Didja know our translator Thet is also a filmmaker? He directed the first of these movies and cinematographed the second (is that a word?)    
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Working Man, dir Thet Zaw Win
A profile of a solid, hardworking entrepreneur: a roast pork salesman. Simple and unpreachy, yet somehow feel-good-inspiring in a salt-of-the-earth way: there are master craftsmen in all fields, and this guy happens to work in pork. (Apparently it’s so good it gets exported to Singapore occasionally. He’s never been to our country, but his pork has been many times.)    

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(TH)INK, dir Lin Sun Oo
A short meditative monologue by a guy about how he likes the pain he receives when he’s being tattooed. Shot in black and white. Not bad.    

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The Clinic, dir Ko Ju, Aung Ming, The Maw Naing
Frankly, I couldn’t get excited about this one. Yet another documentary, about a village doctor, matter-of-factly treating his patients (one of them was a monk). Said he didn’t like studying anatomy as a university student so he hung out with all the poets, but there’s no sign that he’s a better poet than a doctor. Next please.    

Behind the Screen, dir Aung Nwai Htway

This. Ah, this. The entire Q&A ended up being dominated by this film. You see, Aung Nwai Htway is the son of two famous movie stars of the sixties (whose names I’ve carelessly misplaced). His mother acted in 75 films (including Tender Are the Feet by Maung Wanna, whose work we watched last week) and his father in 15 – in fact, they met on the movie set, and later held their real marriage during their staged wedding scene.
Over 29 minutes, he narrates their story: a tale both of nostalgia (ah, the golden age of Burmese cinema!) and pain. His mother miscarried while filming a scene where she was being thrown in front of a speeding train (she hadn’t known she was pregnant). Later she split up with her husband – just left him one day with the kids while he was recovering from appendicitis. He went into huge depression, only saved by becoming a more devout Buddhist.

His father visited, but he and his sister were scared stiff that he was going to take her away from their mother, who was away on location all the time anyway – he used to cling to her in bed as a child, waking to find her gone in the morning.

The first time he was actually able to stand together with his mum and father in the same photo was on his wedding day. His mum went on acting in her old age – then one day she fell ill during shooting, leading to a lengthy hospital stay which ate up all his family’s savings, ending with her death in 2007…

He spent just six days shooting the film – single takes of him and his father, pouring out their stories – but over two years to edit: collecting posters and films of his mother to stand in for her, splicing up the films to accompany the narrative, and just breaking down every now and then…
Aung Nwai Htay: During the editing process sometimes I felt so overwhelmed, it was so heavy, that I had to rest for a while. After a while I tried to calm myself down and start again. And then it would feel overwhelming again. So it was a cycle.
This won Best Documentary at last year’s Film Fest. Folks were weeping during this screening. When his father first watched it, he couldn’t sleep the whole night.

One note: a friend noted that a lot of the works seemed to be produced for a foreign audience: titles were often given in English and no other language. Well, Behind the Screen wasn't - it's intensely personal, and it doesn't really bother to explain to foreigners anything about Burmese cinema. It just is. That's worth something.
 





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