'True' Europe on a Yan­gon screen

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - BY NICK BAKER n.baker@mm­times.com

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

Pho­tos: Nick Baker

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.

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