at 2Rivers Film Festival 2020

The graduates of the Yangon Film School have been producing ethnographic films about everyday life and the political and social changes in Myanmar for 15 years under not always easy conditions.

Reason enough to show a cross-section of their work. On Saturday, 13.06. the director Lindsey Merrison and some of the filmmakers in Myanmar discussed it in the 2Rivers Festival Livestream. 

my grandfather’s House by Shunn Lei Swe Yee

Thakin Htein Win’s granddaughter reminisces about the old wooden house where she grew up – a house which was once a meeting place for some of the architects of Burma’s independence movement, in which her grandfather played a pivotal role.

Born of a Burmese publisher father and a Shan mother, young English graduate Shunn Lei Swe Yee has been active in a number of youth and development networks. A passionate feminist and co-founder of the ‘Rainfall Gender Study Group’, she claims that one of the reasons she joined Yangon Film School was to learn how to make films that will give a stronger voice to women in Myanmar.

Lady of the lake by Zaw Naing Oo

Governments – even decades-old military regimes – may come and go but, like many rural communities in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), the lives of the villagers of Pyun Su on the banks of Moe Yun Gyi lake are pervaded by deeper traditions – above all the lively cult of the nat.

Myanmar computer arts graduate Zaw Naing Oo had his first brush with film at Myanmar production outfit Forever Group. Since enrolling at Yangon Film School in 2011 he has directed and/or edited several short documentaries. His portrait of a disparate Chin family in Empty Nest (2011) screened at a number of international festivals and earned him Best Short Student Documentary award in Palm Springs, USA in 2013. Lady of the Lake, which he also edited, marks his second film as director.

sugar & spice by Mi Mi Lwin

A lovingly filmed portrait of the filmmaker’s parents who eke out a living making ‘jaggery’ sweets from toddy palm syrup in Myanmar’s central dry zone.

Mi Mi Lwin comes from Nyaung Oo Township in Mandalay Division in Myanmar’s central dry zone. Her parents are toddy palm farmers. After graduating from Yezin Agricultural University she came to Yangon where she took up an internship at independent non-profit organisation Enlightened Myanmar Research (EMR). Since being accepted to Yangon Film School in 2014 she has worked on a number of films in various capacities, providing for example the soundtrack for The Bus Conductor. For her second year project Sugar & Spice she chose to portray the lives of her own hard-working parents- The resulting film, of which she was also editor, was joint recipient (with Slate) of the Ruby Award during the 2015 Goethe-Institute Documentary Awards.

slate by Khin Warso

The discovery of a discarded object from her past prompts the filmmaker to return to her native Mon State to chronicle its entire manufacturing process, from back-breaking extraction to utilisation. A film about how objects can be full of meaning.

Khin Warso comes from Mawlamyine in Myanmar’s Mon State. Having studied journalism at the National Management College she first worked as a reporter for an IT journal in Yangon before joining YFS in 2014 where she provided the soundtrack for the documentary The Crocodile Creek. Her second-year documentary project, Slate, which was joint winner of the 2015 Goethe- Institut Ruby Documentary Award, was her first film as a director in her own right. Khin Warso earned a credit as producer on the YFS ‘true fictions’ production Book Lover. The recipient of a YFS Fellowship Grant, she is currently developing a feature-length documentary on the topic of migration entitled Why We Left.

going home by Chit Moe Pio

A young filmmaker pays a visit to his native village in Myanmar’s Kayah State where he reconnects with his hill-farming family and a way of life marked by privation but rich in tradition that has remained unchanged for centuries. His presence rekindles old arguments between his siblings and his mother, reminding him all too keenly of the sacrifices each of them has made so that he might have an education.

Director Chit Moe Pio (26) is from Kayah, Myanmar’s smallest state. After studies in social science he attended courses in leadership, peace and conflict before joining a Peace and Development Initiative in Rakhine State where he first came into contact with media as a tool for social development. Since enrolling at Yangon Film School in 2018 he has attended a number of YFS courses as well as a workshop on how to develop long-term observational documentary formats. Filmed in his native Kayan village of Tha Yu, Going Home is his first documentary as a director.

seeds of sadness by Thae Zar Khaing

In spite of a nationwide ceasefire, armed conflict still persists in Myanmar and landmines contaminate many parts of the country. Describing their effect on one family in East Bago, this film gives a dignified voice to the victims of Myanmar’s civil war and makes a powerful plea for peace.

Thae Zar Chi Khaing (26) comes from Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. After graduating in geology she began working as a video journalist. Since enrolling at Yangon Film School in 2016, she has worked on a number of projects as director, editor or cinematographer (e.g. Tofu Nights). In 2017 she joined a YFS Travelling Cinema crew to Inle Lake to help a local community create two short films about environmental pollution. Seeds of Sadness, which she shot, directed and edited in her second year at YFS, was joint-winner of the 2017 Goethe Institut Ruby Documentary Award. She is currently working with fellow-student Cherry Thein on a feature-length documentary Cocoons about young girls living on the streets of Mandalay.

mother’s burden by Cherry Thein

This story of one older single mother’s struggles in rural Bagan and her misguided choices for her daughter reflects the conservative and sometimes ill-fated approaches to parenting that still prevail in today’s Myanmar.

Born in Yangon in 1985, Cherry Thein studied English, psychology, communications and journalism. She has since contributed articles especially on vulnerable children to the Myanmar Times and is currently writing for Frontier Myanmar magazine. Having attended a number of Yangon Film School courses including Documentary Directing and Development, Screenwriting, Film History and Docuanimation she is currently developing a feature-length documentary Cocoons together with fellow YFS student Thae Zar Chi Khaing about young girls living on the streets of Mandalay. Mother’s Burden marks her directorial debut.