From Rock to Romance
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, July 15, 2019


From Rock to Romance


(Page 2 of 3)

But he donated about 3.8 million kyat (more than US $3,000) to the relief effort.

“I felt very sad at that time” he said. “I would like to give [the cyclone victims] as much as I possibly can.”

Nay Toe completed two films in 2008, “Tharaphu” and “Zaw Ka Ka Nay The,” and he’s being tipped to take at least one of Burma’s own Academy awards.

Nu Nu Yi (Inwa)

Nu Nu Yi’s novels focus on the fringes of Burmese society. (Photo: AFP)
Every August, people from across Burma travel to the village of Taung Pyone, some 14 km north of Mandalay, to participate in the country’s largest and most elaborate Nat festival. The folklore surrounding the traditional belief in Nats, or ancient spirits, extends back centuries and evokes, at least in some circles, considerable pride in Burma’s rich cultural history.

But a new novel featuring the festival—which attracts members of Burma’s gay community, many of whom participate in a ritual marriage with Nats—has inspired anything but pride among Burmese officials.

“The authorities said the story was against the customs of Theravada Buddhism and Burmese culture,” said author Nu Nu Yi, who spent three years researching and writing “Smile As They Bow, Laugh as They Bow.”

“Homosexuality is banned officially in Burma,” she said.

Her novel, which describes the relationship between a gay spiritual medium and a young Burmese man, won the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize. It was also translated into English and published by Hyperion in 2008.

Nu Nu Yi was born in Inwa village, near Mandalay, in 1957. Since starting her literary career in 1984, she has written 15 novels, 100 short stories and many articles in well-known Burmese magazines. Most of her writing is set among Burma’s rural poor and social outcasts.

Kyi Phyu Shin

Kyi Phyu Shin’s latest documentary has won international recognition.
Kyi Phyu Shin, 32, put Burmese documentary film-making on the map in 2008 by winning the “Best Short” award at the All Roads Film Festival organized in the US by the National Geographic Society. Working on a tight budget with a video camera and little technical assistance, she made a 14-minute documentary on the life of the Burmese painter Wathone, “A Sketch of Wathone.”

It was only her second documentary shown in competition, after “Peace of the Mind,” a study of a nun’s life. Now she’s planning a third, about a puppeteer’s life and work.

In “A Sketch of Wathone,” the famous painter—also known as Khin Hla—shared his thoughts on life and his art. He died on October 21, weeks after Kyi Phyu Shin collected her award in Washington DC.


Tun Lwin

Tun Lwin’s reputation as Burma’s most trusted weatherman took a hit after Cyclone Nargis. (Illustration: Harn Lay/The Irrawaddy)
Tun Lwin, the head of Burma’s Meteorological Department, was the country’s most popular TV weatherman, an authoritative figure whose nightly predictions commanded a faithful following—until Cyclone Nargis struck.

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