Foreign interrogates the politics of modern Burma and the plight of women’s rights activists, diplomats, and international aid workers striving to end the country’s civil war amidst the Rohingya genocide. Probing the passion and politics of Rangoon’s peacebuilding elite, Foreign reveal the conflicting dynamics of activist forces working to bring a country from conflict to peace.
November, 2016. Emerging from decades of isolation, Burma (Myanmar) is a nation in transition. Military rule has left the former British colony devastated, and ethnic war ravages the land. Despite this, hopes are running high that Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, which swept the country’s first democratic elections in a landslide victory, will usher in an era of peace.
Reeling from the U.S. Presidential election, Emma arrives in Rangoon (Yangon) to report on the country’s nascent democratic transition. There she meets the dazzling Ma May, a prominent queer feminist leader whom the international donors are enamored by; Annabel Morton, a dedicated aid worker championing women’s rights; her husband Daniel, a self-assured British diplomat; and Oliver Dembele, a smooth-taking Scottish entrepreneur who opens Emma’s eyes to Rangoon’s magnificence and decay. Diving into the glamour and grit of her work, Emma becomes captivated by a nation whose people who seem committed to healing the wounds of their traumatic past.
Meanwhile, as Ma May reaps the rewards of her achievements, she is pulled into tumultuous family dynamics by her father, an illustrious military Commander whom she renounced in her youth. Throwing her support behind Ma May’s organization, Annabel recognizes her attraction to Ma May, and the women’s relationship becomes romantic. Emma discovers the affair – a criminal offense under the repressive regime – and realizes the danger her knowledge could create.
But when a wave of violence breaks out in Muslim-dominated Rakhine State and the people of Burma – including Ma May’s activist colleagues – begin to openly condone mass atrocities and the displacement of thousands, the spell of Emma’s romance with the country is quickly broken. Scrambling to follow the trail of the unfolding crisis, Emma realizes that Burma is not the success story it’s been made out to be.
As the crisis escalates and polarization between the aid workers and the people grows, Emma must decide where their allegiances lie. Caught between her destructive love affair with a country in chaos and the responsibility to report the truth, Emma must decide what she is willing to stand for, and at what cost.