Myanmar Literature and Cinema
Literature. – Contemporary Burmese literature is characterized by a profound originality. The search for an original expression and style, removed from both the influences of traditions and those of foreign literature, especially English, has given rise to an innovative ferment which, which arose at the beginning of the 20th century, lasted until 1940. The creation of the Khissang literary movement(“Contemporary Experience”) that gathered these ferments, is considered one of the determining factors of the renewal. In this period, the novel was born, a genre unknown until now, but destined to become the most characteristic expression of contemporary Burmese literature. Official recognition of the new orientation is the transformation of the Translation Office into an Association of Writers and the subsequent creation of the annual Day of Literary Awards, still in existence with clearly institutionalized purposes.
The most representative authors of the new generation, that of novelists, who trace the path for subsequent developments, are Maha Hswé (1900-1953), particularly fruitful and inspired by a dominant ideal, the independence of his own country; ‘çCéing Phé Mying (b. 1914), author of novels with a political background; the writer Dagong Khing Khing ‘Lé (b. 1904), author of novels with a historical and social background.
A literary genre followed with keen interest is poetry, which has been able to renew itself without detaching itself from traditions, while fiction, heir to an oral and timeless tradition, continues to draw its inspiration from traditional sources.
One of the most significant poets, whose compositions have been translated into English and Russian, is ‘U’ ÇCéing Hang (or Zoji): the collection Zawgyi Selection (1960), contains a part of his works, while other poetic compositions, dedicated with water hyacinth, are in the Béda Lang collection, from 1963. Inspired by a genuine patriotic spirit and the ideal of an absolutely indigenous and free Burmese culture and art is the narrator and poet ‘U Wung: his collection of poems for children and an anthological selection of his others compositions, translated into English between 1936 and 1939, also made him known to the Western world. Vast is the production of the poet Ngwè Tayi (1925-1958), author of over 800 poetic compositions pervaded by lively freshness and refinement of feelings, lively malice and sublime tenderness.
In the period following independence, in January 1948, the novel found inspiration above all in concerns of a social nature. From 1950, literary magazines will have greater diffusion, welcoming new compositions and favoring the affirmation of the narrative genre. Famous novels of this period are Mô auq myé bying (“The earth under the sky”, 1948) by ‘Ming Aung, and crowned with a literary prize; Nga ‘Ba’ (“The Scrounger”, 1947), written by ‘U Thing Phaq; Ming hmu ‘dang (“The official”, 1950), composed by’ U Ong phé ‘under the pseudonym of Tèq Tô.
Pervaded by a caustic irony mitigated by a great display refinement are the works of Çadu (b. 1918), among which we point out Tat ‘thega’ myaq-kôkô (“The dear and valiant soldier”), from 1951, and A’mina, a short story that takes its title from the name of the heroine. Another writer uses a subtle and fearful irony with extreme skill: it is Ma ‘Ma’ ‘Lé (b.1916), who has dealt with all the great themes of contemporary Burmese literature. His writings reflect the cultural experiences acquired during his travels to the West, but reveal the basis of a well-rooted tradition. Among his most significant novels are ‘Mong yué’ mehu (“Not for hate”), çu ma’ (“Lei”), del 1944.
Currently the Myanmar is full of talented writers and writers, authors of novels and short stories. Among the most celebrated names is that of the writer Khing Hning Yu ‘(b. 1925), who obtained a literary prize (1960) for the short story ‘ Kyé mong Eyéiq (“The image in the mirror”). Equipped with remarkable descriptive and evocative skills, she has been able to highlight, in her works, the dangers that the innovations connected with the civilization of consumption and technological progress can constitute for the serenity and simplicity that characterize Burmese life.
Cinema. – Born in 1934, the Myanmar film industry has produced around 70 films a year for a long time, reaching 50 at the turn of the nineties.
The production is completely controlled by the government which has created a series of institutions to follow the processing and distribution. The Motion Picture Corporation, a department of the Ministry of Information and Entertainment, produces all the short and feature films, documentaries, newsreels, while always under the control of the government operate an office for censorship, a tax office, and others for distribution, export and special financing for particularly notable works. The approximately 140 rooms distributed throughout the Myanmar are also governmental; very few private managers, and subjected to very high taxes. Such a capillary system of control does not exclude that sometimes works of a good level are produced, which distance themselves from the current production centered almost exclusively on melodramatic stories or on Indian-inspired musicals.
Alongside established directors such as U Chin Sein and Bo Ba Ko, both in key positions of the various government commissions for cinema, young talents are making their way: Khin Soe, author of Thamar Ba Khet, a surreal story about a pedaler of rickshaw; Than Htut, winner of the 1986 Burma Academy Awards with Dream Bridge, an adventure film set during the Second World War; U Kyee Myint, who had the opportunity to partially finance some of his feature films.