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Showtime for the Resistance: Revolutionary films screening worldwide

Originally published on Mohinga Matters

Amid the cold mid-autumn weather of October in London, Burmese people made a long line waiting for the screening of the revolutionary film. The film was called The Road Not Taken, directed by Ko Pauk. London had the first show and the organizers were excited for the show which turned out to be a very successful opening.

The film then traveled around the world to Burmese diaspora communities, making trips to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Jamaica, the U.S., Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Norway, Malaysia, Taiwan, India and Singapore. It was screened with subtitles in each national language for non-Burmese audiences who support the Myanmar democracy movement. The film was sold out within a few days. All the screening halls in each country were full. Some even had to add extra screening dates and extend to other cities. Though previously ‘Sa-Mhat (Starting Point)’ was the first ever short revolutionary film to raise funds by selling the movie tickets and screening through Telegram channels. Ko Pauk’s film was the first of its kind to make it on screen to raise funds to support the people’s resistance movement against military rule.

Burmese people have no shortage of creative ideas to raise funds for the revolution as no other substantial outside support has been received. And this time, it is a film.

The Road Not Taken is based on a true story about a defector from the Myanmar military and his journey to a liberated area under control of an Ethnic Armed Organization (EAO). The film took the audience back to the beginning of the coup in 2021 where crowds came out to the streets to demand a return to democracy. People begged the security forces, police and soldiers alike, to join the people. But they started to shoot unarmed demonstrators. The order from above to shoot unarmed civilians put some kind-hearted soldiers and police in a dilemma. The main actor of this film was one of the sensible ones who refused to shoot and decided to leave the army despite the risks. He defected when he was posted on the front line. Away from him, his wife and daughter suffered from social punishment as the husband was ordered to kill innocent civilians. The film was well-received and many praised the director for having made a film with very limited resources in a liberated area controlled by the EAO, where fighting between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the military takes place frequently. In fact, the entire film was made with an iPhone. After the screening, Ko Pauk performed a live concert vowing to continue the fight against the military.

Myanmar communities abroad are organizing various events to raise funds to support the People Defense Force (PDF) protecting civilians from the military, and to provide humanitarian aid to the displaced communities in conflict-affected areas. At such events, the organizers do not just screen films. They also sell handicrafts and Burmese food to raise needed funds, but sometimes they request donations. At some events, there were auctions of treasured items.

From the screening of The Road Not Taken in more than 20 countries, about MMK 4600 Lakh (approximately $220,000 USD) was raised. This was sent to support the PDF and people who live in the liberated area where the director shot the film. Many revolutionary films, documentaries and animated shorts have been completed by talented artists and directors in exile or even by those inside the country hiding in safe houses. The most internationally-acclaimed and award-winning documentary film is Myanmar Diaries, filmed by a group of  anonymous young Burmese filmmakers, which has been screened at film festivals in Europe.

Amidst the ongoing revolution, many amateur filmmakers, both in exile and in the liberated areas, have emerged to create what they experience and what they feel in regards to the fight for democracy. From 2022-2023, more than a dozen short-films related to the revolution have been produced, and they tell the stories about resistance forces, torture taking place inside prison, the loss of home, women freedom fighters. Myanmar people are determined to win this fight, and millions of funds are needed to support the PDF and to provide humanitarian assistance to people who have lost everything in this revolution. Among the many strategies and tactics used to raise funds, films truly are an act of creative resistance.

Mohinga Matters is a platform where aspiring writers share their thoughts, ideas and opinions freely.


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