Manu Luksch on Sat, 8 Jan 2000 18:23:23 +0100 (CET)

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Hybrid film - internet project with and about the Akha people
by Manu Luksch

Mostly, documentary filmmakers attempt to minimise the influence of their
presence. This project is driven by the idea that the dynamics of media
are not only able to capture a story but also create a situation from
which the people to be documented will continue to profit: in VIRTUAL
BORDERS, the documentary introduced the internet as an effective solution
to provide an affordable audio link for a people divided by international
borders, as well as to make an archive of their traditional knowledge and
oral history available in an audio online database. The creation of the
internet link at this meeting also allowed the Akha to explore the
appropriateness of this technology, as an affordable and legal alternative
to the problems they face in relying on their oral culture in the face of
an ever more embracing global culture. 

This film serves as documentary, giving facts and communicating
impressions and hopefully eliciting a reaction from the audience.  However
the starting point of this film is the establishment of 'online
facilities' as a means to communicate for the Akha people. A film always
has an end while reality continues. Here the end leads to the 'online
interface', and the audience will be able to influence how the story
continues by using the Internet.


The Akha people, have a population of 3 million spread across the borders
of five national territories: China PDR, Laos PDR, Vietnam, Thailand, and
Burma (Myanmar). At the beginning of the year 2000 a meeting in Jinghong,
Yunnan, China brought them together. 

The Akha identify as one people through their ‘tribal’ history, rather
than the ‘modern’ world history which created the nation states they live
in. The most important tool for shared experience was the traditional
knowledge transmitted orally to the successive generations.  More
recently, this tradition has found support through the radio programmes
transmitted by the Akha radio station in Thailand and China.  Battery
powered transistor radios provide the only access to media for many of the
Akha villages in the remote mountain areas.

The International Conference on Hani and Akha Culture was hosted by the
People’s Government of the Xishuangbanna Dai Prefecture, and the official
focus lied in cultural and economic issues. The representatives of the
Akha leadership used the occasion as well to compare their conditions
within the different national contexts.

They considered the governmental policies that influence their daily
lives; issues such as citizen rights, education and infrastructure, land
rights, and especially the introduction of a unified script. 

The main narrative followes the highly recognized Akha personality, Abaw
Buseu, on his way from his village in Thailand to the conference in

The documentary film structure recognizes the emerging ‘media loop’: TV,
radio, and the internet. We established an internet link from the meeting
in China to the radio station in Thailand, which allowed to transmit the
live discussions to the villages in the mountains within the allotted 2
hour Akha programme. Abaw Buseu’s wife and villagers are filmed listening
to the programme, which again, is integrated in the documentary.

coming soon:

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