RANGOON — A Burmese film director said he plans to make a movie about the true story of Win Maw Oo, a 16-year-old high school student who was fatally shot by soldiers during a crackdown on the 1988 pro-democracy uprising. One caveat to the plan remains, however: The film will be only be made if Burma’s Constitution is amended.
“I had the idea to film her true story that goes back to that period since last year, and this year at the 25-year memorial [of her death] last month I spoke to her father about the film,” said Anthony, a director who is well-known in Burma and who goes by one name.
Win Maw Oo was gunned down in downtown Rangoon with other pro-democracy demonstrators on Sept. 19, 1988 during a bloody crackdown by the military regime.
Her fatal shooting was captured in a photograph that shows her blood-soaked body being carried away by two young doctors. That image, which appeared on the cover of Newsweek’s Asian edition, soon became an icon of the brutality of the crackdown.
Her story also became famous because she asked her parents on her deathbed not to perform the last Buddhist rites until Burma has democracy. The girl’s final wish is shocking to Burmese society, where a deeply rooted traditional belief has it that a person’s soul can’t rest in peace until his or her name is called out by the family to share their merit with the deceased.
Anthony said he spoke to Win Maw Oo’s family about making the film and had received their support. The director told the parents, however, that he would only make the movie if he could end it with a scene in which the parents perform her last Buddhist rites.
“For a movie, we need to move people to tears through emotion, so I would like to add this last scene… But her parents told me that they have still not made merit for her,” Anthony said, adding that he had repeatedly approached the family, asking them to make merit so that he could include this ending in his movie.
Win Maw Oo’s father, Win Kyu said he supported the plans to make a biographical film about his daughter’s life and tragic death.
“I have seen the film production sets on 35 and 36 streets in downtown [Rangoon]. I really want to see the producer and director make a film about my daughter’s life,” Win Kyu said. “I am going to help Anthony whatever he needs to make a film about my daughter.”
He said that after being approached for several times by Anthony on the issue of the movie’s ending, he agreed to make merit for his daughter’s soul when Burma’s military-drafted 2008 Constitution is amended.
The Constitution is considered undemocratic, bans Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president and entrenches the military’s political powers. It also shields former junta members from prosecution for past crimes.
“As her parents, we want to make merit for our daughter, but because of her final wish, we have not still made merit for her. We feel sadness about this,” Win Kyu said, “But now we decided that we will give merit for her if the government begins to amend the Constitution.”
Anthony said he was looking forward to that moment when he could complete his film, adding that he would work together with Thai movie production firm Gear Head Company and invest about US $500,000 in the movie’s production.
“As soon as the Constitution is amended and her parents make merit for Win Maw Oo, I can shoot the last scene as I wanted,” he said.