Learning the Hard Way
Languages: English, Karen
Film 01: English Film 02: Karen
CLIENT - ZOA International
BUDGET RANGE - US $15,000 +
DURATION - 32 min
GENRE - Documentary
FILMED, DIRECTED, SCRIPYTED & EDITED - Timothy Syrota
MUSIC & SOUND MIX, AUDIO RECORDING, SECOND CAMERA - Jack Chance
No doubt, as fulfilling a project as I could hope to work on. Three months travelling approximately 1,600km up and down the mountainous Thai-Burma border, filming in the refugee camps, and having the opportunity to spend time with, and learning about, the Karen people. The staff at ZOA - Karen, Thai, and foreign - were special, special in a very simple way. Whilst many employees from the biggest international organisations do 'their time' in the camps and then scurry off back to their hotels and restaurants in Kanchanaburi, Mae Sariang or Mae Hong Son, it was with ZOA that we would sit around into the night sharing cheap whisky with refugee families and leaders before being offered beds in the homes of these same refugees. What is important is not the whiskey, but the relationship between ZOA staff and refugees, human to human, one and the same.
ZOA accorded a similar respect in allowing me almost complete creative control over how to make this documentary, the first I had produced of this length length and scope. I took this freedom as an opportunity to make a film which, whilst serving the purpose of drawing attention to ZOA's work on the border, also gave an insight into the Karen people, their culture, their history, and something of what they represent as a people. At the time of production, there was very little media available on anything to do with the Karen.
The film was produced with the intent that it be screened in a Dutch broadcast time slot for documentaries made about social, humanitarian and environmental work being undertaken by Dutch individuals or organisations.