Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

Once-thriving Myanmar cinema readies for new wave (via Nikkei Asian Review)

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YANGON — Change is afoot in Myanmar’s now moribund movie industry. Just over two decades ago, the country’s current de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned by all-powerful military generals and Western sanctions made it nearly impossible to import film reels into the isolated and impoverished Southeast Asian country.

But in the cinematic heydays of the 1950s and 1960s, Myanmar citizens flocked to art deco-style single-screen theaters in the then-capital Yangon to see local productions from one of the region’s most prolific film industries. Today, the only colonial-era cinema still standing on what was the city’s “Cinema Row,” Waziya, opens only occasionally for screenings. Power cuts and bats flying across the projector interrupt showings.

Although shiny new multiplex cinemas have opened in Yangon, Myanmar’s 53 million citizens share just 103 movie theaters across the country, down from 300 in the first half of the 20th century. Neighboring Thailand boasts more than 1,000 screens for its nearly 70 million people.

But now, Myanmar’s young, independent filmmakers are looking to counter a mainstream cinema industry they see as lacking innovation and originality. An ambitious new magazine, inspired by new wave cinema movements in France, Japan and Taiwan in the last century, sold hundreds of copies when it was launched in May. Entitled 3-Act, the minimalist-looking bilingual publication features articles on film-making knowhow, film theory and criticism, and a re-examination of Myanmar’s film history.

 

Read Rik Glauert’s full article on Nikkei Asian Review.

 

ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region.

 

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