This Kind of Love follows Burmese human rights educator and LGBTIQ activist, Aung Myo Min, as he returns home after 24 years in exile. Myo's vision that human rights is for everyone - from children to transgender people to ethnic nationalities - makes This Kind of Love an offering of hope for meaningful political change in a country emerging from military dictatorship.
Interview with Director: Jeanne Hallacy
Congratulations on the film! You’ve been working on Burma for over 20 years and this is your fourth film on Burma. How do you see the films in relation to each another?
Over the past two decades I developed a special interest in covering the political and human rights struggle in Burma while based in Thailand. My previous films, Into the Current: Burma’s Political Prisoners, No Woman: No Peace and Burma Diary focused on the journeys of activists from Burma who were committed to creating peaceful change in their homeland.
The three films parallel Burma’s political movement over those years –from the jungle based armed resistance, to women advocates working on the international stage to amplify the grievous human rights abuses of ethnic communities to political prisoners who were sacrificing their personal freedom for the greater goal of democracy in their country.
This Kind of Love is a new chapter in that modern history as it’s the first time an activist is at long last returning from years of exile to be part of rebuilding the political space in the home they left so many years before. The next film will focus on how activists are continuing to work for sustainable human rights within the new political landscape under the recent victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, and the challenges it continues to face with the residual grip of military control in the government.
Burma has undergone remarkable change during this period – or has it?
Burma has reached an historical juncture with the recent landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party in national elections.
Aung San Suu Kyi was prevented from taking the office of the President with a constitutional clause aimed to block her from assuming that office, but on March 30th, 2016, Htin Kyaw was sworn in as the first civilian elected President in half a century.
The military continues control key ministries and reserves 25% of all seats for appointed military officials. Legislative reform requires 76% of parliamentary votes - thwarting efforts to carry out judicial and legal reforms – a challenge which Suu Kyi’s party will likely aim to amend.
There is an atmosphere of positive change for the people of Burma who have waited for this moment and are proud of the voter turnout and the possibilities of what lies ahead.
The junta ruled the country with a dark curtain of absolute control for half a century, and it will take more than a few years to begin to rebuild the nation.
In addition, the soul and psyche of Burma’s people who have been subjected to authoritarian fear and suffered tremendous abuses, especially in remote ethnic regions, has been deeply affected by the military’s misrule.
Human rights abuses continue with land grabbing and usurping natural resources more pronounced now that the economy has opened to foreign direct investment and armed conflict continues in ethnic Shan and Kachin states displacing thousands of villagers, mostly women and children.
Myo has a new long path ahead, along with the country’s frontline activists pushing for genuine reforms and human rights. With the expansion of civil society leaders such as Myo who continue their commitment to sustainable peace and justice, there is a window of light in what was once a darkened cell.
What led you to Aung Myo Min’s story? I assume you’ve known each other for a long time.
Aung Myo Min is like a brother. Our paths entwined twenty years ago in the jungle while he was still with the student Army. From our first meeting, I was struck by his passion and tireless energy to share his creativity as a vehicle of grassroots education and to maintain a quest for a positive vision in the midst of a grave situation in the jungle –surrounded by refugees, surviving in a war zone in a jungle and confronted by a brutal military that was causing widespread suffering to thousands. After laying down his life with comrades who then refused to accept his sexual identity and after the death of his lover, he was devastated.
From those ashes of despair, he went on to found the Human Rights Education in Burma (HREIB) that started as a fledgling organization and grew to be one of the most respected border based organizations working on human rights and democratization for Burma.
Over the years, I asked him many times to make a film about his remarkable story –and he always laughed his way out of it and said he was too busy or he was not interesting enough.
When we met in Bangkok the day he received the letter of invitation to go home –after 23 years –I told him this was the time –and I would not take no for an answer! We followed him because his return was a symbolic return of an entire generation of activists that had waited for this moment.
In turn, did Aung Myo Min bring you to the transgender Burmese we see in the clip excerpt?
Myo had been clandestinely organizing human rights campaigns and trainings for Burma’s LGBTQ communities for years from Thailand. It was quite a feat for him to bring people from across the country to cross over the Thailand border to meet in rural areas where he would train them on basic principals of human rights including introducing them to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and exposing them to a global movement of LGBTQ activists.
The people he trained were living in a completely closed society with little to no access to the internet or international media –and it was a life-changing experience for them to realize that not only where they not alone –but they could stand up and claim their rights as citizens in the context of the overall human rights movement in Burma. His students came for short term intensive workshops and he sent them back to train others –a strategic approach that really expanded the circle of LGBTQ rights in planting seed by seed –city by town by village –this very radically new concept in a country ruled by Generals.
When he returned to Burma, all his former students who are now leaders on a local level were ready to consolidate their movement.
The landmark case against police brutality against Transgender people was spearheaded by Myo’s organization, Equality Myanmar, and Myo’s savvy media presence splashed the story of how police unlawfully detained and tortured Transgender people in Mandalay. Myo filed a formal letter of complaint to the newly formed National Human Rights Commission –to test the body’s validity under what was still a military controlled government, and also filed a report to the Parliamentary Rule of Law Committee then chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi. This was a watershed moment for Burma and exemplified Myo’s astute political insight.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
We are moving stories provides a unique community for filmmakers with a conscience and social message to share their work with colleagues, educators and civil society organizations interested in the power of documentary stories. This Kind of Love would be keen to partner with other filmmakers who have a story that would be a strong pairing for screenings as well as to network with Filmmakers who may want to collaborate on future projects.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message and audience?
We are aiming to interest broadcasters to acquire the film, to be invited to screen at film festivals and to generate interest from the human rights and LGBTQ rights communities who organize events where the film will be shown to spark discussion.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
This Kind of Love aims to enlighten and motivate people living in Burma as its priority audience. A Burmese subtitled version of the film premiered at the 2015 Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon to packed audiences and had a strong emotional response. Aung Myo Min’s organization, Equality Myanmar, freely distributed 200 DVDs to its networks throughout Burma.
The film was also subtitled in Thai and Bahasa Indonesia and was screened in Southeast Asia to expand Equality Myanmar’s regional connections to LGBTQ organizations.
Globally, we hope Myo’s story of courage and perseverance, as a remarkable human rights advocate and pioneer of LGBTQ rights in the broader human rights context will inspire audiences.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this issue and film?
During Myo’s speaking tour with the film in the United States late 2015, there were many questions about Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance regarding the human rights abuses against the minority Rohingya population living in northwestern Rakine state. This complex issue has been met with controversy in Burma but has been the focus of several key international human rights reports by Fortify Rights and Human Rights Watch.
The issues around hate speech, exclusion and ultra-nationalism must be addressed within Burma.
In addition, in a country where LGBTQ rights is ascent for the first time, it’s essential for viewers to discuss how the movement can be supported and embraced by the international movement to end stigma and discrimination based on sexual identity.
Interview: April 2016
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This Kind of Love
Director: Jeanne Hallacy
Producer: Jeanne Hallacy
Looking for (ie buyer, distributor, sales agent, producer, media interest)
Broadcaster, invitations to film festivals, media reviews
Funders: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Thailand, Embassy of the United State of America, Myanmar, Online funding campaign hosted and sponsored by Dana.io
Made in association with: Equality Myanmar
Awards: Accolade Global Film Competition, Award of Merit - LGBT Category
Where can I watch it: Documentary Educational Resources –to be released April 2016 for one day pass purchase or downloadable version.
This Kind of Love trailer: https://vimeo.com/97996223
Calling Out for Justice (The Nation)
LGBT Activist in Spotlight at Human Rights Film Fest (The Irrawaddy)
Love in an Uncomfortable Climate (The Nation)
Rebel Soldier to Gay Rights Warrior (Democratic Voice of Burma)