Film training puts the spotlight on LGBT issues
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.
A still from one of this year’s Rainbow Reels depicts a gay astrologer who is in a heterosexual marriage.
The films are intended to increase understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community in Myanmar.
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.
The third annual &PROUD film festival might not start for another two months, but work is already underway.