Hybrid film - internet project with and about the Akha people
by Manu Luksch

Mostly, documentary filmmakers attempt to minimise the influence of
their presence. This project is driven by the idea that the dynamics of
media are not only able to capture a story but also create a situation
from which the people to be documented will continue to profit: in
VIRTUAL BORDERS, the documentary introduced the internet as an effective
solution to provide an affordable audio link for a people divided by
international borders, as well as to make an archive of their
traditional knowledge and oral history available in an audio online
database. The creation of the internet link at this meeting also allowed
the Akha to explore the appropriateness of this technology, as an
affordable and legal alternative to the problems they face in relying on
their oral culture in the face of an ever more embracing global culture.

This film serves as documentary, giving facts and communicating
impressions and hopefully eliciting a reaction from the audience.
However the starting point of this film is the establishment of 'online
facilities' as a means to communicate for the Akha people. A film always
has an end while reality continues. Here the end leads to the 'online
interface', and the audience will be able to influence how the story
continues by using the Internet. 


The Akha people, have a population of 3 million spread across the
borders of five
national territories: China PDR, Laos PDR, Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma
(Myanmar). At the beginning of the year 2000 a meeting in Jinghong,
Yunnan, China brought them together. 

The Akha identify as one people through their ?tribal? history, rather
than the ?modern? world history which created the nation states they
live in. The most important tool for shared experience was the
traditional knowledge transmitted orally to the successive generations.
More recently, this tradition has found support through the radio
programmes transmitted by the Akha radio station in Thailand and China.
Battery powered transistor radios provide the only access to media for
many of the Akha villages in the remote mountain areas. 

The International Conference on Hani and Akha Culture was hosted by the
People?s Government of the Xishuangbanna Dai Prefecture, and the
official focus lied in cultural and economic issues. The representatives
of the Akha leadership  used the occasion as well to compare their
conditions within the different national contexts. 

They considered the governmental policies that influence their daily
lives; issues such as citizen rights, education and infrastructure, land
rights, and especially the introduction of a unified script.

The main narrative followes the highly recognized Akha personality, Abaw
Buseu, on his way from his village in Thailand to the conference in

The documentary film structure recognizes the emerging ?media loop?: TV,
radio, and the internet. We established an internet link from the
meeting in China to the radio station in Thailand, which allowed to
transmit the live discussions to the villages in the mountains within
the allotted 2 hour Akha programme. Abaw Buseu?s wife and villagers are
filmed listening to the programme, which again, is integrated in the

coming soon:

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