Wathann Film Festival Ends on an Emotional Note

By Lwin Mar Htun 11 September 2018

YANGON—The Wathann Film Festival, a platform for new filmmakers, successfully wrapped up its eighth edition on the evening of Sept. 10 with an award ceremony that provided an unforgettable moment for the local industry.

The festival’s competition section screened 11 local short and documentary films selected from 57 submissions. Two were selected to receive the Best Documentary and Best Short Film awards.

“Actually, we were planning to give awards to a total of three films. Unfortunately, there was no suitable film to receive the New Vision Award,” said Ko Thaid Dhi, a filmmaker and co-founder of the festival.

But organizers surprised the filmmakers with two unannounced special honors: the Best Cinematography Award and the Encouragement Award.

Award-winning filmmakers and judges appear on stage at the award ceremony. (Photo: Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy)

“We omitted one of the big awards, but the special award-winning filmmakers richly deserved their awards,” Ko Thaid Dhi said.

Director Cherry Thein won the Best Documentary Award for her film “Mother’s Burden”. Co-directors Than Kyaw Htay and Thadi Htar won the Best Short Film Award for “Silence in Mrauk Oo”, which also took the surprise Best Cinematography award.

Director Mg Bhone won the Encouragement Award for his short film “VOID”.

The prizes for the top awards were 1 million kyats and a trophy designed by Traditional Czech Crystal. The winners of the prizes for the special awards received 50,000 Kyats.

“Mother’s Burden” depicts the struggles of an older single mother in rural Bagan and her regrets about her daughter’s poor choices.

The film, which reflects the conservative and sometimes ill-fated approaches to parenting that prevail in today’s Myanmar, elicits both sadness and happiness.

Audiences sense the mother’s regret and distress. The film deserved the prize, though the filmmaker was unable to celebrate with her team due to poor health.

Than Kyaw Htay and Thadi Htar shared their happiness with the audience. “We’re so excited and don’t know what to say. Really, we’re so happy,” Ko Than Kyaw Htay said.

Thadi Htar added, “This is our first award.”

Audience members applaud the winners as the host announces an award.(Htet Wai/ The Irrawaddy)

“Silence in Mrauk Oo” is about a man who returns to Rakhine State’s Mrauk Oo from Yangon looking for answers regarding the death of his father during January’s protest in the township.

“This is a fictional story based on the actual Mrauk Oo protest; it is inspired by the reality, which is that no one wants to talk about the protest in January. Everyone stays silent,” Than Kyaw Htay said.

“As a son, he wants to know about his father’s death, and asks questions of his relatives, monks and friends, but no one gives him a proper answer. So, I think we can see his curiosity, sadness and anger through the dialogue in the film,” Thadi Htar said.

The two filmmakers directed the film on a tight schedule; they had just two-and-a-half days of shooting.

“It was a bit of a rush but we were satisfied after editing it. We think the film successfully sends the message that we intended. We believe audiences will be moved by it,” Thadi Htar said.

The film earned the Best Cinematography award thanks to the beautiful landscape scenes shot in Mrauk Oo, and the accomplished camera work.

The festival screened more than 70 local and international short and documentary films, including the 11 competition films, eight international feature-length films, four local documentaries in the new “Reflection of Society” program, and other short films.

WFF is the oldest independent competitive film festival in Yangon. It was launched in September 2011 by local filmmakers Thu Thu Shein and Thaid Dhi. It is a platform for independent local and international filmmakers.

This year’s film festival was held at Waziya Cinema and the Goethe Institut in Yangon from Sept. 5-10.

The judges for this year’s festival were from Myanmar, Japan and Germany.