Using Video to Support Democracy in Myanmar
In July 2013, two members of the EngageMedia staff went on a scoping visit to Yangon (Myanmar) and Chiang Mai (Thailand) to see how video is being used by Burmese filmmakers and video-producing organisations to support democracy.
Through interviews, we explored the following topics:
- topics and themes being covered in their videos;
- film and video capacity building;
- distribution practices;
- archiving practices
We also looked at the political situation, internet access, technical capacities and other social issues in Myanmar that may affect video production, distribution and archiving practices and needs of filmmakers and video-producing organisations.
The organisations we interviewed included the Democratic Voice of Burma, Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB, Myanmar ICT Development Organisation (MIDO), Yangon Film School, Kamayut Media and Burma News International. We also interviewed filmmakers in Yangon.
Some Highlights from the Report
On Film and Video Capacity Building
There are organisations like the Yangon Film School, and the House of Media Entertainment (HOME) that offer video production training (both for beginners and advanced video makers). There are also opportunities provided for Burmese filmmakers to study abroad. Groups like Kamayut Media offer intensive video journalism training as well.
On Video Distribution Practices
Given the limitations of internet access in Myanmar, online video distribution has been limited. Although many of the filmmakers and video-producing organisations have their channels on Youtube, they really have not thought about online video distribution strategically.
For offline distribution, there is a lot more creativity and strategic-thinking. HOME produces a monthly DVD magazine, Motion Magazine, of short videos and films on human rights, democracy and other social issues. The distribution of this DVD magazine is nationwide through the different National League of Democracy offices and chapters across Myanmar.
Film festivals are also another space where filmmakers are distributing their films locally. There are three annual film festivals in Myanmar:
- The Art of Freedom Film Festival
- Human Rights and Dignity Film Festival
- Watthan Film Festival
These festivals provide an impetus for filmmakers to produce films as well.
For most video-producing organisations, the Democratic Voice of Burma still remains the main distribution channel for broadcasting films and videos.
There is an strong, vibrant and growing video field and community in Myanmar. There are opportunities for capacity building and there are examples of creative offline distribution practices. But there is room for growth:
- connecting Burmese filmmakers to international, Southeast Asian audiences and filmmakers
- connecting Burmese filmmakers and video-producing organisations to social movements locally and internationally, ensuring that the content being produced by filmmakers can support these movements