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On the Backs of Women

By Will Seal
May 03, 2016
By Will Seal
May 03, 2016

For anyone that professes to loving movies, Doc Edge is a must-visit event. Loaded with documentary films, the depth and quality of the content in the festival is staggering, reinforced by its 2016 placement as an Oscar-qualifying film festival – meaning films which win Best International Short or Best New Zealand Short can now be considered for Academy Award nominations. Boom.

While there are many highly publicised films, the 'Shorts' screenings offers the chance to see 2-3 short documentaries back-to-back, drawing attention to issues, stories or characters that might otherwise go unnoticed.

One such film is On the Backs of Women. Part of 'Shorts 2' (alongside Chau, Beyond the Lines and Charred Brick), it is one of the few New Zealand-made films in the festival and follows the story of three entrepreneurial women in the small town of Kalaymyo, Myanmar, who face extraordinary challenges in the struggle to work their way out of poverty.

One is a cancer survivor trying to provide an education for her son; another has been disowned by her family because of an interracial marriage to a husband who assaulted her. All have harrowing stories, and face desperate circumstances.

All three turn to a local microfinance bank ZMF, funded and supported by New Zealand organisation ADC Microfinance, an organisation created and managed by young Kiwi professionals providing this sort of assistance in Myanmar and Malawi. The modest loans, training and support they receive allow them to support their families and create a better life for themselves - in a society which still considers working women "undignified".

In itself a reflection of New Zealanders doing amazing things overseas, the short film is informative, heart-warming, inspiring and well worth a watch, particularly when coupled with two other great films.

The film's screening at the Doc Edge Film Festival coincides with the launch of a major fundraising campaign. #BackAWoman aims to inspire global citizens to invest in and empower 3000 entrepreneurial women in Myanmar over 3 years, by raising a total of $1 million.  You can find out more about ADC's work at

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