Hilltribe Memories (2015)
What happens to the people in very traditional, very remote villages when cross-country motorbikes, satellite dishes and mobile phones arrive?
This documentary explores that question with visits over a 25-year period to remote Hmong and Akha villages in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia.
The traditional lifestyle associated with subsistence farming in these remote villages evolved over hundreds of years. That lifestyle is undergoing rapid change, with all the ramifications involved. The strong identities of these hilltribe cultures are rooted in history and language (and attached by myth and memory) to their particular village and region. Threats to their culture are also threats to their unique perspectives on life.
These subsistence farming communities are not just about how people produce their food. They are about how they live their lives: marriage practices, how the social hierarchy of villages is structured and social norms are maintained, how clothes they make and wear are part of their identity, how culture is embodied in language among people who may not be able to read or write, and much more. With new access to markets, due to improved transportation and communications, fewer farmers are needed.
Rapid improvements in transportation and communications are transforming these communities in a whirlwind of change over a few decades. After an introduction to the people of the Golden Triangle, we present some short stories about Akha and Hmong individuals who are in the midst of these dramatic changes.