BACKGROUND HISTORY OF THE MYANMAR MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY
In the year 1914, the spreading of the world's motion picture
over to Myanmar, exerted artistic influence on a young individual by the name
of U Ohn Maung. He studied all available books and movies on the subject and
familiarized himself with the technique of photographing and making still
pictures into moving pictures.
In 1919, he made the very first Myanmar documentary film which
was subject to the Myanmar Export and Traditional cottage industries such as
Lacquer ware industry, Bassein parasol industry, Mandalay silk textile
This film was only for the British Empire Exhibition, which was
held in London, and it was not publicly screened in Myanmar.
The first Myanmar documentary film to be publicly screened was
made on the funeral procession of U Tun Shein, one of the Myanmar's delegates
to the conference held in London, on 2°d June 1920. In September 1920, this
documentary was screened with an American full length feature film and the
Myanmar audience gave tremendous encouragement.
The first Myanmar feature film "Myittar and Thuyar" was
screened at the "Cine'ma de Paris" in Yangon on 6th November 1920 but it was a
silent movie. The first Myanmar talkie films were publicly screened in late
The years 1942 to 1945 may be called the Myanmar movie
industry's period during the World War II. During World War II, the Japanese
Government invited Myanmar Leaders to Tokyo and held a ceremony in which
Myanmar leaders were with Orders of the Rising Sun and Sashes. The Japanese
Government filmed this ceremony and their arrival in Yangon, which was welcomed
by Myanmar people in accordance with the conduct of Dr. Ba Maw's
administration. It was the only film, which was made during the war.
The British Government returned to Myanmar and resumed
administration in 1946. The British Government formed the Board of Film Censors
and it was the first governmental organization for the Myanmar Movie Industry.
The first nongovernmental organization for the Myanmar Movie Industry was
formed on 8th March 1946. The proprietors of motion picture and theatrical
companies, together with performing artistes formed "The Myanmar Naing Ngan
Motion Picture and Theatrical Asiayone".
Myanmar became independent on 4d' January 1948. The British
Government handed over the administration to Burmese leaders including General
Aung San and U Nu. The Myanmar Government formed an organization to promote
knowledge of film making on 1St June 1951. A sum of 4 million kyats was
allotted to this organization for the purchasing of machinery and equipment and
1.2 million kyats was provided in cash as capital. It produced one black and
white documentary film entitled. "Our Union". Later, the Buddha Sasana
Foundation paid a sum of kyats 0.3 million to produce a colour documentary film
on the "Sixth Buddhist Synonage". It was the very first colour movie for
Myanmar movie industry.
In November 1951, the Information Department of the Government
of Myanmar constituted the "Union of Myanmar Motion Picture Scrutinization
Committee was to develop the standard of domestic movie and also to prescribe
rules and regulations for foreign movies. The annual Motion Picture Academy
Awards were instituted by this committee.
1950's and early 60's were the golden years of Myanmar motion
picture industry. It produced about 80 movies a year and some were joint
production with foreign firms. Most of them were located in Myanmar but some
were located in abroad and some were supervised by foreign technicians. In
these days each cine'ma changed a movie on each Saturday and screened two shows
on weekday. On Saturdays and Sundays there was an additional show at 3:30 pm.
Some people realized that much monetary profit could be derived in this
business and film companies sprouted like mushrooms. In proportion to the
progress achieved by the companies, the actors, actresses and other performers
were made salaried workers and trained them on job. The number of movie
performers increased gradually.
In 1962, the Revolutionary Council came to power. Since the
national policy being based on socialist ideology, the people in power were
determined to utilize all forms of media, including motion pictures and
artistes, as tool for their propaganda purpose. The Government formed two
organizations for Motion Picture Industry.
The Government nationalized all the cinema halls and the Motion
Picture Corporation (M.P.C) runs the distribution sector. The Film Council
(F.C) runs the production sector. The main responsibility of these
organizations was to keep a close watch on the activities of directors, actors,
actresses, artistes and producers and to see that their professional
performances were within the regulations laid down by the government and in
The Film Council had to act as liaison between the private
sector and M.P.C because M.P.C controlled not only the distribution sector but
also the import of celluloid films for the films makers.
The Motion Picture Corporation (M.P.C) which was the state organization and
The Film Council (F.C) which was the non- government organization.
Starting from about that time, almost all matters relating to
Myanmar Movie industry came under the administrative authority of the M.P.C.
The M.P.C virtually monopolised the film industry except the production. M.P.C
reluctantly gave up the idea to control the production sector after producing a
film titled "Beloved Land" and it turned out to be a pathetic failure.
Instead of supporting the private individuals, the M.P.C.
adopted an overtly severe and high handed attitude towards these people who had
to go through a lot of red tape and difficulties before a movie which they had
produced could be presented to the public. The producer had to produce movies
at their own expense, wait for a long time to obtain the permission from the
authorities to screen publicly at the cinema halls. Only four positive copies
of a motion picture could be shown through out the country over a censorship
period of three years. Once the movie was shown, 40% of the gross income was
deducted as Entertainment Tax, in additional to the fixed rental charges for
various cinema houses. The balance was then paid to the producer by cross
cheque. Because of all these circumstances, Myanmar film companies faced a
situation which became difficult for them to produce forty films per annum
where as they had produced over a hundred films in the past. Due to these
facts, it became a sick industry.
The Socialist Government nationalized almost
all the sectors and exercised the plan economy at the time. The false statistic
and mismanagement caused lack of supply and the people in the country were
depending on the black market for the consumer goods. The black market business
became boomed-up and the film production sector became a most suitable place to
do money laundering for them. It caused the industry to keep on sickly. The
State Law and Order Restoration Council came to power in 1998.
The Motion Picture Corporation (M.P.C) became the Motion Picture Enterprise (M.P.E) and
the Motion Picture Organization replaced the Film Council. The SLORC Government
exercised the open door policy since 1989. The Motion Picture Board of Censors
announced the Principles Rules and Regulations in June 1989 but it was totally
descended from the previous one. Instead of supporting the private individual,
the M.P.E adopted on overtly severe and high handed attitude towards these
people for the sake of the National Culture. M.P.E relaxed the Entertainment
Tax from 40% of the gross income to 20%.