Spotlight on LGBT Issues as &Proud Film Festival Returns to Rangoon

By Tin Htet Paing 29 January 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s first-ever LGBT film festival kicked off Thursday evening at Rangoon’s French Institute on Pyay Road, showcasing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-themed international films for a second year running.

The &Proud LGBT Film Festival will be screening shorts, feature-length fiction and documentaries from several Western and Asian nations, including Burma, from Jan. 28-31. Admission to the festival is free.

The event is being organized by multiple organizations, including the local LGBT advocacy group Colors Rainbow and YG Events, the latter known for organizing a monthly “FAB” LGBT-friendly club night. The festival will feature about 30 international films, including at least five local films.

A 45-minute documentary about local human rights advocate Aung Myo Min, “This Kind of Love,” directed by American filmmaker Jeanne Hallacy, was screened at the festival on its opening night.

The film’s subject Aung Myo Min told The Irrawaddy on Friday that he felt “prouder this time” than at previous international screenings of “This Kind of Love,” since his personal struggles and courage to embrace social challenges could be told to a home audience.

“The film was screened as an opening film for a film festival in my own country, especially for &Proud, which celebrates LGBT pride.”

Other Asian feature films, including “How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)” and “Margarita, With a Straw,” will also be screened at the festival.

The Thai film “How to Win at Checkers (Every Time),” directed by Korean-American director Josh Kim and premiering at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival, was praised by international critics as “one of the year’s best Thai movies.” The filmmaker Kim will be at &Proud’s screening on Friday evening for a Q&A session with the audience.

“Margarita, With a Straw,” a story about an Indian bi-sexual girl with cerebral palsy, was directed by Indian filmmaker Shonali Bose and made its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. “Margarita” will be screened for the Rangoon audience on Jan. 31.

Hla Myat Tun of Colors Rainbow told The Irrawaddy when the team was busy organizing the festival in December that the film showcase would put greater emphasis on Asian LGBT communities this year, as organizers wanted to highlight the idea that LGBT identities were not confined to Western culture.

While homosexuality remains illegal in Burma, with the colonial-era Penal Code mandating prison sentences of up to 10 years for same-sex activity, the country’s LGBT community is working to raise public awareness over gender and sexuality issues. But members of the LGBT community still face legal threats and social discrimination, Hla Myat Tun explained.

According to organizers, the film festival will be accompanied by other performances and art shows. Detailed schedules for screenings and programs can be found on the festival’s Facebook page.