Mya Ga Naing: recovering a piece of history
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.
Learn about Myanmar, go see the movie !
Mya Ga Naing’s poster.