Film train­ing puts the spot­light on LGBT is­sues

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - LAE PHYU PYA MYO MYINT lae­phyupya@mm­

LAST week’s free screen­ing of the Yan­gon Film School’s lat­est cre­ations wrapped up a whirl­wind film fes­ti­val sea­son – but al­ready, more fes­ti­vals are un­der way.

On Jan­uary 28, 2017, the &PROUD Film Fes­ti­val will of­fer up its third con­sec­u­tive year of LGBT films, screen­ing a mix of in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal work. Two of those lo­cal films, pro­duced by the group’s Rain­bow Reels ini­tia­tive to foster a co­hort of new LGBT film­mak­ers, are al­ready shoot­ing.

Jan Willem van Rooij, the or­gan­iser of the film fes­ti­val, said Rain­bow Reels is a cru­cial com­po­nent of the en­tire project.

“The films that have come out pre­vi­ously have shown an in­ti­mate per­spec­tive on some peo­ple in the LGBT com­mu­nity,” he said. “They’ve all pre­miered at &Proud and have gone on to be quite suc­cess­ful at film fes­ti­vals all over the world.”

The one-month doc­u­men­tary-film­mak­ing work­shop is led this year by pro­fes­sional film­mak­ers Zaw Win Htwe and Pe Maung Sein. Zaw Win Htwe is most well-known for his work on 2014’s crit­i­cally-ac­claimed The Monk, while Pe Maung Sein re­ceived praise for co-edit­ing the film Nar­gis:

When Time Stopped Breath­ing in 2012. Both bring con­sid­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence in film­mak­ing to the six trainees, but said the is­sues con­fronted by Rain­bow Reels are in many ways new ones for them.

“I didn’t know much about many LGBT peo­ple’s life sit­u­a­tions be­fore this work­shop,” Zaw Win Htwe said. “But now I un­der­stand their life­style and feel­ings.”

The two film­mak­ers in­structed trainees on tech­ni­cal skills such as cam­era work and light­ing while also of­fer­ing guid­ance on the cre­ative process. How­ever, the pro­fes­sion­als did not con­trol ei­ther of the two movies cur­rently un­der production.

One team – com­prised of direc­tor Wai Yum, cam­era op­er­a­tor Za­yar Aung San and sound op­er­a­tor Yamin – plans to tell the true story of a gay natkadaw, or spirit medium, that Wai Yum met at an LGBT fo­rum in 2014. He re­called be­ing struck by the as­trologer’s unique fam­ily life: Though in a com­mit­ted ho­mo­sex­ual re­la­tion­ship, both he and his part­ner had cho­sen to marry women so as to have chil­dren.

“I un­der­stand his feel­ings be­cause I’m gay,” Wai Yum said. “But I wanted to re-cre­ate his story so oth­ers could un­der­stand.”

The other crew in­cludes direc­tor Khine Htun, cam­era op­er­a­tor Htin Lin Thu and sound op­er­a­tor Can­dal. Their film, a doc­u­men­tary, re­volves a real-life les­bian cou­ple.

“When I de­cided to cre­ate a doc­u­men­tary, I knew I wanted to cover a les­bian cou­ple’s story,” said Khine Htun, a self-pro­fessed “tomboy”. “Les­bians ac­cept each other, even if our en­vi­ron­ments con­stantly tell us that our choices are not okay.”

Both groups ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion in the process so far while ad­mit­ting that the rig­or­ous process has been tir­ing. Van Rooij hopes that Rain­bow Reels can con­tinue to grow the LGBT film­mak­ing com­mu­nity in Myan­mar.

The fes­ti­val will take place on the top floor of the In­sti­tut Fran­cais-Bir­manie dur­ing the day­time, with night view­ings avail­able in the open-air gar­den out­side. Per­for­mances and side events will take place as well. All events will be free of charge.

Photo: Sup­plied

A still from one of this year’s Rain­bow Reels de­picts a gay as­trologer who is in a het­ero­sex­ual mar­riage.

Photo: Sup­plied

The films are in­tended to in­crease un­der­stand­ing and ac­cep­tance of the LGBT com­mu­nity in Myan­mar.

Photo: Face­book/&PROUD

Wai Yum (third from left) and his team work on their Rain­bow Reels film ahgead of the &PROUD Film Fes­ti­val, to be held at the end of Jan­uary 2017.

Photo: Face­book/&PROUD

The third an­nual &PROUD film fes­ti­val might not start for an­other two months, but work is al­ready un­der­way.

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