Let’s go to the movies? Junta wants to reopen Myanmar’s cinemas

Cinemas closed since COVID-19 hit Myanmar in early 2020 may soon reopen in compliance with the law, the junta’s new top spokesperson said yesterday.

Beset by armed resistance and desperate to restore a sense of normalcy, the junta’s newly appointed communications minister, Maung Maung Ohn, said productions were gearing up again in line with health measures, and conversations underway to allow screenings. 

He said the government hopes artists will soon be able to enjoy seeing their work in theaters, though he gave no date for theaters to reopen.

Under the ousted government of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese film industry saw a dramatic surge in both quality and quantity before it felt the double-punch of COVID-19 and coup.

It won’t help things that some of  the nation’s top filmmakers, artists and performers who opposed the coup have been imprisoned or are on the run as fugitives.

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Money Has Four Legs, a popular film that showed at top festivals including Busan, New York and Locarno, will get an encore showing in November at the Hawaii Film Festival.

Its co-producer and co-writer, Ma Eaint, was arrested and jailed by the junta on June 5 at her Yangon home. The reason for her imprisonment remains unknown four months later.  She was reportedly tortured to the point of breaking her toes, according to media reports, at a military interrogation camp in Shwe Pyi Thar. Her release has been demanded by more than 20 international film organizations.

Cinemas aren’t the only place the military wants to see people return. Senior Gen. Soe Win, junta vice-chairman, indicated that work is underway to reopen schools following the Thadingyut holidays in October. He said students 12 and up would be vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Tuesday, junt health officials reported another 1,197 new cases of COVID-19, raising the official total to 479,848 cases and 18,162 deaths since the pandemic began. Outside observers believe those numbers are actually much higher.

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