Nyo Nyo, through a voiceover, tells viewers that she asked her “husband to help her teach the children”. This is a benevolent act that her quasi-useful husband does for her in any context. However, it’s more useful since they’re a Rohingya couple. The Rohingyas, by the way, are subject to one of the two ongoing genocides happening in this world today. Many of them found refuge in Bangladesh and other countries. But Nyo Nyo and her husband can’t leave Myanmar and their home state of Rahkine even if the Rakhine want them out. So they have to do things like build schools.
Myanmar-based filmmaker Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing’s film Midwives shows the society that the Rohingya have to build within the state. One that disallows them from using things like passports and schools. They celebrate Eid, a festival which, in this context, they share food among each other and with their Rakhine frenemies. There’s one main thing that some Muslims practitioners in Myanmar and the Rakhine people build under the state’s shadow. And that is health care infrastructure. Nyo Nyo both receives training and care from a Buddhist woman, Hla. Hla is the most passive aggressive documentary subject at least in recent memory.
Snow captures enough of Nyo Nyo and Hla’s encounters, some friendly, some not. But she mixes that footage with drone shots and coverage of the natural setting. These serves a backdrop for their encounters. A woman carries her child through lush grass fields, miraculously untouched even if it had to witness centuries of ethnic strife. Foreboding music plays at it shows these scenes but the tone is right enough to give that sense of gravitas. There is beauty and history that the Rakhine state can share with the world of only its citizens lived in harmony.
A Hot Docs pitch winner in 2019, the final cut of Midwives gets its Hot Docs premiere on May 1, 2022.