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02 Aug 2018

Save Myanmar Film project

An article in The Japan Times describes the ongoing work in Myanmar to salvage and restore the country's decaying film heritage.

The restoration of a 1934 black-and-white action movie, famed for high-octane stunts including a hot-air balloon escape and a jungle shoot-out against teak wood thieves, has energized 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.

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Experts in film laboratories in Bologna, as well as the recovery of Myanmar film from archives in Berlin have assisted in the process. 

The Myanmar based organisation MEMORY! Cinema oversaw the restoration and raised funds from donors for the $100,000 price tag.

Now an initiative led by contemporary Myanmar filmmaker Maung Okkar is playing a lead role in the effort to salvage the country’s classics. After receiving training in restoration and archiving techniques in Italy, he launched “Save Myanmar Film” in 2017 with a group of fellow filmmakers.

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