The Art of Freedom film festival in January 2012 was a first in Burma, pushing the limits of expression, and screening a wide range of films that were uncensored and critical of the former military regime that ruled the country for decades.
The Guardian newspaper described the scene at the festival as a daring bid to speed up change as images of police repression during the unrest in 2007 were projected on a large screen as part of the festival.
Inside a conference hall, thousands had gathered to watch a series of politically charged films that provoked gasps and applause from an audience not used to open defiance of Burma’s strict censorship laws. A banner read: “Free Art, free thought, freedom.”
54 films were shortlisted by judges from a total of 188 entrants. The event in Yangon (Rangoon) was organised by film directors, artists and the comedian Zarganar.
The popular film ‘Ban This Scene’ took home the festival’s top prize. The award was presented by Aung San Suu Kyi, who helped sponsor the festival.
• ‘Rope’ directed by Min Thike won the Best Short Film award,
• ‘Freedom and Unity’, directed by Zaw Bo Bo Hein, won the Best Animation award,
• ‘Still in the Dark’, directed by 19-year-old director Aung Zaw Moe won the New and Youngest Film Director award,
• ‘Click in Fear’, directed by Sai Kyaw Khaing, won the Best Documentary award, and
• ‘Ban This Scene’, directed by Htun Zaw Win, won the Audience’s Choice award.
“I believe all these films depicted freedom in their art and the technology,” said film director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, one of the judges.
Prize money for the winners was 1 million kyat each (about US$ 1,200). Three winning films will compete in an international film festival and receive $5,000 for expenses, provided by German film directors and supporters. Twenty film directors have been invited to a workshop to be held at American Centre in Rangoon on January 15-29.
“We are not afraid”
“This is free expression,” Zarganar said: “This is a step in the right direction. And we are not afraid. We are never afraid.”
Min Thai Ke, the winner of the best short film for his depiction of the plight of the poor and political prisoners, said Burma was living “through a very fragile time” but that he too was not afraid.
The film ‘Click in Fear’, directed by Democratic Voice of Burma cameraman, Sai Kyaw Khaing, followed photojournalist Law Eh Soe during a period when the former ruling junta was hostile toward journalists in the country.
The award-giving ceremony of The Art of Freedom Film Festival was held on 4 January 2012 at Taw Won Center, Yangon.
More information on: myanmarcelebrity.com
Press conference for the Art of Freedom Film Festival on 31 October 2011.
Mizzima – 5 January 2012:
Art of Freedom film festival smash hit with audience