Burma’s 'Kayan Beauties' Wins Asean Film Award

By Zarni Mann 2 April 2013

The Burmese film “Kayan Beauties” has been honored at the inaugural Asean International Film Festival, taking away the special jury award at a ceremony in Malaysia over the weekend.

The film by Burmese director Aung Ko Latt is based on the story of an ethnic Kayan girl from east Burma who is kidnapped by human traffickers, highlighting a common plight among women in the ethnic group who are often targeted by Thai photographers or tourist companies because of their reputation for wearing brass coils that appear to elongate their necks.

“For 27 years I’ve been trying to show off our Burmese films and movies to the world,” said Aung Ko Latt. “Now, that dream has come true. I’ll try my best to produce more Burmese films and movies reflecting the beauty of our country, traditions and cultures.”

He said the film aims to raise awareness about human trafficking and to promote the rights of Kayan tribes, who are known as “giraffe people” among some tourists in Thailand.

“I want the world to know that these Kayan people are the hill tribes of Burma, not Thailand,” he said. “They’re the victims of human traffickers, as they’re trafficked across the Thai-Burma border. I don’t want them to be the showcase of another country.

“In this modern age, the tradition of wearing copper rings is slowly fading away among the young Kayan girls, though Kayan cultural organizations are educating the youth to preserve their culture. I hope my film will promote their culture, too.”

The 88-minute film was originally nominated at the festival for best director of cinematography and best supporting actress.

Aung Ko Latt said his film was the first in Burma to use the Dolby Digital Surround EX surround sound system.

Filmed mainly in Burma’s scenic Karenni State, also known as Kayah State, “Kayan Beauties” stars local Kayan women with no prior acting experience, while experienced actors from Rangoon were cast in supporting roles.

After debuting last year in Naypyidaw, the film will be screened again in Rangoon and other cities later this year in August.