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Documentary Director Discusses “I Am Rohingya” Prior To Screenings In North Country

A documentary detailing the lives of refugee children will be shown in New York’s North Country beginning this weekend.  “I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts” chronicles 14 young people as they rehearse and perform in a play that portrays their families’ experiences and escape from violence and genocide in Myanmar, also known as Burma. The documentary’s director Yusuf Zine will be at the upcoming screenings in Saranac Lake, Potsdam and Plattsburgh.  He tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley his involvement with the youth and film started in 2016 when he was working for a social service organization near Toronto.   

“They tasked me with doing a project with the youth community from the Rohingyas and I just sort of laid it out. I said we have this funding. We have the summer. What do you guys want to do? I was expecting them to say oh let’s do something fun, let’s go to a theme park or something like that. But they all unanimously said we want to tell our story.  They were frustrated that nobody knew who the Rohingya people were and what was happening to their community. So one of the eldest members of the group Ahmed  suggested doing a play where they would reenact their experiences. The idea of that, of having real refugees who have been through very real traumatic experiences, reenact those memories, and not just refuges but youth, kids from the youngest age of 8 years old all the way to teenagers reenacting very harrowing memories. And so for the next nine months we set off to create this show called ‘I Am Rohingya’, which is a four act play.  The film chronicles the rehearsal process, all nine months of what it was like for these kids to reenact these very difficult experiences while also tells the story of the crisis. And the whole thing sort of is a chronological timeline and builds up to the opening night of the play.”

“I Am Rohingya” will be shown Sunday evening October 20th at the Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake, Monday, October 21st in Potsdam and Tuesday at Yokum Hall at SUNY Plattsburgh.

Extended conversation with Yusuf Zine, director of "I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts"