Kyaw Thu Makes a Somewhat Ironic Return to the Big Screen

By Yu Mon Kyaw 25 March 2015

RANGOON — Kyaw Thu’s reputation precedes him; his name has become virtually synonymous with his work as a founder and director of the Free Funeral Service Society (FFSS). What many are about to be reminded, however, is that he used to have a different claim to fame.

Less than a decade ago, Kyaw Thu was known as shining star of the silver screen. An inspired actor and film director, he even once won a Burmese Academy Award. After an eight year hiatus, Kyaw Thu is planning a return to his previous life—ironically in the role of an undertaker, a part he has practically lived since establishing the FFSS in 2001.

“I have no particular difficulty acting as an undertaker character,” he told The Irrawaddy, remarking that he was excited to be back in the game with his old buddies, beloved Burmese movie stars including Yan Aung, Ye Aung and Min Oo.

Kyaw Thu will be taking the lead role in the new film, “Professor Dr. Sate Phwar,” directed by Khin Saw Myo and expected to be complete late this year. The film will be a highly anticipated adaptation of a Burmese detective novel published in the 1980s, which Kyaw Thu described as “not an entertainment-only movie, but sort of philosophical.”

Now in his 50s, Kyaw Thu said he accepted the role because the character interested him, and many friends and fans wished to see him return to the big screen. “Plus,” he said, “I want to show the younger generation who I am, many young people do not know me.”

Indeed, Kyaw Thu’s film career was stifled at its peak. He was barred from Burma’s government-controlled film industry because he was among those pro-democracy supporters who offered alms to Buddhist monks who had taken to the streets of Rangoon during the Saffron Revolution in 2007.

“I was angry at first,” he now recalls, but in retrospect he is grateful that he had more time to devote to his work with the FFSS. Founded in 2001, the organization offers funeral services free of charge and provides a free health clinic to people in need. As one of the Burma’s biggest charities, it has inspired and encouraged many of the country’s youths to take up similar work.

Director Khin Saw Myo said he was pleased about the opportunity to work with Kyaw Thu again, as the duo has a history of making successful films together.

“I chose veteran actors who would be suitable for this project,” he said. “It has been a long time since he has starred in a movie, and he happily accepted my offer. The audience will love it.”