Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Shae Saung Cinema - Yangon, Myanmar

"The Burmese like new things. One can travel the length and breadth of the country and be hard pressed to find a single nonreligious structure more than a hundred years old. To a large extent this is of course the result of war and weather. But there is also no special value in living in a house with some history or aristocratic connections; the pukka house is a brand-new house and not a refurbished one. Most dwellings are (and were) simple constructions. They are generally made of some wood, bamboo, and thatch, and people would tear down their homes and reconstruct them every few years so that they looked as recently made as possible. This inclination, deeply held, extended later on to more solid structures as well. Whereas in the West shop owners will take pride in a sign proclaiming the age of their building (BUILT IN 1791), in Burma the opposite is often true. The original dates on a colonial-era building (BUILT IN 1921) will be hidden under coats of white paint, and a new sign might instead proclaim the year of the most recent repair"

The Shae Saung Cinema is an eight-hundred seat theater operated by the Mingalar Group. It's regular film fair consists of domestic makes and Bollywood imports. The evening these photos were taken was the Myanmar premiere of "Kites" - a widely heralded Indian action/romance/comedy. Riveted crowds swarmed for tickets throughout the course of the day, with every show drawing to capacity.

Shae Saung translates to "Pioneer"

Hopefully Thant Myint-U's observations on Burmese sentiments towards old buildings don't apply to cinema halls like the Shae Saung on Sule Pagoda Road, or any other of the country's cinema masterpieces for that matter.

Shae Saung means "Pioneer" in Burmese.

(Thant Myint-U, The River of Lost Footsteps. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2006: p. 132)

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