Myanmar actress held by junta wins ‘best performance’ at German film fest

Eaindra Kyaw Zin in a scene from ‘What Happened to the Wolf?’
Eaindra Kyaw Zin in a scene from ‘What Happened to the Wolf?’

A Burmese actress last night won an award at an international film festival in Germany despite the fact that she – and almost everyone else who worked on the Myanmar film which premiered there – is in military custody or on the run.

Eaindra Kyaw Zin was not present to receive her award at the Oldenburg Film Festival, neither was any of the cast or crew of their film which premiered there, What Happened to the Wolf? Director Na Gyi and his wife Pang Phyo Thu, who starred, are in hiding as fugitives of the military dictatorship. So is actor Aung Myint Myat.

“We celebrate her elegance, her soul and her invaluable gift to cinema with hope that this reaches her. It is our honor to present this award to Eaindra Kyaw Zin,” said Canadian actress Deborah Kara Unger, who was overcome with emotion as she presented the award. It was accepted by a friend of the director.

Not only is the film’s depiction of LGBT romance transgressive in culturally conservative Myanmar, but the filmmakers and performers have been branded enemies of the state for their advocacy to return power to civilian hands.

Their absence was noted by festival director Toresten Neumann when the film premiered there Thursday.

“It is a beautiful film and the director Na Gyi and his wife had to hide because they are being blackmailed by the military junta for stepping up and fighting for the democracy that has been taken away from the country,” said Neumann, who along with others wore T-shirts emblazoned with Eaindra Kyaw Zin’s name. “And this beautiful actress that I wear on my T-shirt tonight is imprisoned, and nobody knows how she’s doing.”

Eaindra Kyaw Zin and her husband Pyay Ti Oo, both actors, attend a February protest. Photo: Pyay Ti Oo / Facebook
Eaindra Kyaw Zin and her husband Pyay Ti Oo, both actors, attend a February protest. Photo: Pyay Ti Oo / Facebook

Actress Eaindra Kyaw Zin and her husband Pyay Ti Oo attend a February protest. Photo: Pyay Ti Oo / Facebook

Just a year ago, director Na Gyi was leading the #RatingSystemNow campaign. Now he and Paing Phyo Thu, who also appeared in his award-winning 2018 debut Mi, are among dozens of celebrities forced into hiding after the junta accused them of defamation.

Eaindra Kyaw Zin, one of Myanmar’s highest-paid actresses with two Myanmar Academy Awards under her belt, was arrested in April along with her actor husband Pyay Ti Oo for participating in anti-coup protests.

The film follows terminally ill patients Way (Paing Phyo Thu) and Moe (Eindra Kyaw Zin) who meet in a hospital. They find comfort in each other and ultimate embark on a road trip together to a Shan State destination famous for its sea of clouds.

Myanmar’s filmmakers band together against whims of censors to demand #RatingSystemNow

Fans showed their support Sunday for the two leading ladies.

“We miss you, Ma Oo Wel,” one wrote on social media, using Eaindra Kyaw Zin’s nickname.

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