Breathing (12/12)


A full-length documentary set on the frontiers of China and Southeast Asia that offers an intimate, layered view into one of the region’s most marginalized and misunderstood ethnic groups.

There are two classically misinformed perceptions of the Akha: the seemingly-centenarian opium smoker smiling with tar-stained teeth who the traveller photographs while trekking through a small village in northern Thailand; and the elderly women—wearing a bedazzled headdress with silver bells—hawking trinkets and marijuana to tourists on the streets of Bangkok. Politically abstentious and socially marginalized, the characterization of the Akha often begins and ends with opium, HIV/AIDS, and a sense of exoticism that borders on noble savagery.

Zhao Rongjie spent months living, travelling and collecting stories in mountain-villages across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and China in order to offer a more authentic, humanizing, and, ultimately, fascinating portrait of Akha identity, history, customs, and concerns. Her film gives weight to both the heartbreaking realities of addiction and social degeneration, as well as mesmerizing scenes of mountain life and intimate dialogues that few outsiders will ever have a chance to experience.

Filed Under: Photo & Video

A film by

Zhao Rongjie is a Chinese painter, visual artist, and videographer who studied oil painting and copperplate engraving at Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. She lives in an ancient stone home in Dali, Yunnan Province, China.

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