Bou (Bride)
Directed by: Mahi Ramakrishnan

This short documentary looks at the trafficking of young Rohingya girls from Myanmar, who are then sold as child brides to Rohingya men in Malaysia. Bou (bride) also explores the mindset of the men who buy these child brides, and in doing so shows the continued abuse suffered by these young girls.

Five questions with director Mahi Ramakrishnan

What was a unique challenge you faced in making this film?
The biggest challenge I faced in making Bou was actually listening to the horrific accounts of sexual/physical/mental abuse suffered by the young Rohingya girls. And then there is this personal conflict – how much of what they told me should be made public and this repetitive question as to whether I am re-victimising them. It was a tough call – I want to be respectful but I believe the story must be told. Personally, it was a nightmare.

Where did the inspiration for this film come from?
I have been working with the Rohingya for more than 11 years now and have made a series of films on them (besides news reports for BBC, Press TV, VOA etc). So I was already aware of the trafficking activities involving the Rohingya. My first film was a kind of an idiot’s guide to the complex issues surrounding the persecution of the Rohingya in Burma. While filming, I met a trafficker. So I made a second film that focused on the abuse unleashed against the Rohingya by traffickers as they flee Burma to Malaysia. That was when I realized about the trafficking of young Rohingya girls who are then sold off as child brides. I was inspired to make the film when, upon further research, I found out there were thousands of child brides amongst the Rohingya in Malaysia. I am already working on intervention programs aimed at halting this practice by bringing key stakeholders together: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), UNHCR, EU, NGOs.

Who your top influences?
APHR, Opposition Parliamentarians in Malaysia, UNHCR, Malaysian NGOs working on refugee issues such as Tenaganita and Migrant 88 plus civil society such as myself.

What do you hope people take away from this film?I am a firm believer that ordinary people can bring about incredible changes – I hope the audience would not just be shocked by the content of my film but also make an effort to get to know a refugee, to have tea with them and just chat so that they understand that refugees are just like you and me- with the same hopes and dreams; with the same aspirations for their children. This would shift narratives and build bridges between different societies and refugees. I would like countries and it’s people to embrace refugees not just as a humanitarian obligation or collective responsibility but also as an investment because refugees can contribute effectively to the societies that welcome them.

What’s your personal takeaway from this production?
All those young girls you watched in my film are so strong, so courageous and so hopeful. They are struggling to come to terms with the abuse at the hands of traffickers and now their husbands but they refuse to be broken. They told me that they want to learn the local language, Malay, and learn skills so that they can become empowered and financially independent. I stand humbled before them, I learn from them about the power of hope and love.

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