Myanmar (formerly Burma) will always have a special place in my heart as it’s where I proposed on Christmas Day one year ago. However, choosing a ring wasn’t the only preparation I did ahead of the trip as I also worked my way through a countless number of movies set in the country which has long suffered from internal conflict.
These struggles completely dominate almost all films set in Myanmar and due to the slight relaxation of control by their government the country is relatively calm these days but watching these films still doesn’t do too much to put one’s mind at ease!!
1. The Lady (2011) – Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November 2010 whilst director Luc Besson was actually working on this biopic about the icon starring Michelle Yeoh. They were filming in Bangkok on a six week shoot at the time which was where most of the Myanmar scenes were filmed. Suu Kyi’s lakeside mansion outside Rangoon was recreated to exact dimensions in Thailand in a setting identical to the real house.
Besson scouted locations himself in Myanmar and even filmed in disguise at landmarks such as the golden pagoda (Uppatasanti) and the aerial shots of the river were done on the sly via a rented helicopter crossing the border from Thailand to Burma.
2. Beyond Rangoon (1995) – Depicting the events during the 8888 Uprising in 1988. Its main star Patricia Arquette loses her passport at a political rally and, left to her own devices, she gets caught up in a fight for democracy as she and leader U Aung Ko travel through Burma as they try to escape to Thailand. The film, which has an emotional score by Hans Zimmer, was mostly shot in Malaysia with some scenes captured in Thailand. You can see it here
3. Rambo (2008) – Sly Stallone mumbled his way through war torn Burma to rescue a group of Christian aid workers in the long awaited (20 years!) follow up to ‘Rambo III.’ Burma is even more of a bloodbath than generalisations purvey as Rambo and a few cronies rampage their way through the whole country taking out the lot of them almost single handedly. Among his victims are a group of pirates and an entire squad of Burmese army soldiers whom he shoots with a jeep-mounted machine gun. Stallone justified this in a press conference by saying the violence in the film was to draw attention to the ongoing problems in the country.
4. Largo Winch II (2011) – The original title for what became more commonly known as ‘The Burma Conspiracy‘ starring Tomer Sisley back as the title character alongside a much under-used Sharon Stone. Burma is only really seen in flashback scenes from a few years before and naturally it’s not very nice stuff. I haven’t seen the original Largo Winch film so sadly can’t compare them in any way but this one, though a bit disjointed at times, was quite an entertaining watch and Largo’s scenes with Malunaï (played by a Thai actress) were particularly moving at times.
5. Stealth (2005) – This poor-mans ‘Top Gun‘ absolutely bombed at the box office and shows one scene quite early on in the film involving an aircraft bombing of a high-rise building in nighttime Rangoon.
You can read about my own trip to Yangon here