Our Beloved (Kyuntawto Chit­thaw)

Di­rec­tor U Win Saung tries to de­pict the life of the Burmese sol­diers, some­times clum­sily.

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend | Arts - NANDAR AUNG

S INCE mil­i­tary rule, the Burmese au­di­ence is used to re­gard war movies as pro­pa­ganda. Some of the movies shown for Armed Forces Day every year were mod­els of the genre.

Such war movies are rarely shown in cin­ema. They are usu­ally aired on tele­vi­sion, and peo­ple switch of their TVS when they do.

Most think that “Kyuntawto Chit­thaw” (Our Beloved), a war-drama film by U Win Saung, is also a pro­pa­ganda film. Few peo­ple ac­tu­ally went and watch it since its re­lease on June 15. It will be off the cin­ema on June 29.

I de­cided to see for my­self. The di­rec­tor, af­ter all, is a civil­ian, and not a new face in the in­dus­try, which usu­ally di­rects for TV, and “Our Beloved” is his first cin­ema film. He told the press it took him two years to shoot it. The film was funded by Chan Thar and Red Ra­di­ance film, two pro­duc­ers do­ing com­edy and drama.

My ver­dict is that it is not a bla­tantly pro­pa­gan­dist movie. The 107-min­utes-long film is fea­tur­ing the life of Tat­madaw-sol­diers and their fam­ily mem­bers -- mostly wives and chil­dren left be­hind and await­ing for their loved one to come back. It tries to show their dilem­mas and emo­tions.

The Five-min­utes-long theme songs that were pro­duced ear­lier this month caught the at­ten­tion of the au­di­ence. But it did not con­vince them to go watch the film. When we went to watch the film on a week­day, less that 10 peo­ple showed up.

The movie de­picts the life of Sergeant Mya Toe, a sol­dier who is con­flicted be­tween love and duty (his first girl­friend left him af­ter he told her he was a sol­dier).

The movie shows the life­style of sol­diers spend­ing time with their fam­ily and vol­un­teer­ing in farms in­side the mil­i­tary com­pound.

To por­tray the lives of sol­dier, the di­rec­tor put many sup­port­ing char­ac­ters serv­ing un­der Sergeant Hla Toe. Then he shows the sol­diers hav­ing difficulty bal­anc­ing their mil­i­tary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with their prom­ises they’ve made to the ones they love.

Sud­denly, they are sent on a mis­sion to save five civil­ians who were cap­tured by an in­sur­gent group. From then on, fans of fight­ing scenes can re­joice, they make up one third of the film.

The di­rec­tor didn’t use fa­mous ac­tors or ac­tresses, which is com­mon for lo­cal films. He prob­a­bly saved on their salaries to in­vest in special ef­fects for his fight­ing scenes.

Over-dressed ac­tresses wear­ing way too much make-up may dis­tract view­ers. The di­a­logues are no ex­tra­or­di­nary. The use of metaphor of­ten brings the au­di­ence to laugh­ter in­stead of build­ing mo­men­tum.

I’m al­ways watch­ing movies in cin­e­mas in or­der to assess the qual­ity of the sound. I may have ex­pected too much from “Our Beloved” as I had heard that real weapons had been used for the sound ef­fects.

But in “Our Beloved”, the back­ground mu­sic is too loud. Di­a­logues be­come in­dis­tinct as shoot­ing takes over.

The most un­ex­pected thing is that most sol­diers in­clud­ing the ex­pe­ri­enced sergeant who has a long ex­pe­ri­ence of the bat­tle­field are cry­ing ev­ery­time a sol­dier dies. (The re­ac­tion in the pub­lic is laugh­ter rather than tears)

The movie ends rather badly, and it is un­clear what the di­rec­tor’s mes­sage is. The fate of most char­ac­ters is un­ex­plained. It is un­clear whether Hla Toe’s love is dead or alive.

Over­all, “Our beloved”, is not the movie I ex­pected, i.e. a good war-drama film like a Lone Sur­vivor or We were sol­diers. I won­der if the film will ac­tu­ally cover the cost of pro­duc­tion.

But films de­pict­ing the life of Tat­madaw sol­diers can end up win­ning Myanmar Academy Awards – some­time con­tro­ver­sially. Last year, Kwoon Lone Yat 40, a film about a 40-day mil­i­tary bat­tle that took place in 1971, and Kyal Sin Maw Kun, a movie about the his­tory of the mil­i­tary, were listed as fi­nal­ists and won sev­eral awards. So, maybe “Our Beloved” will make up for its lack of suc­cess with the au­di­ence with a re­ward from the Academy award.

Photo: Sup­plied

A poster of the movie “Our beloved”.

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