Documentary review: Midwives (2022) by Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing

In 2015, tens of hundreds of Rohingya individuals fled their homeland of Myanmar. Buddhist extremists actively campaigned for this majority Muslim peoples’ demise. Regardless of Aung San Suu Kyi’s guarantees of democracy, governmental and navy establishments devoted themselves to mass arson, pressured displacement, and apartheid-like discrimination. On the time, information protection of the ethnic cleaning flooded the Western media. Nationwide Geographic, PBS, VICE, and even Ai Weiwei have launched documentaries concerning the mass exodus. The remainder of the world turned their eyes to the Rohingya refugee disaster. 

However what about those that stayed? 

“Midwives” is enjoying within the Sundance World Cinema – Documentary Competitors. This movie’s distribution is managed by Dogwoof.

Myanmar-based filmmaker Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing investigates this in her documentary debut, “Midwives,” which is now enjoying within the Sundance World Cinema – Documentary Competitors. Right here, she follows two girls – one Buddhist (Hla) and one Muslim (Nyo Nyo) – in a Rakhine State village. Regardless of native pressures in opposition to Rakhine/Rohingya intermingling, Hla teaches Nyo Nyo the fundamentals of medical care in change for Nyo Nyo’s translations. Over the course of a yr, Nyo Nyo blossoms: she bears a daughter, establishes a financial savings membership, and even units up her personal clinic. All through all of it, Hla stays by her facet. 

Formally, the movie is comparatively unremarkable. Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing weaves within the occasional interview with a sweeping drone shot, however she largely observes day-to-day occasions on-the-ground. As Hla and Nyo Nyo busy themselves with their work, Snow silently follows. In a method, the sheer simplicity provides “Midwives” a part of its allure. Not like a normal reportage documentary, Snow doesn’t search to exoticize, clarify, or expose any Western audiences to the duo’s each day lives. As a substitute, she appears extra targeted on capturing pockets of the current. In a area the place the longer term stays tumultuous, even probably the most mundane moments rely. 

As such, the camaraderie captured on digital camera is spectacular. Hla and Nyo Nyo appear terribly comfy with being filmed. Even on rolling, Hla throws out informal slurs to her Muslim sufferers; she freely expresses her frustrations and her excitations. Nyo Nyo, however, visibly opens as much as the filmmaking course of. First shy after which resolute, she begins to insist upon her goals out loud. When the 2 are on-screen collectively, then, they banter with each other as equals. They appear resolute to not enable their ethnicity or non secular beliefs come between their friendship. 

It’s heartbreaking, then, to see this documentary face its inevitable denouement: with navy motion. Even Snow appears reluctant to let the 2 go. In any case, Hla and Nyo Nyo invite Snow – and by proxy, us – into their lives. They don’t search to clarify or expose, however merely to stay – collectively, and with the liberty to do as they please. 



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