Two Burmese short films that won awards at the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Rangoon this year have been selected to screen at Malaysia’s KOMAS Freedom Film Festival next month.
Filmmaker Kaung Sint said the two short films, “Article 18” and his own creation “Enter,” would be screened at the Malaysian festival in Kuala Lumpur, to be held from Sept. 6-13.
The Freedom Film Festival, which touts itself as “Malaysia’s most established annual human rights film festival,” began in 2003. Filmmakers can summit their films to contest in four different categories: Best SEA (Southeast Asia) Human Rights Film, Best Malaysian Film, The Freedom Award and Best Short Film.
“Enter,” a 15-minute short film, and “Article 18,” a 20-minute documentary, were both among eight award winners at Burma’s HRHDIFF in June.
Kaung Sint directed “Enter,” which focuses on the life of an imprisoned political activist. A trio of film students directed “Article 18,” the story of political activists who have faced charges and been imprisoned under Article 18 of Burma’s Peaceful Assembly Law over the last two years. The law has frequently come in for criticism in the human rights community as a deterrent to freedom of expression in Burma.
Kaung Sint told The Irrawaddy that the message of his film was simple: “No one,” he said, “can control one’s soul, even if one is physically controlled.”
The 20-year-old talent was also a film student at Rangoon’s Human Dignity Film Institute last year, attending a seven-week workshop for human rights documentary filmmaking.
Dreaming of one day becoming a director, Kaung Sint began learning film editing techniques at age 15. He has created about eight short films since his teenage years.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, the director and founder of the Human Dignity Film Institute, called Kaung Sint’s award-winning submission “an authentic film of the highest artistic creation.”
He said the two entries to the Malaysian festival would mark the first time that short films from Burma were screened at an international film festival.
While Burma’s mainstream film industry has been criticized for its low-quality productions, independent documentary filmmaking has flourished since the draconian censorship regime of the country’s former military regime was lifted. The “Art of Freedom” film festival held in 2012 was the first festival in the country to screen films that had not been approved by Burma’s censorship board.
“We have trained young, talented filmmakers and Kaung Sint will continue making the best for the independent [documentary] film industry,” Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi said.
He added that more work needed to be done to foster the documentary industry’s development.
“Documentary filmmakers should create artistic work with broader content,” he said, explaining that this would mean not limiting subject matter to lifestyle and cultural features, but to also explore political and rights-based films.