PBS’s long-running documentary showcase “POV” has picked up Sundance documentary contender “Midwives.”
Directed by Snow Hnin El Hlaing and filmed over five years, the film — which premiered on Monday as part of the World Documentary Competition at the virtual Sundance Film Festival — is set in western Myanmar and tells the story of a makeshift medical clinic run by two women, Hla and Nyo Nyo, in a region torn apart by violent ethnic divisions.
Hla, the owner of the clinic, is a Buddhist in the western region of the country, where Muslim minority community the Rohingya are persecuted and denied basic rights. Nyo Nyo is a Muslim and an apprentice ze who acts as an assistant and translator at the clinic. Her family has lived in the area for generations, yet they’re still considered intruders.
Encouraged and challenged by Hla, who risks her own safety daily by helping Muslim patients, Nyo Nyo is determined to become a steady health care provider for her community. Hnin Ei Hlaing’s camera follows the pair over five years and witnesses their struggle amid an increasingly dangerous environment.
Myanmar has been in the clutches of a military junta for close to a year. Following a military coup in February 2021 that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, political opposition and local activism has been stifled and close to 1,500 civilians have been killed for dissent.
The film is produced by Hnin El Hlaing, Bob Moore, Ulla Lehmann and Mila Aung-Thwin. It will air on PBS as part of “POV’s” forthcoming 35th season.
Erika Dilday, executive director of American Documentary/POV, said: “‘POV’ is so proud to be the public broadcast home of Snow Hnin El Hlaing’s stirring and empathetic feature documentary debut. ‘Midwives’ builds on the power of filmmaking to tell an incredibly humane story about bridging differences, fighting persecution and the courageousness of these women willing to stand against oppression. We are honored to bring this film to American audiences.”
The deal was negotiated by Chris White and Justine Nagan for American Documentary/POV and Moore of EyeSteelFilm for the filmmaking team. “POV” has previously collaborated with Montreal-headquartered EyeSteelFilm on a number of award-winning films, including “Up the Yangtze,” “Last Train Home,” “Still Tomorrow” and “Softie.”