The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Saturday, July 20, 2019

Race to restore Myanmar's film classics for a second screening
This file photo taken on November 04, 2016 shows audience viewing the classic 'Mya Ga Naing' or The Emerald Jungle, Myanmar's oldest film shot in 1934 by Myanmar director Maung Tin Maung, during the opening ceremony of the Memory International Film Heritage Festival in Yangon. The restoration of a 1934 black-and-white action movie, 'Mya Ga Naing' famed for high-octane stunts including a hot-air balloon escape and a jungle shootout against teakwood thieves, has energised efforts to salvage more of Myanmar's long-neglected cinematic heritage. Romeo GACAD / AFP.

by Richard Sargent

YANGON (AFP).- The restoration of a 1934 black-and-white action movie, famed for high-octane stunts including a hot-air balloon escape and a jungle shootout against teakwood thieves, has energised efforts to salvage more of Myanmar's decaying cinematic heritage.

The survival of Myanmar's earliest film still in existence, "Mya Ga Naing" (The Emerald Jungle), and its rise to international acclaim is perhaps as unlikely a feat as its lead role's triumph over pythons and bandits with his bare hands.

The Southeast Asian country's once flourishing film scene hit a major setback with the arrival of a military junta in 1962 that enforced stringent censorship and gutted the economy during a 50-year reign.

As the creative climate withered, Myanmar's merciless heat, torrential rains and stifling humidity took its toll on delicate film reels in a country that had neither the resources nor know-how to store them properly.

Some reels were recycled to save money and now only a dozen of the country's early black-and-white pictures remain.

"Mya Ga Naing", originally a silent movie that later had music and printed title cards added, is the oldest to have been found so far.

It languished in the state archives for decades before specialists in Italy spent one year painstakingly retouching the film frame-by-frame, screening the restored version in 2016.

Experts spent hundreds of hours at the laboratory of L'Immagine Ritrovata (The Rediscovered Image) in Bologna removing every small scratch and spot from the film and digitising using various resources including some film found in archives in Berlin -- a testament to how far the original movie travelled.

"Each time the restoration progressed, it was like a new birth for the film," said Severine Wemaere, co-founder of MEMORY! Cinema, which oversaw the restoration and raised funds from donors for the $100,000 price tag.

"It was very moving because we could tell that we were in a country of cinema."

Sound or colour?
The classic has also played at festivals in Singapore, Thailand and Switzerland as well as enjoying regular screenings at home in Myanmar.

A live group of musicians accompanied a recent sold-out performance in Yangon, staying true to an original soundtrack added in 1954 that mixes local traditional music with western jazz.

The film gained further international acclaim this year after UNESCO awarded the film a place on its Asia-Pacific list of "documentary heritage of influence" -- a nod not just to the movie, but also to Myanmar's cinematic tradition.

The country's first-ever film was screened in 1920.

By the 50s, the industry was in its heyday with Myanmar filmmakers pumping out scores of features each year.

But the plot turned in the latter half of the 20th century as military rulers crushed creativity and closed the country off to foreign influences and technology.

While nearly all the earliest movies have been lost, the successful revival of "Mya Ga Naing" is spurring a movement to preserve what remains.

The next film to be restored in 2017 was Pyo Chit Lin (My Darling), a 1950 comedy shot on such a tight budget that director Tin Myint had to choose between sound or colour.

He opted for the latter -- making it the country's earliest known surviving colour film.

Every second counts
Contemporary Myanmar filmmaker Maung Okkar is playing a lead role in the effort to salvage his country's classics.

Few could be better placed -- the 31-year-old has moviemaking in his blood with both his father and grandfather renowned directors.

In 2012, Maung Okkar realised with horror that some of his family's original reels were damaged beyond repair while others were slowly decaying in his storeroom.

"Some films could not be restored and, for me, it was as if I had lost one of my parents," he remembered.

"I learned there were other old films which were not looked after properly and decided to do it myself."

After receiving training in restoration and archiving techniques in Italy, he launched "Save Myanmar Film" in 2017 with a group of fellow filmmakers.

Their slogan is "Every Second Counts!" and they aim to find and preserve as many old reels and other cinematic paraphernalia -- including cameras, projectors and film posters -- as possible.

Some two thousand people viewed an exhibition and screenings held by the group this May in Yangon's prestigious former parliamentary building, and plans are under way to restore a third film.

The clock is ticking, with all of the surviving films still piled up in metal tins in Yangon's crumbling state archive building.

Round-the-clock air conditioning is an improvement from the past but the temperature, at 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit), is still far above the optimal level of four degrees Celsius.

Actress Grace Swe Zin Htaik, 65, starred in many of Myanmar's biggest films in the 70s and 80s and faces the challenge of organising the upcoming 100th anniversary of the country's movie industry.

"People in this country have no idea how to value the old movies," she said wistfully while tracing her finger along the ramshackle shelves that are home to the remnants of the country’s cinematic heritage.

"(Through) old movies we can see our history, we can see our culture, we can see our identity and values."

© Agence France-Pre

Today's News

July 9, 2018

Exhibition at Scottish National Gallery brings together key works by Rembrandt

Omer Tiroche Gallery opens exhibition of seminal works from the Art Informel movement

Race to restore Myanmar's film classics for a second screening

Splendor and sophistication of Casanova's Europe on display in exhibition of more than 250 works from the 18th century

Energy-related renovation work completed at Alte Pinakothek; Rooms are open to the public once again

Exhibition at Lacoste/Keane Gallery features two different perspectives on vessels by ceramic artists

Hirshhorn opens exhibition devoted to next generation of performance artists

Galerie Karsten Greve exhibits Yuri Dojc's Last Folio - a photographic memory

Phoenix Art Museum presents nearly 50 works exclusively by women artists to be seen in a new light

The Mosaic Rooms opens a retrospective of the renowned Townhouse Gallery in Cairo

Auckland Art Gallery opens a major retrospective of the works of Gordon Walters

Allan Stone Projects presents concrete busts and a life-size steel figure by Diana Moore

Hampshire Cultural Trust brings one of America's greatest Abstract Expressionists to Winchester

Vhils presents two solo shows in Paris

VisionQuesT 4rosso contemporary photography opens exhibition of photographs by Valentina Vannicola

Jane Birkin recalls memories as she brings back Gainsbourg

Team Gallery opens an exhibition of new work by Ryan McGinley

Camden Arts Centre opens a new installation by the acclaimed Japanese artist

Latvian National Museum of Art opens a major exhibition of works by Imants Tillers

The Other Art Fair returns to Melbourne from 2-5 August

Installation by Manuel Burgener spans five rooms of Art Centre Pasquart

Vajiko Chachkhiani develops an installation for Bundeskunsthalle

Cosmic Traffic Jam: Zevitas Marcus opens a group exhibition featuring the work of twenty artists

A fascinating suffragette archive of a Welsh lady to be sold at Catherine Southon Auctioneers & Valuers

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Original 'Star Wars' creators lift lid on special effects challenges

2.- Lost '$170 million Caravaggio' snapped up before French auction

3.- Mansell's 'Red Five' on pole for Bonhams sale

4.- Impressionism's 'forgotten woman' shines in new Paris show

5.- Sotheby's to auction the best-surviving NASA videotape recordings of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

6.- Exhibition explores Dutch and Spanish painting of the 16th and 17th centuries

7.- Cyprus discovers 'first undisturbed Roman shipwreck'

8.- Sotheby's unveils 'Treasures from Chatsworth' with Leonardo Da Vinci drawing, Lucian Freud portraits, and more

9.- Infamous botched art restoration in Spain gets makeover

10.- 1958 Gibson Flying V Korina played by Dave Davies to grab center stage in Heritage Auctions' sale

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful