Voices From Kaw Thoo Lei

Karen People of Burma believe no one hears their pleas for help as their country remains ravaged by a war that has lasted more than six decades. Over 10,000 photos animate a landscape over which Voices from Kaw Thoo Lei may be heard.

  • Martha Gorzycki
  • Kadet Kuhne
    Sound Designer
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Short
  • Genres:
    civil war, terrorism, surviving genocide, animated documentary, Human Rights
  • Runtime:
    10 minutes 45 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 1, 2015
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    DSLR Stop Motion
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image
    New York, NY
    United States
    July 6, 2016
    New York premiere
    Best Short Documentary
  • World Premiere Film Awards
    July 31, 2016
    Canadian premiere
    Best Sound Design
  • Spotlight Documentary Film Awards
    Atlanta, GA
    United States
    June 30, 2016
    Spotlight Bronze Award
  • Bronze Remi, 49th Worldfest Houston
    Houston, TX
    United States
    April 17, 2016
    Texas premiere
    Bronze Remi
  • Award of Merit, Impacts Docs Awards
    La Jolla, CA
    United States
    January 28, 2016
    Southern California premiere
    Award of Merit
  • Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival
    Minneapolis, MN
    United States
    April 8, 2016
    Minnesota premiere
  • Roma Cinema Doc
    March 11, 2016
    European premiere
  • Siouxland Film Festival
    Sioux City, IA
    United States
    February 24, 2016
    Iowa premiere
  • Canberra Short Film Festival
    September 14, 2017
    Australian premire
  • Be Epic! London International Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    September 16, 2016
    Nominated for Best Experimental Film
  • Portsmouth International Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    September 23, 2016
    Nominated for Best Sound Design
  • Miami Independent Film Festival
    Miami Beach, Fl
    United States
    September 4, 2016
  • International Monthly Film Festival
    January 21, 2017
    Nominated for Best Documentary Short
  • Unspoken Human Rights Film Festival
    Utica, NY
    United States
    October 27, 2016
  • Social Justice Film Festival
    Seattle, WA
    United States
    October 14, 2016
  • Crossing The Screen International Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    November 4, 2016
  • Experimental Film Forum
    Santa Monica, CA
    United States
    November 18, 2016
    Best Documentary Short
  • International Film Festival Of Cinematic Arts
    Beverly Hills, CA
    United States
    December 9, 2016
  • This Human World International Human Rights Film Festival
    December 2, 2016
  • Sydney World Film Festival
    December 22, 2016
  • Albany FilmFest
    Albany, CA
    United States
    March 26, 2017
Director Biography - Martha Gorzycki

Martha Gorzycki is an award winning animator, filmmaker and media artist, experimenting in traditional and digital animation and new media. Her work screens globally in festivals, galleries, LED billboards and online. She has produced and photographed animation for more than three decades. She teaches digital cinema and animation in San Francisco, California.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Voices From Kaw Thoo Lei, 2015 (10:45 min)
Producer/Director/Animator: Martha Gorzycki

The Karen name for their homeland is Kaw Lar, meaning Green Land. Due to six decades of civil wars, their land is now often referred to as, Kaw Thoo Lei, or Land Burned Black. The terrorism and genocide inflicted by the Burmese military government is still a reality today. Enduring these atrocities in Burma for so long, many Karen people I interviewed believe the world has turned its back and no one is listening to them, which is why I decided to make this film.

Their population has been reduced from 7 million to about 3.5 million, with over 130,000 Karen refugees in Thailand. Throughout the past decade, most news about Burma (Myanmar) has focused on Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi or more recently on the persecution of the Muslim group, the Rohingya. There are over 100 languages spoken in Burma with the Karen being the largest ethnic minority nation, yet over the decades, little information on the Karen’s struggle has been newsworthy.

Animation expands visual representation for documentary. The fantastical possibilities function differently from newsreel. In this film, slow changing abstract images focus the experience on listening. The story unfolds as one collective voice, like Karen culture which prioritizes family and community over individualism.

Using stop-motion techniques, over 10,000 photos dissolve into a landscape of memory. Textural surfaces allude to physical reality and contrast with skies beyond jungle, the hopefulness of reaching a safer place. This film explores animation as subtle cinema-art, with the hope of bringing greater awareness to the Karen’s multi-generational struggle for autonomy and peace.