After six years of exile in Nay Pyi Taw, the Myanmar Academy Awards made a popular return to Yangon on December 30, with a ceremony that honoured domestically made films released in cinemas in 2011.
The revamped program also featured new presentation styles, and recognised a new group of talented filmmakers and actors who had been overlooked under the old judging system.
Of the 15 films that saw theatrical release in 2011, five were nominated for awards. Eight of the top awards went to a single movie, Htar Wara A Lin Tan Myar (Eternal Rays of Light), directed by U Tun Aung Zaw.
The film, which won for Best Film and Best Director, tells the story of a child adopted by a Kayin family, who grows up to become a school teacher and works for the benefit of his village. The story is based on a comic book, and the film was shot in Shwe Sar Yan village in Mandalay Region.
U Zaw Myint — owner of Yee Myint film company, which produced Htar Wara A Lin Tan Myar — said credit for the movie’s success should go to director U Tun Aung Zaw.
“I didn’t make this film. I’m just holding the Academy statue thanks to the efforts of U Tun Aung Zaw,” U Zaw Myint said upon receiving the Best Film award.
“I feel like U Tun Aung Zaw was driving the car, and I was happily sitting beside him in the passenger seat. He directed the movie with all his heart, and that’s why our production won the award,” he said.
After receiving the Best Director prize, U Zaw Myint thanked the camera crew and everyone else who helped with the film, including the residents of Shwe Sar Yan village. He also lauded co-director So Kyaw San and cartoonist Moe Gyo, the latter of whom wrote the original story upon which the film was based.
“My friend, director Mg Myo Min, discovered the story 15 years ago, and I’m very thankful to him for that,” U Zaw Myint said.
“For years I shot the film in my dreams, and at night I talked to my wife about it. She never complained, and in fact she became the first audience for the movie. She gave me courage to shoot the story, so thanks to my wife.”
U Zaw Myint’s son, Naung Naung, won the award for Best Actor for the film, even though it was his first acting role.
The Best Actress prize went to Melody, who in the same film played the role of villager Ma Aye Chit, who falls in love with the teacher.
“Six years ago, director Nyi Nyi Tun Lwin allowed me to appear in a short drama on television, so I want to thank him for being my teacher,” Melody said.
“I also want to thank director U Tun Aung Zaw, who believed in me enough to cast me as the main actress in his movie. He also guided me as a teacher and was patient with my mistakes like a father.”
Melody also thanked her boyfriend, whose support was instrumental in allowing her to “spend the past six years working as an actress without any stress”, and said she was grateful to Facebook for providing a forum for sharing her “thoughts and feelings” with her fans.
The Best Supporting Actor, comedian Mos, also won for his role in Htar Wara A Lin Tan Myar as a man who pretended he was well-educated even though he was illiterate.
“I’m now 59 years old and I’ve won an Academy statue. I feel proud and I believe this award was given by the audience, so thanks to the movie fans who treated us well,” he said.
Musician Zaw Myo Htut won his third Academy Award for the movie’s soundtrack, which was based on traditional Myanmar music, with changing tempos to suit the scenes in the film.
Htar Wara A Lin Tan Myar also earned awards for Best Scriptwriters (Myint Maung and Soe Kyaw San) and Best Editing (Hein Htet).
In a change of pace, the Best Cinematography award went to Tint San for his beautiful shots of Mandalay, Monywa, Sagaing, Mingun and Shan State in the movie Pan Kyar Wut Hmone (Pollen of the Water Lily), directed by Sin Yaw Maung Maung.
San Oo won the Best Sound award for the same movie.
Chit Snow Oo, meanwhile, won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as a clever sister in Yin Kwe Nar (Sick of Broken Hearts).
“I had never acted like that character before. I had only performed in fancy styles in the past, so I want to thank director Min Oak Soe who believed I could play the role,” Chit Snow Oo said.
“Also, without the accolades of the audience I would never have lasted for nine years as an actress, so I want to thank my fans as well as my parents who allowed me to become an actress.”