In Myanmar, not even childbirth is exempt from the division between Buddhists and Muslims, as Hnin Ei Hlaing’s crucial documentary details.
Hla and Nyo Nyo are midwives in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh. The women carry out the same role within the local community. But how they are perceived is very different. Hla is Buddhist, while Nyo Nyo is Muslim and faces prejudice daily. The women are friends, but they acknowledge their different status within a society that appears to have waged war on the Muslim population.
Filmed over five years, in the lead up to, and aftermath of, the coup that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi, the film’s primary focus is Nyo Nyo, who bravely struggles to face down the prejudice she experiences and observes, rightly worrying over the rise in sectarian violence. Midwives captures this mood impressively, but also expands its perspective, seeing Nyo Nyo’s daily life as a microcosm of what is happening to an entire people in an increasingly coercive state.