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and we were kings: Burma's Prodigal Lineage
Britons are adept at buryin' monarchs in the wrongs - their own Richard III was found in a parking lot. However, a few days later, the last mediaeval monarch was laid to rest in Leicester Cathedral so that he could at last "attain the glory of death," as one English paper put it. Thibaw, the last Burmese monarch, exiled after the Britons dropped him off in 1885 and he is still in India.
Over a hundred years after Thibaw's demise, his great-grandson, U Soe Win, has sworn to return his remnants to Myanmar. The protagonists of We Were King, a Alex Bescoby and Max Jones feature length feature length feature length feature length portrait, U Soe Win and his blue-blooded co-ins, the UK maker and filmmaker who will be in Mandalay this week-end to show her work in the old town of Burma's royalty.
"of the last true royalty. That' s just about all many folks know about the Myanmar imperials these days. In spite of the enormous effects Britain had on its former settlement, few in Britain today understands Myanmar, its rich past and its ethnical mosaics. The We Were Kin is investigating the destabilizing effect of the UK incursion into Myanmar.
Monarchs who ruled over parts of present-day Myanmar were removed almost over night. These" demigods" were sent to a place where they could be" secure, well supplied and totally forgotten", Sudah Shah, the writer of The King in Exile states. The 58-minute film also seeks to introduce Burma's story to the people.
After the 1962 putsch and the establishment of a Myanmar Nazi regimes, General Ne Win did little to save the memories of the kings he saw as possible rival. "It is not helpful how you teach it. In this way, the story was downgraded and thus connected to a policy diary in that state.
The link between humans and their past is lost," says Thant Myint-U, a Myanmar researcher who has been featured in the documentary. "It' s essential that human beings have a more differentiated and comprehensive view of their history," he added. We Were King is not only a Myanmar story but also a human film:
Aunty Sue, Thaw Phaya, U Soe Win and other offspring of the Magi who led the most humble lives in contemporary Myanmar, unrecognized and unfamiliar -- in fact, your critic shaken Thibaw's great-grandson's hands during the film previews and asked him if he was on the film crew.
In Myanmar today, he tells the Myanmar Times that there are about 500 kings and almost 100 individuals whose lines can be tracked back to King Thibaw. Several of them were severely affected by the traumatic story of their forefathers. Burma erased the memories of its imperial dynasty and the void was created, either by strong men in uniform or by a lady with cathedrals in her head - something the kings used to do.
Near Myanmar, in Thailand, commanders also inflate the grandeur of their emperors to consolidate their clout. However, even royalty has a part to play in maintaining the integrity of their people. People in Belgium, a land without people with no arms, where language groups are at each other's throat, often turn to the King to help resolve a crisis.
The state is held together by powerful democracy in lands without any king, such as the USA. There' s nothing in Myanmar and just a few relief devices. Were King does not want to give answers to these delicate issues - and neither does this critic. Instead, she is telling a brilliant tale that is often not told: that of the prodigal monarchs of Burma.
The We Were King will be shown this week-end in Mandalay, on November 4th at 3pm at the Irrawaddy Literary Festival.