Thursday, June 5, 2008
Hope for Burma in Mystic Ball
Screened last year at the Bangkok International Film Festival, the 2006 documentary Mystic Ball provided a rare look at Burma, Burmese culture and a strange, beautiful ballgame called chinlone.
The documentary chronicles the quest of the director, Greg Hamilton, to find a "pure" non-competitive sport. A chance encounter with the game, which is an acrobatic, balletic, more sophisticated form of sepak takraw, led Hamilton to visit Burma 18 times over the past couple of decades.
In developing a spiritual connection to the sport and the people who play it, he met the stars of the game, became an accomplished player himself and became the first foreigner to take part in the annual chinlone festival in Mandalay.
Hamilton was on hand for Mystic Ball's Bangkok screenings last year, and he was at pains to explain he had no opinion on the politics of the country. To speak out would jeopardize his ability to travel freely in the country, and would likely also cause problems for his Burmese friends, who are strictly non-political people. If not for the fact that they can juggle a ball with their feet while doing somersaults, they would probably be considered normal. Hamilton wanted to keep the focus on the spirituality of the beautiful game.
Nonetheless, it is hard to keep silent in the wake of the disaster that has befallen Burma with Cyclone Nargis. And it's in the spirit that Mystic Ball is being made available for benefit screenings in order to raise funds to help the Cyclone Nargis relief effort. (The people who appear in the film are in Mandalay, which was unaffected by the cyclone.)
One such screening will take place on June 6 in Victoria, British Columbia. Surely more will be organized in the coming weeks.
More than ever, help is needed. Relief agencies say more aid is needed and emergency supplies are running dry. But the U.S. Navy has steamed away without providing help. The Burmese military rulers, for their part, have complained that aid donors are too stingy, yet have not allowed a free flow of aid. But that's okay, since the disaster victims can eat frogs.
(Via Peace, Earth & Justice News)