Written, directed and edited by Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing, Midwives is a documentary that focuses on two midwives, one Buddhist and one Muslim, in western Myanmar, who go against the ethnical divide in their country to work together in a made-do clinic.
Filmed over the course of five years, Hlaing really gets to the heart of these two women’s stories by not intruding in their lives. The camera is not intrusive so we get an unaltered version of what these women live on a day-to-day basis. Another strong point of the film is how Hlaing does not judge either side and despite the issues, continues to allow hope to shine through along with the power of sisterhood.
While being about these two midwives, it is also a film about the largely misunderstood country of Myanmar and its people. Looking into the relationship between the Muslim minority, known as the Rohingya, and the Buddhists. How even though Muslims have lived in Myanmar for generations they are still seen as outsiders and treated as such.
Hla (Buddhist) is the owner of a small clinic in western Myanmar and Nyo Nyo (Muslim) is her apprentice. Together they work to make giving birth in the area a safer proposition for women. Nyo Nyo is looking to also make sure that her largely underrepresented people have a place to go when giving birth. She functions as a translator for Hla when treating Rohingya women.
All this is tough enough to do in regards to a Buddhist and Muslim working together and taking on clients of both cultures, but doubly so when Myanmar becomes more and more embroiled in chaos and violence as the filming of Midwives goes on. This means that Hla, who insists on continuing to treat Muslims, is putting her safety at risk.
The film enjoyed its world premiere at Sundance and now its Canadian premiere at Hot Docs.