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Fountainhead of the new generation of Myanmar films

On one sunny day in October, a group of over 50 people were having a lively debate about abortion at the Film Development Centre (FDC) in Yangon.

They were discussing the gripping characters and the ordeal of illegal abortion process they went through in Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s multi-award-winning film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

If the event was screened before July this year, it would be a rare occurrence for filmmaking in Myanmar where films with nude scenes were a big no no, much less analyzed and discussed openly in a forum.

But with the opening of the Film Development Centre in the spacious compound of the Ministry of Information’s Myanmar Motion Picture Development Department (MMPDD), these kinds of risqué movies are now allowed to be shown in its screening room in order to foster liberal views, at least, among film enthusiasts in the country.

Inaugurated in July this year, the board of FDC is formed by fourteen members from Ministry of Information, Myanmar Motion Picture Organisation (MMPO), Yangon Film School (YFS) and Third Floor Film Production.

“As the name suggests, the idea of the centre is to promote film development in Myanmar. We want to encourage the new generation to show what Myanmar is really like. I hope FDC will inspire them to create films that we can proudly show to international audiences,” U Thein Naing, the director of Information and Public Relation Department at MMPDD told Metro.

Located at a corner in the quiet upscale neighborhood in Golden Valley Residence, FDC has boasted full participation in all its events since its opening.

Young film enthusiasts like Htet Zin Thein regularly goes there to expand their practical knowledge beyond the walls of a classroom. And real professionals join them to enhance the creative flame of the new generation.

“For me, going to activities at FDC is more interesting than studying films in the classroom. It is really awesome to meet professional filmmakers and scriptwriters personally and to be able to learn from their experience,” said Htet Zin Thein who is a third year film student at the National University of Arts and Culture, Yangon.

One of the attractions of the FDC is its merry mix of film-related activities. The centre hosts film screenings and analysis session every two weeks.

It also organises workshops on script writing for TV series and historical dramas, and on making good films from pre-production to post-production. And yes, panel discussion on copyright protection and animation for children are discussed there too.

On film analysis day, an award-winning art film from prestigious international film festivals is selected by experienced scriptwriter Dr Aung Min. The screening of the film is followed by guided analysis and group discussions.

“In my opinion, Myanmar’s film industry is now seeing a new wave. The films screened at FDC are new-wave films from various countries around the world. They can reflect the social and cultural issues of the time the filmmakers had to deal with. So I hope the activity will carry the participating filmmakers towards a liberal movement in arts,” Dr Aung Min told the Metro.

That is why the film analysis day is the favourite activity for Wai Kyaw Tun, a video editor who has become very enthusiastic about improving the quality of script in Myanmar films after years of having to watch them as part of his professional obligations.

“I am now doing self-study on scriptwriting. There is nothing like seeing art films on big screen, and participating in film analysis session afterward. It really nourishes my analytical and creative mind,” he said.

Rachel Mathews, a British screenwriter from the Yangon Film School, said that the whole idea of her scriptwriting workshop at FDC is to create a networking space for filmmakers of every stripe in Myanmar.

“I found that, in the first part of my workshop, youngsters look intimidated to approach and talk to professionals. So I put them in groups and make them brainstorm story ideas together. They can be more competitive and creative this way,” Rachel Mathews said.

Htet Zin Thein said that it feels like she is on her way to becoming a professional filmmaker all of a sudden after attending workshops and discussions at FDC, adding that being together with industry veterans gave her a sense of professionalism.

“I am going to graduate very soon. After attending FDC, I gained many contacts in the field. This will be very helpful to my career opportunities after graduation. Moreover, at Rachel Mathews’ workshop, I learnt that there are many types of script I can write for television and films, and how to market them to potential buyers,” Htet Zin Thein said.

These frenetic days in FDC are likely to intensify, as it finds different ways to unleash the creative potentials of filmmakers in Myanmar in the not so distant future.

“I feel really thankful to see young filmmakers at FDC today. What I want to say here is just forget about censorship and make good use of the center to create films as you feel. The new motion picture law is now under progress. Once it has been passed by the parliament there will be no more censor board in Myanmar. International rating system will take over it. So please come here more in the future, and keep on making good films,” U Zin Wine, the chairman of MMPO told the participants at the opening of Rachel Mathews’ workshop.

At the end of the 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days session, the participants broke up into small groups and went on their own ways, satisfied with the experience they had at the FDC.

They continued their discussion on the film on their way to the nearest road under the glow of evening sky. The day was over but there would be many more days awaiting them to walk together on the same lane to Film Development Centre and to the brighter future of filmmaking in Myanmar.

SOURCE: MYANMAR TIMES

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