Chin film clears hurdles to release
IT should have been a sweet victory for Chin filmaker Salai Peter BZL, who’s latest film, ‘Bridge no. 23’ has been approved for distribution by the Myanmar Motion Picture Organisation (MMPO) in Chin language with Bamar script subtitles, a first in the country, but the go-ahead revealed a problem: There is not a single film theatre in Chin State to show the piece.
‘Bridge no. 23’ is a docu-drama based on the real life stories of ethnic Chinese who faced hardship due to the low level of development in their state and the difficulty of accessing education. Transportation is a big issue in the film, as it for rural Chin people. The film highlights the fact that Chin State remains the poorest in the union, juxtaposing the traditional way of life of Chin communities and celebrating the harmony of the state’s peoples and its natural beauty while drawing attention to calls for reform and development.
“We faced a lot of difficulty during shooting; it took over three years to get everything. Finally, the censors approved our project in our language,” Salai Peter BZL said.
Filming mostly took place in Mindat town in Southern Chin State. The film uses the common language of Mindat and shows the cultures of tribes from the area. The first presentation was rejected by the MMPO, which requested some changes to the plot and narration, but the director was willing to work with the organisation towards resubmission, claiming that the edits did not interfere with the project goal.
“The story begins in 1989 with the birth of the protagonist, who goes on to face many problems trying to study but ultimately he gains an education and then becomes a body builder, winning a national competition.” The director said. He added that he and other members of the crew had to use their own money to reach production targets. They also faced issues with shooting because local Chin people who were expected to act had no experience with cameras.
“As a Chin woman, I’m very happy and I welcome the first video in our language... Usually, we find only short documentaries about our culture,” said Tedim local woman Mai Law Cin.
The film is expected to be released in November but it remains unclear how it might be disseminated and viewed in Chin State itself. The project was intended both as a celebration of filmmaking but also of Chin State and its people, according to Salai Peter BZL.
“We want to bring urgent attention to the lack of development. We also want to see more attempts at making Chin based films in the future.” He said.
Between tradition and poverty.
Welcome to Chin State.