We Are Rohingya

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Melissa Pracht

Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Some documentaries that have fueled my work: Harlan County, USA; Restrepo; The Cove; I Am Not Your Negro; and everything by Fredrick Wiseman


What motivated you to make this film?

We have making a series of VR documentaries since 2015, looking at how displacement affects people in different context around the world. The situation of the Rohingya people, especially after they were attacked en masse in August 2017, is the clearest and perhaps the most dramatic example of forced displacement available right now. I thought we needed to capture this story and bring it home to people in a way they could connect with – through one family and their struggles.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Insta360 Pro. This 360 camera is easy to use, it has an app we used as a remote control; the color is quite vivid; and it was relatively affordable.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story. 

We tried to find unique perspectives – like attaching the camera to a pile of bamboo carried between two workers – and we prioritized shots where there was a reason to look around or from one side to another so we could direct the viewer to take in the full scene.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?   

Our story was lightly sketched out before we went to Bangladesh – we had a series of possible stories – but it would all depend on what happened when we were there, who we met, what was going on. We stationed ourselves at a hospital and when we saw a group of kids and their parents come in, we zeroed in on Ismail, the son, and his father, Mohammed. After we got their story and filmed them as much as we could in the refugee camp, we went out to get shots that could give the feeling of the parts of their story that came before the refugee camp. This was touch and go, but we managed to get footage on the river that they crossed, in the forest near where they would have landed, and a village near where they would have stayed their first night in Bangladesh. The piece really came together in the moment thanks to a great group of people, including Mohammed and Ismail.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film.

I think talking to Mohammed and getting his story, down to the last detail, hearing what he went through, was the most distressing and most rewarding aspect of the project. I felt really lucky to meet this man and many others who survived this awful experience and were only concerned about how they would be able to support their families.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Follow your curiosity and your heart.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

For me, it’s capturing a real moment, whether it’s an interaction between people or a person’s reaction to their situation, an unguarded moment where the viewer can connect purely with the subject and feel like they know them.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

My many-pocketed fanny pack. It’s not pretty, but it’s got a compartment for everything I need at my fingertips.


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization operating in more than 65 countries around the world. MSF offers assistance to people based solely on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.

The huts in the refugee camp are built up on top of these crumbling dirt hills. At one point I had the camera on its tripod on the side of the hill, propped up with stones and dirt. I went to get out of the shot and suddenly I heard a little boy shout. He was pointing toward a group of boys carrying a huge bamboo panel up the hill, and one corner was inches away from the camera. I ran and caught it right before it was knocked over to tumble down the hill. I wanted to hug that kid, but he was already off on another adventure.


What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

I hope audiences will understand how massive events like the attack on the Rohingya affect a person individually, and for them to be able to connect with that person and what they are going through.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

Put yourself in the shoes of these people. At each main event in their story, ask yourself what would you do if this were you?


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?

No change so far. There have ben threats of forced repatriation to Myanmar but not much has happened.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting involved?

Learn more at www.doctorswithoutborders.org


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):   

www.doctorswithoutborders.org and www.forcedfromhome.com



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