This year, Memory! Festival presents three exceptional classics from Myanmar’s cinematic past. The earliest offering is the 1934 Mya Ga Naing (The Emerald Jungle), Directed by ‘A1’ Tin Maung and restored at l’Immagine Ritrovata (Italy). In this process, the MEMORY! Cinema Association team was aided by Okkar Maung, a documentary filmmaker whose archival research at the Yangon Film School—and his personal connection to Mya Ga Naing’s director—were instrumental in tracking down surviving elements of the film and identifying suitable prints required for the restoration. As part of this collaboration, the MEMORY! Cinema Association provided Okkar with the opportunity to attend a series of training sessions at the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF).
The next film in the Myanmar Film Treasures section is another Tin Maung classic, the 1953 Yatanabon (Treasure Trove), a nineteenth century melodrama based on Ellen Wood’s novel “East Lynne”, which had become so popular that it was reworked across the globe in a variety of formats, from musicals and stage plays to films. The Burmese novelist Shwe U Daung wrote an adaptation which served as the basis for Yatanabon. This film’s return to the screen took a different path, as restoration was taken up by the Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) in collaboration with the Czech National Archive. The prints used for the film’s transfer were taken from the MRTV archive and completed by a copy preserved in the Czech Republic since 1957, where it had been screened at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.
The third title is Ché Phawa Daw Nu Nu (Tender are the feet) directed by Maung Wunna and released in 1972. This film is the first restoration undertaken directly by the Yangon Film School, in what is hoped will become an ongoing effort to restore the sparse surviving classics of Burmese cinema locally. Restored with the support of Goethe-Institut, the film screened at Wathann Film Fest in 2012 and had its international premiere at the 64th Berlin Film Festival in 2014. Perhaps it’s fitting that many viewers’ first exposure to the classics of the national cinema of Myanmar should be a film about the need for cultural, artistic, and physical preservation.