Wathann Festival sets the stage for Independent Film

Photo by Hlaing Moe

The sixth annual Wathann Film Festival held at Waziya Cinema in Yangon last month showcased the country’s most talented woman filmmakers as they took the big prizes.
Held on September 11 this year, WFF was the first film festival to launch in Yangon back in 2011, started by local filmmakers Thu Thu Shein and Thaid Dhi.
 “At that time, we were both also filmmakers, but we didn’t have a place to screen our short films and documentaries. So, we had to submit those films to the international film festival. But we wanted to have our own film festival in Myanmar for future local filmmakers,” said Thu Thu Shein.
Soon after, the pair founded WFF with support from international film associations and organizations, including FAMU Prague in Czech Republic and Institut Francais de Birmanie.

Thu Thu Sein and Thaid Dhi were later joined by Myo Min Khin and Soe Moe Aung to run the festival.
Thu Thu Sain said their biggest problem when starting the festival was a lack of support from the government.
“Our government was different from other countries. We didn’t have the budget to improve the standard of cinematography,” she said.
The organizers resorted to asking for financial help from the Mahar Sanni Thukha monastery in Tarmwey Township, Yangon. The first WFF spanned just four days.

The WFF sees filmmakers compete in three main categories: Short Fiction, Documentary Film, and New Vision. There are also screenings of films from around the world.
 “The main purpose of the film festival is to improve the standard of local films and to produce higher-quality, more artistic films,” Thu Thu Shein said, adding that the films shown tend to differ from the mainstream variety.
The festival has become so popular and time consuming that Thu Thu Sein doesn’t have time to produce her own films.
Since the 5th annual WFF, its organizers have received support from the Ministry of the Information, which allowed the show to take place at Waziya Cinema, and sponsorship from KBZ Bank.
For the competition, filmmakers submit their films to the organizers, who create a shortlist.
Entries are limited to 15 minutes for fiction, animation, short film and 30 minutes for documentaries.
This year six awards were given for Best Cinematography, Best Short Film, Best Documentary, Best Acting, Best South East Asia Documentary, and film of a Special Mention.
Hnin Ei Hlaing, who scooped the Best Short Film prize for ‘Period@Period’, was shocked at her win.
“I just want people to believe in women because we fully believe in ourselves,” she said.
The film is about the menstruation period, a topic that some in the audience were not so comfortable with.
“This year was the year for local woman filmmakers. I believed the judges picked well and the audience was satisfied,” said Thu Thu Shein.
Now that the WFF is going strong, Thu Thu Shein says she wants to expand the festival’s reach to educate young, budding producers.
“We are trying to organize short courses and workshops on filmmaking in the future. The independent film industry is rapidly growing here but we still don’t have formal education on filmmaking. This is our next project,” said Thu Thu Shein.

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Lwin Mar Htun is a Journalist who worked as Lifestyle Reporter for three years at The Myanmar Times. She has also worked as a freelancer and been a Fashion Editor. Now she has decided to learn about new places, people and cultures as a travel writer."


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