1934 Burmese Film Inscribed in UN Heritage List

By Zarni Mann 5 June 2018

MANDALAY — A Burmese film from 1934 has been successfully inscribed in the UN’s Memory of the World Register for Asia/Pacific, according to Save Myanmar Film, which works to preserve Myanmar’s film heritage.

“We’ve received the email that Mya Ga Naing was successfully inscribed…and the certificate will be received tomorrow,” Maung Okkar, the group’s project director, said on Monday.

Mya Ga Naing, or The Emerald Jungle, is the oldest Burmese film to be preserved. It was directed by famed Burmese filmmaker Maung Tin Maung and produced by the eminent A1 Film studio.

With a run time of about 97 minutes, it features the adventures and romance of a village girl, Myint Myint, and a young man from Yangon, Chit Shwe.

The submission was presented to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Gwangju, South Korea, on Wednesday.

“U Kyi Shwin, general secretary of the Myanmar National Commission for UNESCO, helped us a lot to submit our presentation in a very short time, there from Gwangju. As the result, Mya Ga Naing has become the first old Burmese film to be inscribed by UNESCO at a regional level,” Maung Okkar said.

The team will officially receive the certificate today.

The film started out as a silent movie but had music added around 1954. Dialogue was added in 1970 and it was re-released that year to mark the 50th anniversary of Myanmar cinema. The version inscribed by UNESCO is the 1970 re-release with music and dialogue.

Save Myanmar Film said the original film stock was damaged by dust and scratches but restored with the help of Italy’s Laboratory L’Immagine Ritrovata.

In August 2016, the restored version of Mya Ga Naing was shown at the Locarno International Film Festival, in Switzerland, with English subtitles. The same version was screened again at the Memory International Film Festival in Yangon later that year.

“We struggled to restore this old film and tried for a long time to have it inscribed by UNESCO as our heritage. Thanks to everyone who put all of their effort into this, we achieved it, which recognises the grandeur of the old days of Burmese film,” said Maung Okkar.

MEMORY! Cinema, which cooperated with Save Myanmar Film in restoring Mya Ga Naing and submitting it to UNESCO, praised the team on its success.

“This successful UNESCO inscription acknowledges the glorious past of Myanmar cinema and in particular Maung Tin Maung’s and A1’s work. We are proud to have worked on the restoration of this national treasure,” the group’s co-founders, Severine Wemaere and Gilles Duval, were quoted as saying in a statement on Tuesday.