[story] VIRTUAL BORDERS

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

The Akha and Hani 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 is 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 Chiang Mai. Battery powered transistor radios provide the only access to media for many of the Akha villages.

The International Conference on Hani and Akha Culture is hosted by the People's Government of the Xishuangbanna Dai Prefecture, and the official focus lies in cultural and social issues. The representatives of the Akha leadership use the occasion to compare their conditions within the different national context .

They consider the governmental policies that influence their daily lives; issues such as citizen rights, education and infrastructure, land rights; or their relationships to the dominant lowlanders.

The main narrative follows the highly recognized Akha personality, Abaw Buseu, on his way from his village in Thailand to the conference and Akha New Year's Festival in Yunnan.

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 transmits 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 documentary.

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