The Cinema of Burma has a long history dating back to the
1910's. The person who created the first silent film was U
Ohn Maung (Burma's first producer and director) and he is
now known as Burma's "film father".
Burma's first film was a
recording of the funeral of U Tun Shein - a leading politician
of the 1910's, who campaigned for Burmese independence in
London. It was captured with a second-hand camera by U Ohn Maung
and was screened at the Royal Cinema, near Scott Market (now
Bogyoke Market), which belonged to a Mr Achar, a friend of U Ohn
Despite its documentary nature, the Burmese public was very
proud of the film, which opened with the notice "Please accept
our apologies for the poor quality of the film".
U Ohn Maung
U Ohn Maung then founded The Burma Film Company to produce and
direct more films. He hired U Nyi Pu (Burma's first actor) to
shoot the first Burmese silent film Myitta Nit Thuyar (Love
and Liquor) which proved a major success, despite
its poor quality due to the fixed camera position and inadequate
The film opened with the title "Burma Film
presents: Love and Liquor" but there were no credits or mention
of the cast. It was based on a story by author P Moe Nin
about how gambling and alcohol destroyed a man's life. The day
the film premiered, October 13, 1920, is commemorated annually
as Myanmar Movie Day. Fox of America asked for Burmese nature
study scenes and bought them from U Ohn Maung. He also acquired
more advanced film accessories and cameras from the Kodak
P Moe Nin
The first Burmese sound film was produced in 1932 in Bombay,
India with the title Ngwe Pay Lo Ma Ya (Money can't buy
it) and was directed by U Toke Kyi. Films dealing with
social issues and political themes became popular in the 1930's.
Parrot Film Company produced films that addressed social issues
such as gambling and police corruption, although the films were
censored by the British colonial government.
There were also
films that were banned like Dou Daung Lan (Our Peacock
Flag) and Aung Thabyay (the Triumphant Jambul) in 1937.
The political film Boycott was directed by the student
leader Ko Nu in 1937 and starred other student leaders such as
Aung San and Htun Ohn. The censors allowed this film to be
showed. many of the films of this era no longer exist due to the
lack of adequate preservation.
U Toke Kyi
After World War II, the Burmese cinema continued to address
political themes. many of the films produced in the early Cold
War era had a strong propaganda element to them. The film
Pale Myetyay (Tear of Pearl) was produced in the wake of the
Kuomintang invasion of Burma in the 1950's and highlighted the
importance of the armed forces or Tatmadaw to the country.
Ludu Aung Than (The People win through) featured anti
Communist propaganda. The script was written by U Nu who served
as Prime Minister during the 1950's.
The famous film maker and
author U Thu Kha starting producing films during this
period. His most famous film is Bawa Thanthaya (The Life
Cycle). Burma held its first Academy Awards in 1952. There was
strict censorship and control of film scripts during the
Socialist era commencing in 1962.
U Thu Kha
In the era that followed the political events of 1988, the film
industry became increasingly controlled by the government. The
movie industry was privatized after 1989 as the government
opened up the economy. The film company Mingalar became the most
powerful company in the film industry. Film stars who had been
involved in political activities during the 1980's and 1990's,
such as Aung Lwin and Tun Wai, were banned from appearing
in films. the films of some directors such as Win Pe have also
been banned. The government issues strict rules on censorship
and largely determines who produces the films.
Over the years,
the movie industry has also shifted to produce many lower budget
films that are distributed cheaply as video tapes and CDs. These
serve as substitutes for the lack of television and cable
broadcasting. Most of the movies produced nowadays are comedies.
U Aung Lwin
Love and Liquor (Myitta Nit
1920 Burmese silent film directed by U Ohn
Maung and written by P Moe Min. It was the first Burmese feature
film and It premiered at the Royal Cinema, Rangoon on 13 October
Cast - Nyi Pu & Ye Ye
Plot - Story about how gambling and alcohol destroyed a man's
The film opens with a simple title "Burma Film Presents: Love
and Liquor" and there is no mention of credits or cast.
The film proved a major success, despite its poor quality and
inadequate film accessories.
U Ohn Maung is considered to be Burma's pioneer filmaker and
he founded the Burma Film Company.