DER Documentary

Yangon Film School: Stories from Myanmar 2007

by Lindsey Merrison
color, 188 min, 2008




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Films made by participants of Yangon Film School workshops in Myanmar 2007.

Since its inception in 2005, the non-profit organisation Yangon Film School has brought together experienced filmmaking tutors from around the world and young Burmese men and women with some prior experience in the media for residential training in all aspects of filmmaking - from screenwriting to editing - with a particular focus on documentary.

DISC 1 — Contains the work of 12 new participants from The Art of Documentary Filmmaking Beginners Workshop 2007, who were given the opportunity to grapple with the technical, artistic and ethical aspects of the genre by producing their own short documentaries on the topic of children in Myanmar. This DVD contains their first film exercises: Stories from the Princess Hotel; their final films: Children in Myanmar; and a short film About the Beginners' Workshop.

DISC 2Stories of Change are projects by students of several YFS courses completed during The Art of Documentary Filmmaking Stage Two in 2007. Made for two NGOs, Metta Development Foundation and International Development Enterprise, these documentaries portray people from Kachin State, southern Shan State and the Ayeyarwaddy Delta who describe, in their own emotive and surprisingly humorous words, how development organisations are making a real difference to their lives. This DVD also includes short films About the Stage Two Workshop and About the Screenwriting Workshop, another 2007 YFS course in which nine Burmese writers learned how to turn their story ideas into screenplays.

The body of work on these two DVDs bears witness to a growing nucleus of talented young Burmese filmmakers who are striving to create challenging work in an environment notorious for discouraging independent media. Their films provide a hitherto unseen window on the lives of ordinary people in Myanmar.

DISC 1 : Films from the 2007 Yangon Film School Beginners Workshop

Stories from the Princess Hotel - Seven short film exercises.

Children in Myanmar - Four short films:

A Piece of Eden - Dir. and Editor: Aung Nwai Htway (16 min). A touching yet unsentimental film about how a 12-year-old boy suffering from muscular dystrophy finds support and friendship at a remarkable centre for the disabled run by an NGO in Yangon's Insein township.

Far from Home - Dir: Thi Ha Thwe (11 min). Thirteen-year-old Maung Lin is working on a farm 500 miles away from his native village near Monywa. Director Thi Ha Thwe tries to coax him out of his reticence in order to find out how he copes with homesickness and isolation.

Happy Days - Dir: Wai Mar Nyunt, Camera: Thaiddhi, Sound: Dashi Htu Ra, Editor: George Cragg (13 min). A charming, uplifting portrait of the director's irrepressibly ebullient next-door neighbour, 13-year-old Shoon Lei.

Water Boy - Dir: Tay Zar Win Tun (15 min). This short documentary describes 13-year-old Aung Myat Thu's strenuous job at a water purification factory. During his breaks, we hear about his family in Twante and learn what gives him the strength to persevere in the face of hardship and separation from his loved ones.

DISC 2: Films from the 2007 Yangon Film School Stage Two Workshop

Beyond the Tsunami - Dir: Shin Daewe (21 min). Ko Myint Oo and Ma Pu live with their four sons in Aung Myay Thar in the Ayeyarwaddy Delta of southern Myanmar. Like many others in their village, they lost everything in the Tsunami. They tell the story of that fateful day and describe how an NGO's programmes are helping them to rebuild and improve their lives.

Stepping Up - Dir: Pe Maung Same (21 min). Ko Tin Tun is a farmer eking out a living in the Ayeyarwaddy Delta. His survival rests on one basic need: water. His fortunes are transformed by the arrival of a simple but life-changing piece of technology in the shape of a treadle pump from IDE.

A Farmer's Tale - Dir. and Editor: Lay Thida (19 min). This short documentary offers an insight into the life of a former poppy grower in the Pa-O region of Myanmar's southern Shan State and shows how Metta Development Foundation's Farmer Field School programme is helping him and others like him grow alternatives to opium and earn a living from a harsh, unyielding land.

The Merry Widows of Nam Mun Village - Dir. and Editor: Kyi Phyu Shin (23 min). This film captures the dynamic widows of Nam Mun village in Kachin State as Metta Development Foundation's Participatory Action Research (PAR) programme enables them to spearhead projects - from pig rearing to rice banks and savings and loans - that are transforming lives from abject poverty into economic viability.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
AAA/Society for Visual Anthropology Film, Video & Multimedia Festival, 2009
Voices From the Waters Film Festival, Bangalore, India, 2009

Related Films
Yangon Film School: Stories from Myanmar 2008
Yangon Film School: Art of Documentary Filmmaking
Yangon Film School: Art of Documentary Editing
Peacing it Together



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