Unshackled from decades of censorship by military rulers that choked creativity along with dissent, a new generation of Myanmar filmmakers are turning their cameras on to subjects once deemed taboo.
Once home to one of the most prolific movie industries in Southeast Asia, Myanmar’s film studios atrophied under nearly half a century of junta control.
But in the four years since outright army rule ended, a crop of emerging documentary-makers are telling long-neglected tales of daily life — from homosexual relationships to the marginalization of refugees.
Freedom of expression, although still imperfect inside a country where authorities retain a repressive reflex, is one of the clearest gains of the reforms so far. Young filmmakers are hopeful the Nov. 8 elections will be a watershed moment, with Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy opposition tipped to make major gains, raising hopes for greater opportunities to debate the nation’s issues through the arts.
“We have to reveal the true situation of our country. There are many hidden problems and sorrows which people keep to themselves,” said 36-year-old film student Nwaye Zar Che Soe at the nation’s only film school in Yangon.
Her documentary tackles land grabbing, an incendiary issue in Myanmar where the state and its powerful business allies are accused of displacing tens of thousands of people without due process.
Yet boundaries remain and two topics in particular remain too sensitive for the silver screen: the military and religion.