The situation of film archives in Myanmar is alarming as most of the films of its glorious part since 1920 were dispersed, lost or time damaged. There are very little films for which celluloid elements are still available (below 20). For some films, DVD were made in the 1990s, but this is not of any help as it is very low definition, not allowing theatrical definition and moreover not enabling any restoration or preservation work.
That’s why MEMORY! Cinema Association has launched researches in Myanmar and abroad since early 2015: in official State archives but also at people’s place to locate and list the remaining films. Results are encouraging as above 100 titles have been identified with celluloid elements.
We have started for a year, starting from the State Archives and Foreign archives, but we’ve also welcome a new resource to our team, Okkar Maung, who had started some researches in the frame of Yangon Film School. In order to train this new resource for this researches and acquire knowledge about film preservation, MEMORY! Cinema Association has provided to Okkar the possibility to attend a high-end training within FIAF Summer School in Italy in June 2016.
In May 2016, MEMORY Cinema has officially started a register of the existing films and will report on a regular basis to MOI regarding the progress of this register. Once collected, the aim is to inventory and analyze the condition of the elements in order to make a diagnostic and launch digitization and preservation actions in order to repair the time damage.
The ultimate purpose is reconstitute the National Collection and Memory of Myanmar but we must move forward quickly in order to avoid further time damage, dispersion and disposal by negligence. The main enemies of film elements are heat and humidity. Most of the elements are kept at people’s place, in a garage, in an attic…
As May Ganaing (1934) is clearly the most ancient Myanmar film for which celluloid elements are still available, we’ve decided to launch a restoration, as a milestone.
The idea is highlight the very rich history of Myanmar which started in the early 1920s.
One positive with soundtrack and one dupe negative are the surviving element available. They were preserved in Myanmar National Film Archive in Yangon, hold by the Ministry of Information of Myanmar. Additional researches were then launched. And fortunately, an additional mute positive from Arsenal Archives in Berlin could be added to this. This new element was shipped to Italy at the end of July 2015.
The restoration works are implemented at Cineteca di Bologna (one of the leader film archive in Italy) in the integrated laboratory L’Immagine Ritrovata. This laboratory has acquired a high end reputation from their works on classics restoration.
Main steps of the restoration:
Original title: Mya Ganaing (aka Mya Ga Naing)
English title: The Emerald Jungle
Date of release: 1934
Duration: 97 minutes
Director: Maung Tin Maung (aka Tin Maung, aka A1 Tin Maung)
Production: A1 Film
Cinematographer: U Myat Kyaw & U Ba Thaung
Cast: Daw Myint Myint, U Chit Shwe, U Ba Saw Gyi
Original Format: 35 mm
Black & White
Music* : A1 Khin Maung
*Mute with cardboards in 1934, dialogues and music have been added in 1970
Synopsis : Deep in the jungle, where tigers, snakes and elephants are at home, U Pho Thwa owns a sawmill. With his delightful granddaughter Myint Myint he lives a little further off in a comfortable villa. One day, Myint Myint takes her horse for a ride, accompanied by a houseboy. She has a riding accident and is saved from drowning in the river by a good-looking young man from Rangoon. All too soon, Myint Myint and Chit Shwe have to part again: he is on his way back to the city. But the situation at home isn’t good: his rich father has lost his heart to a woman who is two-timing him. Chit Shwe is full of despair about his family’s loose morals. Furthermore, he is in a financial crisis. Since, in the circumstances, he doesn’t want to ask his father for a loan, he cooks up a plan with a shady friend, an alcoholic. There has just been a murder in town, the search warrant for the murderer promises 5000 Kyat as a reward. Chit Shwe decides to pretend that he is the murderer, in order to get the reward later. Momentarily, a wild group of determined policemen are chasing the innocent man. Chit Shwe flees from his pursuers – like an early James Bond – using every available mode of transportation. He finally escapes – in a hot air ballon. The winds play God and, after having withstood a few thunderstorms, he finally lands close to the sawmill. Except that he has ended up in the encampment of the teakwood thieves. Even though they receive him graciously, the well-born young man is not keen to join the group whose members are clad in tigerskin jackets. They let him go and show him the road back to the city which, as it happens, leads past the sawmill. Chit Shwe and Myint Myint are happy to see each other again, because they have loved each other since their first meeting in the river. And yet, she doesn’t trust him, fearing that he belongs to the group of thieves who want to liquidate her and her grandfather. Very soon, he has the opportunity to prove his loyalty. The teakwood thieves invade the sawmill on elephants, trampling down buildings in a spectacular attack. There is much fighting and shooting; even fearless Myint Myint (wearing a small, white flower in her hair) takes up arms. In the end they defeat the robbers, but grandpa has lost his life in the struggle. No, she isn’t all alone in the world, says Chit Shwe consolingly, he is there for her, after all. And so finally, nothing stands in the way of a happy end. A jungle patrol, who had arrived at the sawmill shortly after the attack, tells Chit Shwe about his father’s search for him after his bad stepmother has finally run away with her lover. There’s more: his father has promised a reward to anyone who has information about his son’s whereabouts.
And so Myint Myint and Chit Shwe make their way to the city and, after a hundred adventures in the jungle arrive in a very urban Yangon. The father and a writer friend are already expecting the couple for tea in a beautifully appointed garden, a pinscher, decorated with a bow, provides the entertainment. Chit Shwe’s father is very proud of his self-willed son, on whom the hero in the novel Mya Ganaing will be based.
Maung Tin Maung aka Tin Maung was born in 1908, in Pyay, a small town in Lower Burma during the British colonial rule. He comes from a famous Burmese film family : his brother Nyi Pu (1900-1996) was been the first film actor in Burmese cinema. Maung Tin Maung began his film career in 1923, appearing in Taw Myaing Zon Ga Lwan Aung Phan.
In 1934, while enrolled in Rangoon University, Maung Tin Maung is enrolled in the famous A1-Film, the preeminent film studio in Burma. He quickly became known as A1 Tin Maung, as his stars and technicians who put with pride the prefix A1 in front of their name. The same year, he directed his first film Mya Ganaing (The Emerald Jungle) and in 1937, Aung Thabyay (The Triumph of Thapyay) about the final days of King Thibaw, Burma’s last monarch, who died an embittered man in exile in India. However, few Burmese got to see it initially, as the colonial government did not allow to the movie to play at theaters. During this years, he worked also as a singer and actor. In 1940, he directed Chit yay sin. In 1942, during World War II, Maung Tin Maung enlisted in the Burma Independence Army to fight against the British.
After the war, Maung Tin Maung returned to a film career at A1, increasingly focused on directing. He visited several Asian countries (Indonesia in 1950, India in 1954 and Japan in 1955) to learn directing and film production techniques. He won the Burmese Academy Award for best actor with the 1953 film Yadanarpon. He also won another Academy Award for best director with Ko Ye, Toe Ye, Soe Soe Ye in 1967. In his life, he made more than fourty films.
Tin Maung was chairman of the Film Council (today, Myanmar Motion Picture Organization, MMPO) from 1964 to 1966. Maung Tin Maung died in Yangon on 4 October 2000.
Mya Ganaing (1934) – Ta Lane Nit Lane – Chit Ta Mya – Aung Thabyay (1937) – Chit Yay Sin (1940) – Chit Sa Noe – Min Kaba Le – Bar ma hti – Chain Tan Pyi – Chit Thet Wai (1952) – Hpuza Shin – Pyo Do Maung – Bhain Ma tar ya – Nit Mwar A Theal – Moe Nya Einmet Phyu – Thu ka Lae chit ya mae – Ta man kyar – Zarti Thway – Zin Ma so taw main ka lay – Chit Mone Man – Yout Sein – Gone Ye Ma Thu – Myay De Thitsa – Latt Oo Sayar – Po Hnin Phyu – Yin We Khin Twe Zaw Lay Ye – A kyaw a mar – Ko Ye, Toe Ye, Soe Soe Ye (1967)…
Taw Myaing Zon Ga Lwan Aung Phan (1923) – Chit yay sin (1940) (credited as Tin Maung) – Yadanarbon (1953) – Po Pyon Cho (1955) – Chit Myay (1966)