Curtain rises on Memory! Film Festival
The 4th annual heritage cinema festival got under way in Yangon this weekend with a premier of the restored 1934 silent film Mya Ganaing (The Emerald Jungle), the oldest Myanmar film still in existence. The festival will continue through November 13.
THE curtain went up on the 4th Memory! International Film Heritage Festival at Nay Pyi Taw Cinema on November 4, with the Myanmar premiere of the restored 1934 silent film Mya Ganaing (The Emerald Jungle), the oldest Myanmar film still in existence.
The opening was attended by a host of special guests including French actress Catherine Deneuve, Myanmar actress Daw Swe Zin Htaik (Grace) and Michel Hazanavicius, Academy Awardwinning director of the 2011 silent film The Artist.
Severine Wemaere, founder of the non-profit organisation Memory Cinema, which organises the festival, said they had chosen to host the event in Myanmar because it is “a country of cinema”.
“Myanmar was a pioneer of filmmaking in Asia, and cinema is clearly in the DNA of the Myanmar people,” she said.
Mya Ganaing was restored earlier this year at the L’immagine Ritrovata of Cineteca di Bologna, a highly specialised film restoration laboratory in Bologna, Italy, and made its world premiere at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland in August. Friday’s screening, which was accompanied by a live performance by Hein Tint and his Hsaing Waing ensemble, alongside musicians from Germany, was well-received by audience members. “We should definitely be preserving these older films because we can learn a lot from them,” said filmmaker La Min Oo after the screening. “Why would we want to keep this in the bin? It’s a great film … To think that they really went into the jungle to make this film, and the actors did all of their own stunts – it’s inspiring.”
But he added that the Myanmar film industry had made little progress since the 1930s.
“Once you’ve seen [Mya Ganing], you don’t need to watch any Myanmar films that are currently being made, because they’re still the same … Even though this is a silent film, story structure-wise and dialogue-wise, they haven’t changed,” he said.
Charles Bonhomme, head of cooperation at the French embassy, which sponsors the festival, said Myanmar’s film heritage is an important part of its culture and should be preserved.
“Somebody from the audience … was the great grand-daughter of the main actor in [Mya Ganaing]. She had heard about the movie all her life, but it was the first time she had ever seen it. Mya Ganaing is well-known in Myanmar, but most people have never seen it. I’m happy that this treasure has now been returned to them,” he said.
The Memory! International Film Festival runs until November 13 at Nay Pyi Taw Cinema and Waziya Cinema. Around 60 international classic films will be on show, as well as Myanmar films Yadanabon (Treasure Trove, 1953) and Che Phawa Daw Nu Nu (Tender are the Feet, 1972).
Events so far have included an unprecedented outdoor screening of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist in Mahabandoola Park on November 6.
Catherine Deneuve talks to fans during the opening of the fourth Memory! International Film Heritage Festival at Nay Pyi Taw Cinema on November 4.