On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s First Locally Made Feature Film Premiered

By Wei Yan Aung 13 October 2020

YANGON—Myanmar’s first feature film, “Love and Liquor”, premiered at the Royal Cinema in downtown Yangon, then called Rangoon, on this day in 1920.

The black-and-white, silent film was directed by Myanmar’s first director, U Ohn Maung, who was 28 at the time. Shooting took nearly 14 months. The film was a romance intended to educate audiences about the dangers of gambling and alcohol through the story of a man whose life is destroyed by those vices, spiced up with comedy and fight scenes.

The film was shot around Shwedagon Pagoda, Inya Lake and Bahan in Yangon. Production equipment such as cameras as well as meals and plates were carried in ox-driven carts to the filming locations. As the production team lacked knowledge of how to light film shoots, the cast—Maung Nyi Pu, Myanmar’s first film actor and the son of Myanma Aswe Co. founder U Ba Nyunt; actress Ma Yi; Maung Maung Chit; U Pa Gyi; and U Pu—appeared dark on the silver screen.

Nonetheless, audiences crowded the cinema to see Myanmar’s first locally made feature film, and many watched the film standing, as tickets were sold out. The silent film had title cards in both English and Burmese. The English translations were prepared by writer P Moe Nin, who wrote the original Burmese title cards.

Sir Maung Khin, the first Burmese person to become a High Court Judge during the colonial period, attended a screening and awarded director U Ohn Maung a gold medal for the film’s contribution to public morals.

Around one month before “Love and Liquor” premiered, Myanmar’s first news film, which was about the funeral of political leader U Tun Shein and directed by U Ohn Maung, was screened.

U Ohn Maung later came to be considered the godfather of Myanmar motion pictures, and the day “Love and Liquor” premiered, Oct. 13, 1920, is commemorated annually as Myanmar Motion Picture Day.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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