Guest Blogger – Martha Gorzycki
Voices From Kaw Thoo Lei, 2015 (10:45 min)
An Experimental Animated Documentary
Martha Gorzycki, Producer, Director, Animator
The Karen people of Burma believe no one hears their pleas for help as their country remains ravaged by a war that has lasted more than six decades. This film uses over 10,000 photos to animate a landscape of memory over which Voices from Kaw Thoo Lei may be heard.
The Karen name for their homeland is Kaw Lar, meaning Green Land. Due to six decades of civil wars, their land is now often referred to as, Kaw Thoo Lei, or Land Burned Black. The terrorism and genocide inflicted by the Burmese military government is still a reality today. Enduring these atrocities in Burma for so long, many Karen people I interviewed believe the world has turned its back and no one is listening to them, which is why I decided to make this film.
Their population has been reduced from 7 million to about 3.5 million, with over 130,000 Karen refugees in Thailand. Throughout the past decade, most news about Burma (Myanmar) has focused on Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi or more recently on the persecution of the Muslim group, the Rohingya. There are over 100 languages spoken in Burma with the Karen being the largest ethnic minority nation, yet over the decades, little information on the Karen’s struggle has been newsworthy.
Animation expands visual representation for documentary; the fantastical possibilities function differently from newsreel. In this film, slow changing abstract images focus the experience on listening and engaging the imagination. This documentary records the raw memories and emotions of Karen interviewees. The story unfolds as one collective voice, like Karen culture which prioritizes family and community over individualism.
Using stop-motion techniques, over 10,000 photos animate a landscape of memory. Textural surfaces allude to physical reality and contrast with skies beyond jungle, the hopefulness of reaching a safer place. This film explores stop-motion animation as subtle cinema-art, with the hope of bringing greater awareness to the Karen’s multi-generational struggle for peace and freedom.