freelance news piece. Audio & audio mix: Jack Chance.
2010 Restoring Hope: promotional film about tertiary education on the Thailand-Burma border. Client:Australian Catholic University.
2010 Iron, Tin and Bakery: promotional film about vocational training for refugees. Client: ADRA Thailand / Germany.
2007-08 Learning the Hard Way: promotional documentary about education in Burma and in the refugee camps of the Thai – Burma border. Client: ZOA Refugee Care. Audio, audio mix, second camera: Jack Chance.
2006 Good Morning Mae La: promotional film about the event ‘Good Morning Mae La’, Mae La Refugee Camp, Thai-Burma border. Client: Handicap International.
1997 – 2004 (Australia) Film clients for productions filmed, directed and edited prior to departure to the Thailand-Myanmar border include: Toyota Australia, the University of Melbourne, (IT Department and Department of Chemical Engineering), The Geography Teachers’ Association of Victoria, the Victorian Institute of Architects, Underbelly Dance Company, New Floor Designs, and Mallesons Stephen Jacques Solicitors.
Photography Contracts & Exhibitions
The Grape Escape, event launch
AT Richardson Wines, promotion of winery (general) and vintage
Grampians Music Festival
Pomonal Estate - promotional photography
Simple Architecture in collaboration with the Mae Tao Clinic
Play Onside, Thai-Myanmar Border
Institut Européen de Coopération et de Dévelopment
Save the Children, documenting World Education Day in the Mae La Don and Mae La Ra Mo refugee camps
International Water Management Institute, reportage photography documenting crop replacement programs
World Education, documenting 5 years of work by WE under the SHIELD project
Save the Children, reportage photography documenting living conditions for Burmese migrant children / child labourers in the fishing ports of Thailand
Freelance, A Borderline Childhood, award winning documentary photography focusing on the lives and issues confronting children on the Thai-Myanmar border
Freelance, Bareknuckle on the Border, award winning documentary photography focusing on Burmese vs Thai bareknuckle kick boxing on the Thai-Myanmar border
World Wild Life Fund, Virachey National Park, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia
Insights into the Myriad Issues of the Thai-Myanmar Border, Alliance Francais, Bangkok Opened: French Ambassador to Thailand, Funding: Alliance Francais.
Ten Years on the Border, Passport Restaurant and Gallery, Mae Sot, Thailand.
Love Burma, Love Freedom, Gallery 45 Downstairs, a collaboration between a Burmese artist, a Burmese digital artist and myself. Opened: Mr Garry Woodard, Funding: Melbourne City Council and Multicultural Arts Victoria.
Coming to Thailand, an Insight into the Lives of Burmese Migrant Children on the Thai-Burma Border, Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Thailand.
Burma’s Refugees, Pierian Centre. United Kingdom, Funding: Leica and Kodak.
Burmese Dreaming, Auction Rooms, Melbourne Australia.
Bareknuckle on the Border, Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Thailand, Follow up exhibitions: Eat Me Gallery Restaurant, Bangkok (2007), FAD Gallery, Australia (2007).
Bordering on Insanity, FAD Gallery, Melbourne, Australia.
Adios Amigos, FAD Gallery, Melbourne, Australia.
Perspectives on Peace and Reconciliation, Asialink, University of Melbourne, Opened: Nobel Peace Laureate, Mr Jose Ramos Horta.
Burma, On the Road to Where, Yasuko Hiraoka Gallery, University of Melbourne, Opened: former Australian Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephen, Funding: the University of Melbourne Cultural Committee, Melbourne City Council.
Simply Burma: an Insight into Life in a Difficult Country, Counihan Gallery, Melbourne, Australia. Opened: Former Australian Ambassador to Burma, China and Malaysia, Mr Gary Woodard, Funding: Dame Elizabeth Murdoch Foundation and Moreland City Council, Follow Up Exhibition: Australian Catholic University Gallery, Melbourne, Australia Opened: Vice Chancellor Australian Catholic University, Funding: Australian Catholic University.
Faces of Hope, Amnesty International, Sydney, Australia.
Asian Perspectives, Firestation Gallery, Melbourne Australia.
Buddhist Perspectives, Jamchen Buddhist Centre, Australia.
Welcome to Burma, FAD Gallery, Melbourne Opened: Former Australian Ambassador to Burma, China and Malaysia, Mr Gary Woodard.
Advocacy & Human Rights
2004-13: Founder and coordinator of KickStart-ART (formerly the Thai-Burma Border Children’s Art Project), a project bringing art classes to more than 500 Burmese migrant and refugee children.
2001-15: Lectures, conferences and panel appearances at or on behalf of institutions including the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the University of Melbourne, Amnesty International, The International Women’s Development Agency, Australian local government, assorted Australian tertiary and secondary institutions, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (Thailand) and Thamasart University (Thailand).
2004-14 Teaching media skills - writing, photography and film making - on the Thai-Myanmar border to refugees (English Immersion Program, Umphiem Mai refugee camp) and community based organisations including the Borderline Collective and Burma Issues.
2001–04: Vice President, International Society for Human Rights, Australia.
2001–04: Co-founder and joint co-ordinator of Melbourne based dance parties - Groove Nights for Human Rights.