13 min, 4K, experimental documentary short / 2-channel-installation

Idea Max Kerkhoff, Till Girke, Paul Glodek, Johannes Schmidt, Pascal Khoo Twe Director and editor Max Kerkhoff Cinematographer Till Girke Sound Paul Glodek Producer: Johannes Schmidt Composer Franziska May, Isacco Chiaf Additional editing Momas Schütze Additional drone photography Paul Glodek Creative consultant Pascal Khoo Twe Drone support Lin Aung Driver ဘိုဘို Bo Bo

A DAY’S WORK offers a glimpse into the harsh realities of manual labor at a moment of relative peace and progress in a remote region of eastern Burma/Myanmar.

In a landscape already scarred by colonialism, logging, land seizure from indigenous peoples, civil war and neglect, the construction of a road looks like a further violation of nature. Yet until recently, the work done on this road—which cuts through areas that repeatedly suffered under the cruelty of the military—embodied progress. The mere possibility of a modern paved road connecting areas controlled by five warring parties (the Burmese army and rivalling ethnic rebel groups) marked a step towards peace and development.

World Premiere at 2021 Tampere International Film Festival
Opening Film 2021 Freiburger Filmforum, Festival of Transcultural Film
watch online @ DOK Leipzig Film Market 2020, with “DOK Leipzig Industry Accreditation”

A DAY’S WORK is both a short documentary and a film installation. Without dialogue, contrasting perspectives are shown on split screens, sometimes alternating, sometimes simultaneous. Distant, slow and well-composed aerial shots show an otherwise unattainable perspective, quite literally giving the bigger picture; they are complemented by handheld close-ups that follow the laborers at work, detailing individual actions without much context.

From above, we observe the tar being applied to the road like strokes of black paint. From a distance we notice patterns emerging from the repetitive nature of the work. Slowly, we figure out that this is a road construction site and we observe who is doing what. The men work with the tar. With brute force, they lift large barrels, roll and haul them about; once they have poured the boiling liquid where it is needed, the empty barrels are discarded in the countryside. The men are outnumbered by the many women who continuously lug the enormous amounts of dirt and gravel needed.

The hats and clothes that protect the workers from the sun, dust and smoke, also protect them from our gaze, and with it from judgement. While the camera seeks intimacy, we never get close to the workers themselves. They represent an anonymous global class, one that remains distant from us filmmakers and viewers—a distance highlighted from a drone’s perspective. Towards the end, the camera rises even higher, revealing what is merely a tiny stretch of the 200-kilometer future roadway on which these men and women toil—and the never-ending nature of a day’s work.

Since the coup in Feb. 2021, the entire country has been thrown back decades. The brutality inflicted is reminiscent of the horrors committed under military rule in the past—painful memories, all too familiar along the ancient narrow Loikaw-Taungoo road.

After five decades of civil war, dictatorship and isolation, a decade of opening-up, relative peace and democracy followed, bringing hope and a surge in activity throughout the country. A new road was to improve the lives of the people living in the remote hills of Kayah State, and provide long-overdue access to medical care and education as well as to the rest of the country and world. In the interim, the setbacks and obstacles have become larger than the roads that are not being built. As long as the military is in charge, such unfinished endeavors are reminders of all that still needs to be achieved.


Thank You
Winnie Mai
International Trade Centre

ျဖဴေဌးဝင္း Phyu Htay Win
ရွင္ေအးၿငိမ္း Shin Aye Nyein
နာင္လင္းေထြး Naung Lin Htway
တင္တင္ေဆြ Tin Tin Swe
သက္ခိုင္ Thet Khaing
မင့္ေဆြ Myint Swe
စုစုရ Su Su Ya
ဝဒီထက္ျမက္ေမာ္ Wadi Htet Myet Maw
ဆန္းမင္း San Min
မင္းသူ Min Thu
ဘိုမင္းသူ Bo Min Thu
ျမတ္မင္းသူ Myat Min Thu
ေမာင္ထြန္းမင္း Maung Tun Min

© Till Girke 2021