Only fact and fairness

With the advent of affordable high-end digital camera and editing software technology, there are a host of low-budget documentaries being made out there to tell real-life stories that are even stranger than fiction. In recent year, many of them have captured the public’s imagination and won awards at home and overseas.  In the world of Myanmar documentary film-making, Shin Daewe (aka Cho Cho Hnin)has become more of a household name. Trained in zoology, she was drawn to documentary film-making in 2006, and ever since has won quite a few awards. “Take Me Home” picked up an award at the Wathann Film Festival in Yangon in 2013 while “Now I am 13” was honoured at the KKIS Film Festival in Malaysia last year. 

Her expose of the police brutality during a crackdown on student protesters earlier this month in Letpadan Township, Bago Region,has created a ripple of interest. The crackdown on March 10 degenerated into violent clashes during which journalists were intentionally beaten and arrested by police. In this Q&A, Shin Daewe relates her experience of covering the crackdown and gauges the impact of her work on the public at large.

You were in Letpadan as a documentary film-maker during the incident. Tell us about it.

As a documentary film-maker, I’m interested in creating and keeping an archive of work documenting changes in Myanmar’s politics. Normally I always focus on subjects that, I believe, are worthy of filming  and keep them in my personal library. That’s why I decided to go to Letpadan.

When was that?

I first got there the day the protesters marched on the town. I went there for the second time before March 10.

As a film-maker who witnessed the event unfolding, what’s your take on the March 10 incident? 

As a documentary film-maker, I am not impartial like the media. I saw myself as part of the group that supported the students. There were criticisms about who’s right or wrong before the March 10 incident. Regardless, I believe the students were full of good intentions, hoping for [political] change in the country. That’s why I don’t think about who’s right or wrong. I only thought about getting images I wanted on the day. 

Since the morning of March 10, I’d been suspecting that police might get tough on students and arrest them. I also prepared myself in advancebystocking up on snacks in case I got arrested for doing the filming. But in reality, we encountered a swift, unexpected response [from police] in such a short time. I believed that there would have been transparency as the government has claimed that the country is moving towards democracy, but I was unable to control myself during the quick response that came within seconds. That’s why I ran away. I expected to at least get arrested during the protest, but I witnessed the brutality thatwas worse than being arrested. I expected the worst, but the situation was much worse.

Do you have any plans to use the live footage of the police crackdown in the future?

I’m planning a personal story about changes that we have witnessed over the course of the civilian government, which took office at the end of the 2010 election, and about the public’s political aspirations. I will use the images [from the police crackdown] in that film project.

Have you made any more filming about the student issues?

I plan to do the filming of the white armband movement. I haven’t film it yet. I will film itwhen the occasion arises and I’m free.

As a documentary film-maker, what’s your take on documentary?

Documentary is a way of writing history with images. That’s my sole conviction in making documentaries.  I will continue to carry out my work based on this conviction.

What documentary are you working on at the moment?

Let’s say there are two films that I really want to make.One is on environmental protection and the other is about the lives of workers.