Thai-Myanmar film “TT & Donut” has its premiere in Yangon
THE FIRST-EVER cinematic collaboration between Myanmar and Thailand, “TT & Donut”, finally had its premiere last Sunday at the National Theatre of Yangon, drawing a celebrity crowd as well as such VIPs as the Chief Minister of Yangon, the counsellor (commercial) from the Royal Thai Embassy, Pakainay Leng-ee and ET, a fortune teller whose clients include Asia’s rich and powerful especially Thai politicians and high-ranking soldiers.
The event, which also featured a live broadcast for Myanmar TV, cost a small fortune to organise but the producers, Myanmar’s Golden Princess and Thai entertainment giant Bec Tero, felt it was well worth the price.
“TT& Donut” was introduced to the Thai media back in September at Paragon Cineplex as the first collaboration between Golden Princess and Bec Tero. The former had been looking for a Thai company with whom to work while Bec Tero was looking to expand its interests in Myanmar having successfully entered into a joint venture with Yangon-based media company and broadcaster Forever Group. Forever BEC Tero, as the company is known, produces TV shows and dramas for Myanmar’s MRTV-4 and Channel 7.
But while the film has now enjoyed its premiere, it isn’t actually going on release until a little later. The latest schedule shows a Myanmar release either just before 2016 draws to a close or in January followed by a Thai release in March.
The film stars Myanmar superstar Pyay Ti Oo as wealthy bachelor Ti Oo or TT who is on a visit to Thailand when he is accused of kidnapping Donut (Chattarika Sittiprom), the daughter of a powerful mobster who is about to marry a prominent businessman. Life becomes complicated when she loses her memory after an accident, and she and TT are forced to go the run. When her memory finally returns, she wonders which of the two men she truly loves.
The film is directed by Adsajan Sattagovit who worked closely with the Myanmar producers and actor Ti Oo to develop the story. As it is his first time working with a foreign production, Adsajan tried to find out what Myanmar’s cinephiles like, while taking into account cultural differences and the strict censorship in Myanmar.
“It’s a romantic comedy but due to cultural differences, it’s hard to deliver comedy through dialogue so we use gestures and situations. But I believeit can communicate with a Myanmar audience,” says the director.
The film was shot mostly in Thailand at the request of Myanmar’s main investor. Like Thai producers, who prefer to use the beautiful scenery of Japan and South Korea as the backdrops for their films, he wanted to give the film a more exotic feel.
Adsajan satisfied those wishes by using such unseen places as a sheep farm in Ratchaburi and a warehouse by the Chao Phraya river with the Rama IX Brigde as the backdrop.
The shoot itself was stressful for Chattarika, the second runner-up in the Miss Thailand World 2014 pageant, who made her acting debut with the film.
“Ti Oo helped me a lot. He is very talented and charming both in front and behind the camera,” says the actress, who has since appeared in a few TV dramas including the popular soap “Nakhee”, which has just finished showing on Channel 3.
The 38-year-old Ti Oo enjoyed working with a Thai film crew, saying he found them more systematic than their peers in Myanmar. The actor, who started his career as a 17 year old, has since found himself working in English, South Korean, Malaysian and Indian productions.
“I just do my best and never dream high when working with foreign films, I just work step by step and take all the new experiences as a way of improving my acting skills,” he says.
Actor and writer Lu Min, who has served as the president of the Myanmar Motion Pictures Organisation, for the last four years, is confident the co-production will help the Myanmar film industry become more systematic in its approach thus opening itself up to the international market.
“Our film industry is in transition,” he says. “Technically we are pretty well up-to-date and screening in digital format, but other aspects still need improvement, such as censorship and venues.”
Currently there are around 70 cinemas for 60 million people and half of them are in Yangon, where ticket prices range from Bt30 to Bt100.
More than 100 movies are currently being made every year – and the figure is rising – but theatre capacity is such that cinemas can only allocate showtime to around 20 films and the others have to wait in line. Censorship is another problem and Lu Min has been in recent discussions with the authorities to ease the rules. “Producers find it very difficult to work and often have to allocate bigger budgets to re-shoot the scenes the censors don’t like,” he says, adding that these challenges must be overcome if filmmaking is to develop,
Lu Min says he still loves acting and writing but that he is too busy as MMPO president to help fellow filmmakers.
“I think collaboration will help us to improve not just the quality of our films but also our marketing. Our film market is quite small and I would really like to see a bigger variety in stories and genres and an increase in movie theatres. Only then will we be able to expand,” he says.