‘We, Animators, Are a Small Group’

By San Yamin Aung 26 June 2014

Burmese animator Zaw Bo Bo Hein, 30, made “The Seller,” a computer animated film which won an award for best animation at the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Rangoon last week.

The festival is the biggest human rights–themed film festival in Southeast Asia and featured 32 Burmese films, nine Southeast Asia films and 26 international films, which were judged by a panel of 19 national and international jurists. The screened movies including four computer animated films.

“The Seller” is a five-minute computer animated film about a lazy man living on an island who gradually sells off all his resources and possessions to passing ships until he loses all his ways to gain income and has to leave the island.

In 2012, Zaw Bo Bo Hein also received the best animation award at ‘The Art of Freedom Film Festival’ in Rangoon with the animated film ‘Unity and Freedom’.

He spoke with The Irrawaddy about the difficulties that Burmese animators face in producing films and public interest in computer animation in Burma.

Question: What was the idea that inspired you to make “The Seller”?

Answer: Our country has been selling timber, jade, oil and gas and other natural resources to foreign countries and if it keeps selling resources like that, it will run out in one day. And since the government moved all government offices to Naypyidaw, all the old-heritage buildings in Rangoon that were used as government offices are gradually being substituted with big hotels. I thought about that and so I got the idea for “The Seller” and made the film together with my friends.

Q: Where did you learn about creating animation films?

A: I attended an animation course in 2010 at Vertex Animation Studio in Rangoon. After that, I learned other techniques through self-study. One year later, I started making my first animation. And now I have made 10 animations.

Q: Why are you interested in creating animation?

A: I studied to become a doctor. But I really want to do art which I was interested in since I was young. I was interested in drawing and writing poetry, creating a short stories and song. So I decided to become an animator because I like to watch animated films and want to make them. I can think of a story, write the script, design the cartoon characters, publish the story book, and add the music in animation. So, all my hobbies are coinciding in animation.

Q: What do you think about documentary films?

A: I don’t them like much, but they are important in their own way. I prefer to create new, imaginary characters… I like to use my imagination.

Q: Are there any difficulties facing Burmese animators?

A: Yes, there are few jobs in animation. So continuing to work as an animator in the long term is not easy. Animators who work for TV channels to design programs and visualization for advertisements and movies can get jobs. But I am more interested in creating cartoon-like characters and making short films. There isn’t much demand for this in the market.

Most animators here can’t work full time in animation. They just do it in their own time after returning from their day jobs, because they don’t have enough support to do animation. In foreign countries, they support and provide funding to create new ideas and the TV channels buy the animation films and show them on their channels. But here TV channels don’t support us.

If we get support, we can produce more quality animations and enter international film festivals to get recognition that Burmese animations are good. And there is no school or workshop to learn about animation, even though there are many schools and workshops for documentary-making. So, most of us are studying by ourselves and because of that we can’t make very high-quality animations.

Q: Why is there a lack of support? Is there a lack of interest in computer animation in Burma?

A: It is because we, the animators, are a small group and it takes a long time to complete a project. To make a three-minute animated film with three or four people takes about one month. But right now, all Burmese people in the country believe that animations created by Burmese are not good and they are not interested in it. Although we can’t make high-quality animations like international films, we are able to make ASEAN quality animations.

Q: Have you witnessed any development of animation production here in Burma since you started learning about it in 2010?

A: People have begun to learn about the use of animation and are applying it in their businesses, advertisements and movies, and Burmese people are starting to use animation like in other countries. So we can say that it’s starting to become better.