Saturday, January 7, 2012

Censorship satire takes top prize at Art of Freedom fest in Burma

In a sign that things are further loosening up in Burma (or Myanmar as more news organizations are starting to call it), the Art of Freedom Film Festival was held recently in the former capital of Rangoon (or Yangon as ... oh never mind).

The fest, touted as the first of its kind in Burma, was organized by newly liberated democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and the comedian Zarganar, fresh from his first "shocking" trip abroad, which he took after being released from prison. Zarganar was the subject of the documentary This Prison Where I Live, shown in Thailand last year and the year before.

Suu Kyi and Zarganar were on hand to give out prizes at the Art of Freedom fest, with the Audience Choice Award going to Ban That Scene, which satirizes the Byzantine process of submitting films to the censorship board, which operates under the Orwellian slogan “Eye Everything With Suspicion.”

The Irrawaddy has more:

The movie devotes much of its attention to scenes where a group of government officials from the state censorship board, the ministry of religion, and the ministry of health watch uncensored movies together, and begin arguing about which parts should be banned. Set in a tongue-in-cheek manner, the state officials are depicted as obtuse and self-righteous; they decide to censor scenes of beggars, of girls in mini-skirts, and of characters complaining about power cuts. The ministers reason that those characters “degrade the dignity of the state.”

Winner of Best Short Documentary was by Sai Kyaw Khaing for Click in Fear about a young Karen photographer  who took iconic photos of protesting Buddhist monks during the 2007 "Saffron Revolution" and then went into exile in order to avoid arrest. The short was previously shown at 2009's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Mizzima has more on the fest, including the complete list of winners and a photo from the ceremony.

Interesting to note is that some films were were disqualified because they had been uploaded to "the Internet", but were accepted again after the directors and producers explained that their works had been posted without their knowledge.

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