“Christmas in Karen State” - a short documentary by Tara Milutis about a guerilla-run black zone village in Myanmar’s Karen State.
Director's statement on "Christmas in Karen State":
On Christmas Eve of 2014 I traveled to the black zone village of Basa in Karen State Myanmar, accompanying Karen Jesuit priest and social anthropology scholar Father Vinai Boonlue. Also joining us were Karen students from Chiang Mai and some of their relatives from the borderland refugee camps. It was an intense and physically demanding experience - as once we reached the shores of Karen State we needed to walk for almost eleven hours, wading rivers and climbing up steep rocky jungle passes (all while carrying my camera equipment and trying to shoot when possible). It was an experience that would help me to understand first-hand the effect the 60 year civil war has had on the Karen, and the losses they have suffered. The route we took was dotted with grave markings of fallen Karen soldiers, and with each grave we passed the Karen we traveled with would stop and discuss who the soldier was, or reminisce about someone they had lost in the conflict. The KNU soldiers (Karen National Union guerrilla army) who led us on our journey were baby-faced family men - kind and funny young men who have risked their lives since they were teenagers to protect the independence of their people.
I traveled to Karen State and made this video so I could assist in raising donations for the projects Father Vinai and his Karen friends are undertaking in the region. So far they have built three schools, fixed dilapidated infrastructure as well as working with the Karen on ideas for how they can maximize their farming output and be as self-sufficient and sustainable as possible. This project is unique in that it's Karens helping Karens - this is not an NGO of Westerners coming in and giving aid. It's a group of friends, separated by a border, but joined by the same culture that makes them who they are. Father Vinai may be a priest, but he is not there to convert. He became a priest because he wanted to help people, and he has helped so many marginalized communities in both Karen State as well as northern Thailand.