Mya Ga Naing: re­cov­er­ing a piece of his­tory

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

its his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance and epic ac­tion – it is screened spo­rad­i­cally since 2016.

The tale be­hind the tale starts in 1934 when Maung Tin Maung di­rected the si­lent film, later adding mu­sic. In 1970, for the 50th an­niver­sary of the Myan­mar Cinema, A1 Pro­duc­tion added di­a­logues dubbed by con­tem­po­rary ac­tors and re-re­leased the movie.

And then, the peripety: The movie is locked in the ar­chive and for­got­ten for 45 years. The 35mm film reels de­te­ri­o­rate as time goes by and it seems the movie is bound to be for­got­ten, like all other Burmese mov­ing pic­tures since the 1920s – dawn of the na­tional in­dus­try. But fear not, the story doesn’t end there. Af­ter some time out of sight, MEM­ORY! Cinema and a group of em­bassies, in­clud­ing France and the Euro­pean Union, re­stored the 1970’s ver­sion, with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties’ co­op­er­a­tion. Af­ter a year of hard and metic­u­lous work and over USD 80,000, a 97-min­utes-long dig­i­talised ver­sion pre­miered at the 4th edi­tion of Mem­ory Film Fes­ti­val held in Novem­ber 2016.

Save Myan­mar Film, a lo­cal ini­tia­tive rais­ing aware­ness about au­dio-vis­ual restora­tion, founded by seven lo­cal mem­bers in 2017, also con­trib­uted to restor­ing the mas­ter­piece. Maung Okkar, founder of Save Myan­mar Film, re­calls that the hard­est bit was to re­cover the orig­i­nal se­quences, which the group only completed last month.

“Un­like other coun­tries, we couldn’t pre­pare well when we pre­sented this film. This is un­ex­pected for us. And now we have the ca­pac­ity to go for­ward to save other films”.

As Mya Ga Naing is the old­est Burmese clas­sic to have sur­vived, it was listed as a UNESCO doc­u­men­tary her­itage for the Mem­ory of the world – Asia Pa­cific reg­istry - on May 30 along­side the Anan­da­can­dra Stone (a 1300-year-old relic from Arakhan).

“Be­cause of this achieve­ment, I’m sure we will have good re­turns both lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” re­joices Maung Okkar.

“This is a great vic­tory for us. Peo­ple are get­ting in­ter­ested in our au­dio vis­ual her­itage and the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties won’t ne­glect it any­more”.

If the origin of Mya Ga Naing can be traced back, its fu­ture might be time­less. As such, the MEM­ORY! Cinema As­so­ci­a­tion an­nounced on June 4 that the orig­i­nal neg­a­tives, stored in Italy for safe­keep­ing, will re­turn to Myan­mar next Novem­ber. Save Myan­mar Films plans a screen­ing for this month and the Goethe In­sti­tute in Myan­mar al­ready pre­sented it over the past two days, ac­com­pa­nied by an orches­tra.

Per­haps the in­cred­i­ble story of the his­tor­i­cal film will be­come the topic of a movie, or per­haps it will have its own re­make. One thing for sure, Mya Ga Naing be­longs to his­tory.

Pho­tos: Sup­plied

Learn about Myan­mar, go see the movie !

Mya Ga Naing’s poster.

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