'True' Europe on a Yangon screen
FRENCH filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard famously said that movies were “truth at 24 frames per second”.
It’s technically a fallacy as frame rates can vary depending on camera settings and country of origin or screening.
But tedious film facts aside, Jean-Luc was definitely onto something – and it’s currently being proven at the 25th European Film Festival at Nay Pyi Taw Cinema in Yangon.
There’s the more literal truths of documentaries, such as Swedish offering Nice People, where Somali refugees struggle to find their place in a new Scandinavian home.
And the more intangible truths about life and death like those wrestled with by materiallyrich-yet-emotionally-unfulfilled Jep Gambardella in Italy’s The Great Beauty.
Then there’s a practical truth that this is a time – at least for now – when a film from Great Britain can still feature at a European cultural event.
All taken together, this collection of films presents a snapshot of Europe at the start of the 21st century in all its hopeful, messy truthfulness.
“Films are a great way for the mind to travel to places one cannot reach physically,” charge d’Affaires of the EU Delegation to Myanmar Colin Steinbach told The Myanmar Times. “While European tourism to Myanmar is increasing very rapidly, many Burmese do not yet have the chance to go there.”
It was a point echoed by director of Goethe-Institut Myanmar Franz Xaver Augustin: “This festival invites the Myanmar audience on a journey to an unknown part of the world with its cultural diversities, different mentalities and customs, geographical and psychological landscapes.” But not everyone has been happy about the cinematic truth on display. As in previous years, festival organisers were required to present all the films to the National Censorship Board before screening.
Officials were concerned that the dolce vita (Italian for “sweet life”) was a little too dolce in the aforementioned The Great Beauty from Italy.
“Paolo Sorrentino’s masterpiece – which won an Oscar in 2014 and 30 other prestigious international awards – was about to be cancelled totally,” Mr Augustin said.
“Such an intervention would have happened for the first time in a quarter of a century of the EUFF in Yangon.”
“We convinced the authorities that this would cast a very problematic light on the freedom of the arts in the ‘New Myanmar’.”
It went ahead, albeit with a few alterations: Some of the more amorous scenes were blurred out.
There are several films in the coming days that Yangon cinefiles are particularly looking forward to.
Tonight, Two Days, One Night from Belgium gives audiences the chance to see Marion Cotillard’s Academy Award-nominated performance as a young mother who has suffered a nervous breakdown.
And don’t miss the September 22 screening of Germany’s Victoria. The 138-minute feature was filmed entirely in one shot.
The 2016 edition of the festival will also be the first to include a lineup especially for children – with a number of screenings at the Yangon Gallery in People’s Park on the weekend.
“Most of the films we get in Myanmar are from Asia or America,” said 22-year-old attendee Van Tha Par after watching Great Britain’s X+Y. “This festival is so unique.”
She said that both the technical and storytelling devices on show were a refreshing break from the usual blockbusters that screen in Nay Pyi Taw Cinema.
“But although the people and cultures [on screen] seem far away – it actually makes me think we’re not that different at all.”
The 25th European Film Festival runs until September 27. For more information visit www.goethe.de/myanmar
Films will be shown from countries such as Finland, Spain, Denmark and France, to name just a few.
Swedish diplomat Johan Hallenborg asks people to watch the films not just with their eyes, but also “with their hearts”.
The European Film Festival is now in its 25th year.
An audience settles in to watch the documentary Nice People.