Lee Yong Chao, Taiwan/Burma, 2017, 79'
World Premiere
Wednesday August 9th, 11.00, Cinema Teatro Kursaal
Thursday August 10th, 18.30, L'altra Sala

en / it / de / fr

A generator hums in the distance. After lighting incense sticks and saying a prayer, a young man puts on a helmet with a flashlight. He walks around the makeshift camp, before slowly diving several dozen meters under ground without any other sort of protection.

Somewhere in northern Burma, in the middle of the forest, there are many who try to escape poverty by becoming miners in search of amber, a mineral abundantly present in the area. If their job weren’t perilous enough, there is something else they must be wary of: the army of the Burmese government. The region they are working in is actually in the heart of the Kachin Independence Army territory, a nationalist organisation fighting for the autonomy of Kachinland and the mostly Christian Jingpo ethnic minority. Although a ceasefire was agreed upon in 1994, the conflicts started anew in 2011, making the region particularly volatile. For this reason, the young miners have developed methods that help them determine whether they can come out safely, and when they go to sleep, the fear of falling prey to a sudden attack from the state army is never far.

For his first feature, Lee Yong Chao decided to create a fully immersive experience. Punctuated by impressive one-takes, his film patiently observes the daily activities of these workers. Following them day and night, the Burmese documentarian takes his time, adapts his images to the men he studies, and thus makes it possible for the audience to fully understand each situation and to grasp what this quasi-monastic life must be like. But this immersion is never synonymous with political stance or didacticism. Here, the passing of time has another meaning, and people can walk through an entire jungle just to get the parts required for repairing the machinery damaged by a flood.

Lee Yong Chao records much more than the toil of these men: he captures their dreams. As they chat, sing, share a meal, rest or do their laundry, they reveal their aspirations and some tell us about their former alienating job in Taiwan. There is only one reason to their staying in this region that has been uninhabited since 2013: to change their life and quench their thirst for freedom. Blood Amber is a moving, genuine tribute to these men.

Thomas Gerber