Last Wednesday saw the official world premiere of Moving to Mars at Sheffield Doc/Fest.  The event included a performance of traditional Karen dancing by children from the city’s Karen community:

 

Karen Dancing

 

… and singing by a Karen Youth Choir (which included Seh Seh Lu and La Say Wah, who both appear in the documentary, and Mimi and Charnu, two of our translators).

 

Karen Youth Choir

 

Romola Garai, the actress who recently starred as Emma in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, kindly came along to introduce the screening for us.  Romola has visited refugee camps in Syria with the UNHCR, and gave a very moving speech about how this work had made her think very personally about the sort of issues raised by the film.

 

Romola Garai

 

After the screening, the entire crew (in attendance) were brought up on stage for a lively Q+A, along with Jo Kae’s family, Tu Wah and La Say Wah.  Tu Wah gave a great and entertaining speech to the audience, telling them about his studies in Sheffield and helpfully pointing out once and for all that the Karen people aren’t ‘Burmese’ – and neither are they Korean.  He also gave a shout out to his refugee caseworker Tesfam, who appears in the film and who we can confirm is every bit as nice as Tu Wah told the audience!

 

Tu Wah at the Q+A

 

On Friday November 6th, another screening of the film took place at the Sheffield Showroom cinema, kindly introduced by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg.  Afterwards, the filmmakers and the Karen community headed to the festival’s BRITDOC Bar, run by the multi-talented ladies from The Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation, to enjoy an evening of Karen music and delicious food prepared by the Karen community.

 

© Jacqui Bellamy 2009 Pixelwitch Pictures

 

We were very pleased that so many of the Karen families who came to watch the film stayed for the party, especially when Seh Seh Lu, Ei Ei, Di Di and friends took over the stage microphones and treated us to twenty minutes of Karen kareoke.  We learnt that Karen food is really good; that six year old Di Di can do a mean rendition of ‘We Are the World’ by Michael Jackson; and that our translator is a fantastic pianist, all in one evening.  It wasn’t really your average film festival party.

 

The Karen community in the Showroom

 

We had a really great time up in Sheffield and now can’t wait for future screenings of the film, even those that won’t be involving any kareoke.  Massive massive thank yous are due to the Doc/Fest team – your staff and volunteers are probably the nicest and most helpful people on the face of the earth (I lost count of the number of times I wandered into the volunteers’ room asking for things during the fest, and they never failed to help us out).  We can’t wait to come back next year.

 

Tu Wah and Crew!

 

We’d also like to thank the Karen Community Association, the Karen Youth Organisation and the Karen community of Sheffield in general for all their help and support at these screenings, and especially for the great performances on the opening night.  We’d especially like to thank Jo Kae, Daisi and their family, Tu Wah and Lah Say Wah, Win Cho Toe and Mimi Hsarsay.  Finally, extra special thanks are due to Htoo Ku Hsarsay, Judith and Bwa Bwa Phan, without whom there wouldn’t have a been a Karen print of the film at all.

 

Families, Director Mat, Producer Karen and fest director Heather

 

You can see more photos from our screenings at Doc/Fest here – taken by our friend Adam Gray.