(Original) Pics or It Didn’t Happen: Knock-off films ineligible for Myanmar Academy Awards

Myanmar’s film industry is infamous for its, um … shall we say “lax” approach to pesky issues of copyright. With the market closed off from outside productions by decades of junta rule though, it’s unsurprising that a homegrown industry centering on direct ripoffs of foreign titles thrived.

The Myanmar Motion Picture Organisation (MMPO) is now trying to change all that — or at least some of it.

In an interview with DVB Burmese this weekend, the group — a non-profit industry body that oversees everything from censorship to distribution — said locally produced films they deem “copies” of international flicks will be barred from the annual Myanmar Motion Picture Academy Awards.

“If a Myanmar film is a copy, we will not consider them for a prize,” MMPO president U Zin Wine told the local-language outlet.

While name-brand Hollywood blockbusters have generally been spared the treatment, films from neighboring countries like India and Thailand have routinely ended up Burmese-ified for local consumption, with horror films in particular a popular target for remakes.

Whether or not prize consideration will actually have a trickle-down effect on production decisions is an open question, though it’s far from unheard of for knock-offs to end up in the winners’ circle.

The awards ceremony just last year saw Tar Tay Gyi, a direct ripoff of the Bollywood horror title Kanchana, take home the prize for Best Male Actor.

When Coconuts Yangon reached an MMPO spokesperson, Aye Kyu Lay, today, he said the decision was not only in keep with a push for more local stories, but about the country’s reputation abroad as well.

“We made the decision to support original stories from Myanmar because we want stories that are about Burmese people,” he said. “If we show a Burmese film to an international audience and they find out that it was copied from another country, we are going to lose face.”

That new focus on originality is one being repped by an up-and-coming crop of Myanmar filmmakers written about last June in Frontier Myanmar.

Their emergence came just a Facebook campaign to “Stop Silly Movies” (i.e. ones reliant on slapstick, lousy dialogue and weak storylines) gained popularity publicly.

As for the Myanmar Motion Picture Academy Awards itself, the event — run by the MMPO since 2013 — has had long and at-times peculiar history, with the selection process in particular often drawing scrutiny.

Last year’s judging committee was comprised of officials not only from the MMPO and the national music association, they had help from “experts” from Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Religious Affairs, News and Periodical Enterprise, Ministry of Education and even the attorney general’s office.

So who will this braintrust of film experts pick this year? We’ll find out when this year’s awards are held on March 23 at the Shwe Htut Tin Compound in Yangon.

And here’s to catching the fake ones.

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