The 7th edition of the Wathann Film Festival was held on last September 6th to 10th with the competition closing on September 11th with an awarding ceremony held at Waziya Cinema in Yangon.
WFF is the very first competitive film festival in Yangon and it was first launched in September 2011 by local filmmakers Thu Thu Shein and Thaid Dhi.
It became a film platform for independent local and international filmmakers.
This year they gave a total of five awards including Best Acting Award, Audiences Award, Best Documentary Award, Best Short Film and New Vision Award.
The winners were selected from a total of 29 competition films including documentary, short film, animation and experimental film.
“I went every day of the film festival and watched all the films. I liked every single film and I didn’t expect to win the award,” said Edo Vader, filmmaker of an animation film called ‘Thaa Shin Pyu’ which won the Best Short Film award.
WFF was his first film competition experience and his happiness about his success makes him more motivated for his film making.
“I liked other film festivals like Human Rights and Human Dignity but I prefer this WFF because this is more independent.
We can create what we want and it’s suitable for young people who want to show so many sides of our society,” he said.
Thaa Shin Pyu is a about of a father-and-son relationship. A father has a plan to hold his son’s ordination as a novice monk after harvesting the rice. Unfortunately, the government and business seized the land and they became homeless. The touching animation film lead up to a sad ending and judges and audiences praised the 12-minute long film with the loudest applause.
Director Edo Vader created Thaa Shin Pyu aiming to give the audience a taste of animation film.
“I love animation since my childhood because of my father. Most people think animation is just for children but I’m an adult and still love to watch animation,” he said.
He wishes to see many more animation films locally and hopes to see a growth in animation crews and more workshops organized in Yangon.
“It is not easy to produce a really good animation film. We needed many types of crew members such as sound engineers, music producers, animators, a good editor and so on. But everyone only wants to be a director so there’s no complete animation crew in town. If some good foreign animators lead the workshop and crew, there might be a full crew. I wish it will happen one day,” said Edo Vader.
The New Vision Award went to an 18-minute film called ‘Train’ directed by the Sai Kong Khan. ‘Train’ is a story of his journey of self-discovery on the Yangon circular line.
Best Documentary Award winner, ‘A Simple Love Story,’ never had a chance to show on the big screen to the public because of censorship restrictions.
The documentary is about an LGBT love story. The censorship board decided to cut off the last scene from the film. But the director Hnin Phyu Phyu Soe decided to pull it from the festival screening altogether to protest her film’s objective.
“I feel like it was unfair that the censorship board wanted to cut some dialogue and scenes out of my film. At the same time, they allow other mainstream films which attack the LGBT community and trying to make a joke of LGBT to be shown to the public. So, I chose not to show my film at the festival”, said Hnin Phyu Phyu Soe.
Even though she chose to not show her film at the festival, she will try to show it to the public in another way, she said.
Best Actor Award went to Pyae Pyae (A little girl), for Ok I’m Fine and Awakening which was directed by Aung Htet.
Director Wai Yum won the Audience Choice Award with his documentary called ‘Miss or Miss’.
WFF is an independent film festival for young filmmakers and their films are different from mainstream films.
“I’m very thankful to the filmmakers who submitted every year,” said Thu Thu Shein, a festival director.
She added that, “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to make this happen every year.”
The main purpose of WFF is to improve the standards of local films and to produce higher-quality and more artistic films said Thu Thu Shein.
“The film festival is organized not only to show the films and talent but also to create a place to unify the filmmakers from different cities and countries. They can share their knowledge of film-making, culture and behaviors,” she said.
WFF has three main categories for filmmakers to enter – Short Fiction, Documentary Film, and New Vision. They also screen special films from other countries.
WFF is held in Yangon every year during the rainy season and apart from the festival itself, they hold additional programs which are focused on independent cinema and cinema education.
“We are trying to hold short courses and workshops for filmmaking in the future. The independent film industry is rapidly growing locally but we still don’t have any systematical education for filmmaking. This is our next project,” said Thu Thu Shein.