The film looks at the social impact of drug trafficking in Myanmar and the daily struggle of those who oppose it. Some of the stories told are "unimaginable". The clergyman wants “filmmaking to serve the Church and its mission. For this reason, human values and above all Christian values are the protagonists of my films."
Seoul (AsiaNews) – One of the films to be shown at the upcoming Madrid International Film Festival (21-28 July 2018) will be The Opium War, a documentary directed by Fr John La Raw (pictured).
The 44-year-old priest comes from the State of Kachin, Myanmar. His film looks at tragic social impact of drug trafficking in Myanmar and the daily struggle of those who oppose it.
Drug addiction is a problem that claims the life of thousands of young lives each year, but it is also a major source of income for Chinese drug lords, local businessmen and even government officials.
Ordinary people, civil society groups, and organisations linked to the Catholic and Baptist Churches stand against this and have been fighting this war for human dignity.
"Drugs are one of the main problems affecting the people of Myanmar," Fr John told AsiaNews. “In every family there is a drug addict and this has terrible consequences for society. The government does not do enough to counter the problem and often hinders the actions of those who try to do something.”
“The Opium War is about the people involved in the struggle, ordinary people moved by a desire to protect their families."
The documentary’s subject matter is quite a sensitive issue in the country. For this reason, Fr John had to shoot it in secret, protecting the identity of the people he interviewed.
Among the many stories, some are simply "unimaginable” like the “one of a mother of three, all of whom died from drugs. Left alone, with no one else to take care of her, this woman struggles to survive," the clergyman said.
Still, the anti-drug movement is a "symbol of hope" for Myanmar and the Church is at the forefront. "Catholic leaders are behind several initiatives such as raising awareness, assistance programmes, and drug rehabilitation centres," Fr John explained.
Information and education are for Fr John the basic traits of Catholic involvement. Thanks to his ability to draw people, "even a film can be effective", he said.
"Media can be useful tools for evangelisation. I want filmmaking to serve the Church and its mission. For this reason, human values and above all Christian values are the protagonists of my work. “
“What I want above all is for spectators, especially the younger ones, to take important lessons from my films for their lives, "he said. Even before he became a priest in 2001, Fr John had already made four feature films for the Office for Social Communication of the Diocese of Myitkyina.
For a few years after his ordination, he worked in Manila (Philippines) at Radio Veritas Asia – Kachin Service (RVA-KS), a radio that broadcasts religious information in the Kachin language.
Encouraged by his bishop, Mgr Francis Daw Tang, he moved to South Korea in 2013 to study filmmaking at the Chung-Ang University in Seoul. Next August, Fr John will finish his studies in film direction before returning to Myanmar.
In 2016, his short film The Confession was selected as the Best Short Film at the Mirable Dictu - the International Catholic Film Festival of Rome.
Currently, the clergyman is working on the post-production of his latest film. Entitled Ma, it tells the story of a young woman who was abandoned by her parents.
Chasing the dream of a better life, she joins a gang of drug traffickers. But when she breaks up after a tormented love story during which gets pregnant, Ma refuses to have an abortion and flees from her criminal past, to start a new life with her child.
For Fr John, "This film is set against a Buddhist background like that of Myanmar, but it is followed by a truly Christian message, namely the defence of life and human rights." (PF)