Friday 15 March 2019

"I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts" (Guardian 15/03/19)

I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts ***
Dir: Yusuf Zine. Documentary with: Jaber Mohammed, Mohammed Rafiqu, Rasel Mohammed, Parvin Aktar. 90 mins. No cert.

The levels of displacement in today’s world are such it has become possible to make a film about the plight of Burma’s indigenous Rohingya people without travelling beyond a few snowy blocks in Toronto. Yusuf Zine’s documentary provides a platform for those younger migrants whose parents fled persecution by the Burmese government to tell their stories twice over – first on camera to the director, who’s spent the past few years assisting the Canadian social services, then on stage in a college-theatre production workshopped from their experiences. The resulting film forms another of this century’s lessons in how profound trauma can be worked through and converted into art, applause, affirmation, acknowledgement.

Initially, the handling might appear a shade too light and bright for the subject matter, like an episode of Glee shifted several degrees north. Yet it proves a considered editorial tactic: Zine wants us to see his charges as peppy, upbeat individuals – kids who’ve wholeheartedly embraced the chance they’ve been handed for a better life, including the prospect of a creative career – before he reframes them as victims and survivors. When we learn what exactly these ingenues have been through – and the dramaturgy reveals a distressing litany of mutilations, rapes and bereavements – their optimism seems not just admirable, but an act of defiance, a counterblast against the limited future their oppressors had in mind for them.

Though the rehearsal footage is as sketchy as rehearsal footage tends to be, Zine has the sense to fold his cast-sourced anecdotes into the strongest potted history the movies have so far provided of this situation. Confounding ironies are flagged up, not least that it should be Burma’s notionally peaceable Buddhist majority who’ve carried out the attacks, with the apparent blessing of the Nobel Prize-winning Aung San Suu Kyi. (Luc Besson’s fawning 2011 biopic The Lady recedes even further in the memory.) Should you need further proof of the ways Trumpism has oozed into the political water table, clock the robed Canadian monk Zine films blithely belittling the Rohingya’s claims as “fake news”. Its status as a grassroots endeavour is evident in some modest production values, but it succeeds in conveying a good deal of pertinent info while simultaneously putting on a half-decent show.

I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts is now playing in selected cinemas. 

No comments:

Post a Comment