Lights, Camera—But Where’s the Action?
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Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Lights, Camera—But Where’s the Action?

By Toby Hudson/Rangoon SEPTEMBER, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.9


Burma’s B movie scene, where B stands for Bad


It’s not Cannes or Venice, but the Golden Rooster Hundred Flower Film Festival is China’s largest movie show place—and it’s the Burmese film industry’s best hope of winning international recognition this year.


The Chinese festival, on the island of Hainan, is one of three venues chosen by Burma to showcase a new release that’s pleasing at least domestic audiences. Sea Mist, shot on a US $160,000 budget, was shown at South Korea’s Gwagjun film festival in July and is on the program of India’s upcoming international film festival.


Three festivals in one year isn’t a bad tally for Burmese film producers, who are combating strict censorship, financial stringencies and a lack of technical know-how in their efforts to get their films onto international screens.


Sea Mist is one of five Burmese movies to be shown abroad this year, albeit with mixed results. At home, it vied for box office popularity with the historical epic King Kyan Sit, which also made it to cinemas in Malaysia and Singapore. True Love and Sacrificial Hearts by director Kyi Soe and Mystery of Snow, directed by Zin Yaw Maung Maung, have also been shown abroad this year.


King Kyan Sit, based on the life of King Kyan Sit Thar, who ruled ancient Pagan from 1084 to 1113, was produced with technical assistance from a Malaysian company and is one of the first Burmese films with English subtitles and marketed to an outside audience.


Although it romanticized its subject, creating melodrama and even slapstick out of an important chapter of Burmese history, local audiences mostly loved King Kyan Sit.


Audiences in Malaysia and Singapore weren’t so impressed, however, and the film flopped there. Critics faulted the film’s dialogue and technical quality. Even at home, King Kyan Sit had its critics.


One Rangoon-based entertainment reporter said that although King Kyan Sit was one of the most successful products of the Burmese film industry it was still not good enough to be shown abroad.

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