Burmese with English subtitles
Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway
By Petr Lom
Burma Storybook is the tale of a nation emerging from years of military dictatorship told through its poetry. This beloved art form is part of the Burmese vernacular, and the film itself is structured like an epic poem: readings by leading poets in Myanmar and songs used in day-to-day communication interweave with the story of the heroic figure at its centre—70-year-old Maung Aung Pwint. The country’s most well-known activist poet spent many years in jail for his writings, and now waits for his son to visit after 20 years of political exile.
Visually stunning moments throughout the film render the familiar spectacular - elaborate hot air balloons launched into the night sky, a lone farmer patiently ploughing his field by hand, hundreds of ducks released into the river for a paddle, sorrow on a son’s face too deep to be verbalised. In this way, the film’s cinematography exhibits the same sensitivity that local poetry displays in its re-looking of reality. In one of the film’s most evocative sequences, Burmese poet Maung Yu Py reads his composition Under the Ice Sheet, offering a penetrating insight into the effects of isolation:
Under the great ice sheet,
a great country was buried alive.
Under the great country,
lies a temple no longer housing gods.
Under the temple, great wars
welded together six feet under.
Under the wars, a great
museum of culture, falling apart.
- Extract from Under the Ice Sheet
Above all, this film is a picture of resilience in the face of struggle, and grace under pressure.
Burma Storybook had its world premiere at the 46th International Film Festival Rotterdam (Netherlands, 2017), its international premiere at the 14th CPH:DOX (Denmark, 2017), and its Asian premiere at the 41st Hong Kong International Film Festival (2017). It has also been shown at festivals all over the world, including the 48th Visions du Réel (Switzerland, 2017), the 39th Cinema du Réel (France, 2017) the 5th Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival (Myanmar, 2017) and the 13th FreedomFilmFest (Malaysia, 2017).
Post-screening Q&A with Petr Lom (Director), Corinne van Egeraat (Producer) and Maung Yu Py (Poet)
Petr Lom (b. 1968) received his PhD in Political Philosophy from Harvard University, and taught human rights and philosophy as an associate professor at George Soros’ Central European University. Since 2003, he has focused on making documentary films about human rights. These have been screened at more than 250 film festivals across the world and won numerous awards including the Grand Prix at the 43rd Chicago International Documentary Festival (USA, 2007) for On a Tightrope (2007).
Burmese with English subtitles
Approximately 81 minutes
Rating / Age Limit
- PG13 (Some Coarse Language)
- No admission for infants in arms.
- Admission is subject to tickets and valid IDs produced at the entrance.
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