IDFA Review: A Thousand Fires

The climate crisis is front-page news at the moment with many of the conversations swirling around COP26 centring on curbing carbon emissions. While countries make commitments on dates to become net-zero and phase out their reliance of fossil fuels, in favour of renewables, in practice it’s not that simple. Although the focus is on polluting by multi-national corporations, there are millions of people reliant on oil and gas for survival.

Myanmar is home to one of the oldest petroleum industries in the world. Thein Shwe and Htwe Tin live in the Magway region, operating an unregulated oil field which produces a barrel of black gold each day. They struggle to eke out a living and want a better future for their son than the poverty they’ve experienced all their lives. A Thousand Fires documents their struggles by observing the family going about their daily lives.

A Thousand Fires is an enthralling and immersive portrait of a family, and society, in flux. It’s always fascinating to see another way of life and while their quotidian struggles are unique to their situation, there are many similarities with others living ‘below the breadline’ across the world. Saeed Taji Farouky studiously observes their routines as their son dreams of becoming a footballer. A Thousand Fires is an intriguing insight into the day-to-day rhythms of life in rural Myanmar.

A Thousand Fires screens at IDFA.

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