Private Project

Like We Don't Exist

Today, thousands of people live in refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border, displaced from decades of relentless civil war at the hands of the Burmese military. Inheriting the full weight of 7 decades of surviving as refugees, diverse Karenni community members offer their perspective and experience for the first time in this stirring cinematic documentary.


In early 2016, the film directors discovered a community of refugees from Burma living in a refugee camp in Northern Thailand called the Karenni. Moved by their experience, they decided to assemble a small team, embed within the community, and document Karenni life.

The result of their efforts is a short film called Like We Don't Exist. Using verité footage and intimate interviews, the film follows the experiences of diverse Karenni -- as told by them, without an outside narrator -- struggling to survive in the border region between Thailand and Myanmar.

Today, there are tens of thousands of Burmese minorities currently living as refugees without basic infrastructure, healthcare, or education due to an almost 70-year long civil war. This conflict between the Burmese military government and diverse ethnicities such as the Kachin, Karen, and Rohingya continues unabated.

The Burmese ethnic conflict is the longest ongoing civil war in the world. This film aims to empower the Karenni community by raising awareness about their struggle for freedom.

  • Ansley Sawyer
    Hong Kong Strong, Nomads of Mongolia
  • Corey Embring
  • Coey Embring
    Director of Photography
  • Corey Embring
  • Jenna Spitz
    Associate Producer
  • Johnfreeco Komoe
    Production Manager
  • Ansley Sawyer
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Web / New Media
  • Genres:
    Short, documentary, doc, human rights, cinematic, vimeo, travel, refugee, observational documentary
  • Runtime:
    34 minutes 18 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 17, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    30,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Myanmar, Thailand
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital DCI 4K
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • The Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
    United States
    November 10, 2017
    Short Film
  • The Women's Film Festival
    United States
    March 17, 2018
  • Impacts DOCS!
    United States
    September 29, 2017
    Award of Excellence for Short Documentary
Director Biography - Ansley Sawyer, Corey Embring

Ansley is a nomadic film producer. Her collaborations with Director Brandon Li "Nomads of Mongolia" and "Hong Kong Strong" were Vimeo Staff Picks, and have been featured on BBC, TEDx, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Sony Alpha Universe, and Upworthy. She is an avid traveler, singer, sailor, and storyteller.

Corey has traveled extensively throughout Thailand for the last several years, immersing himself in local communities. He is passionate about vérité-style cinematography, and travels the world to work on projects that benefit human rights issues.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

We are simply in awe at the incredible support the Karenni people have shown us during production of this film. For almost a year, we have been building relationships with activist networks, peace and conflict resolution experts, academics, politicians, and everyday viewers who support equality and human rights. Within a week of release, our trailer was watched 150,000 times on Facebook, and our audience has since expanded to include people from diverse backgrounds.

The film is provoking conversations surrounding identity, patriotism, and statehood not only in Myanmar and Thailand (where the film was shot) -- but also in the United States, reflecting a deeply politicized moment in American history. We are most proud that the film is inspiring a movement among the Karenni to rally support for the cause of gender-equal education -- American refugee networks have recently sent relocated refugee Karenni youth to work in local Karenni villages, and several human rights organizations such as the Be Foundation and Burma Link have pledged their support to sponsor our Call to Action Network.

Myanmar used to be one of the most restrictive and corrupted nations in the world. Situated between Communist China and Democratic India, Burma has been consistently destabilized by a military dictatorship. This is perhaps the first time in history that filmmakers could produce and release an in-depth documentary on Burmese culture -- as John says in the film, "If you are a journalist, prison will be your home."

For the first time in nearly a hundred years, we have a chance to turn the hearts and minds of a developing nation towards the path of democracy, free will, and independent media. We are committed to empowering the Karenni people by presenting their uncensored testimony.

This film has been made possible not only by the efforts of the core production staff, but also by the brave efforts of nearly a dozen Burmese and Thai friends. Please help us to take this project to the next level by recognizing their brave effort.