Above and Below the Ground depicts the Indigenous women activists and punk rock pastors leading Myanmar’s first country-wide environmental movement. When the Myanmar army and a Chinese corporate giant force Indigenous Kachin people off their ancestral land to build the massive Myitsone Dam, grandmother Lu Ra stands her ground. We see her struggle to save the sacred confluence and build a movement, mentoring young female law student Hkawn Mai. A Kachin punk rock band made of pastors, BLAST, also takes action, transforming their love songs into protest anthems. Our film follows these individuals through their journey of activism, from their underground beginnings during Myanmar’s military junta rule, to supposed “democratic” reforms and a sudden military coup. During such periods of fledgling democracy and dictatorship–in Myanmar and globally–our film asks how ordinary people can use the power of music, community organizing and women’s leadership to challenge authoritarianism.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison will join over 20 universities across North America to watch the film simultaneously and have a Zoom-based discussion with Director Emily Hong and Producer Maggie Lemere following the screening.
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