After six years, Myanmar’s Academy Awards are returning home. Handed out in Nay Pyi Taw since 2006, the ceremony for the best films of the 2011 calendar year will be held in Yangon later this month – the city in which the awards began, way back in 1952.
That is not the only change for the film industry’s night of nights. The Sunday, December 30 ceremony will begin at 3pm, rather than 6pm, so that the broadcast is not cut off at 8pm for the national news.
But the most important difference with past years is that judges have the freedom to give the awards to the most deserving films and actors, rather than those that will not offend the tastes of the Minister for Information.
Tekkatho Yin Yin Lae, one of 17 members on the judging panel, said judges were elated at the lack of interference from the Ministry of Information this year.
“In previous years, there was another selection stage after our final assessment at the Ministry of Information. But this year the final assessment was really the final stage and the minister said that he will not veto our decisions. So I think this year there will be justice,” she told The Myanmar Times.
The changes come after long-serving Minister for Information U Kyaw Hsan was replaced by U Aung Kyi in August.
The judging panel, which comprises directors, artists and technical experts, considered 15 films released in 2011 for the prizes.
The films expected to share the 11 awards are Htar Wara Alintanmyar (Eternal Lights), Wit Kyawe (The Fate), Yin Kwal Nar (The Pain of a Broken Heart), Pan Kyar Withmone (The Pollen of a Lotus Flower) and A Mwe Za Yar (A Web of Inherit).
Tekkatho Yin Yin Lae said judges were heartened by a noticeable increase in both the quality and quantity of eligible films.
“This year was more competitive than in the past. For example, Htar Wara Alintanmyar looked as though it would have been quite difficult to shoot. You can see this is a good film from the first time you watch it. And you can appreciate it even more when you watch it a second time,” she said.
“I am glad to see such improvements in the movie industry.”
But judges were divided over which films should take home the top awards, Tekkatho Yin Yin Lae said, adding that she preferred to recognise films with actors and directors that had never previously received an Academy Award.
“For example, I chose a comedian this year for Best Male Supporting Actor. I think most of the judges will agree with me,” she said.