More than 10 days before the Mudras Calling Blog Aloud session was to happen on May 26, Golden Village already knew that a warm reception awaited the director and cast – tickets were almost sold out within the same day they were released for sale.

Unlike a normal movie screening where the show ends with the credits, a Blog Aloud session at Golden Village cinemas involves a post-screening Q&A session attended by members of the cast and/or crew.

Last Saturday afternoon at Golden Village Plaza Singapura, expatriate Myanmarese filled the cinema hall with their families, spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends and excitedly waited for the arrival of director Christina Kyi, and actors Zenn Kyi, Hla Yin Kyae and Nann Wai Wai Htun for their Blog Aloud session. As most of the audience were of Myanmarese descent, Christina and her cast opted to conduct the Q&A in Burmese.

The audience response in Singapore was the more welcoming, out of the two locations they visited to promote the film, said producer Mona Strassburger. Singapore was the first market where the film was commercially released in theatres outside of Myanmar, and Mudras Calling has been making its rounds across the world in film festivals.

“Aside from Singapore, the only location outside of Myanmar that we’ve visited was Kota Kinabalu Film Festival. Christina was invited to attend and do a Q&A after the film and I joined her. There isn’t a large Burmese population there like Singapore, so I think there were only a few Burmese people in the audience and the rest were non-Burmese. They were all very positive about the film and encouraging. But it was nothing like in Singapore,” said Ms Strassburger.

Mona Strassburger, Christina Kyi and a friend. (Credit: Golden Village)

Mona Strassburger, Christina Kyi and a friend. (Credit: Golden Village)

 

Members of the audience (who spoke English) at last Saturday’s Blog Aloud session stood up and praised Christina for doing a good job, and said Mudras Calling was “brave” and “beautiful”.

Jaden follows his Burmese friends into the forest in search of his birth father. (Credit: BPL)

Jaden follows his Burmese friends into the forest in search of his birth father. (Credit: BPL)

 

Jaden and Hnin Thuzar go around Myanmar in search of the truth about his identity. (Credit: BPL)

Jaden and Hnin Thuzar go around Myanmar in search of the truth about his identity. (Credit: BPL)

The film explores themes such as displacement, sacrifice and recovery as Myanmar-born, US-raised music student Jaden (played by Zenn Kyi, who is, incidentally, the director’s husband) returns to his country of birth to seek his roots. A Burmese dancer Hnin Thuzar (played by Hla Yin Kyae), accompanies him as he travels through the unique landscape of Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake in Shan, doing “research” for his thesis, and mainly, searching for his birth parents. He falls in love with Hnin, but she keeps him at arm’s length due to their cultural divide.

Jaden is mesmerised by Burmese dancer Hnin Thuzar (Hla Yin Kyae), but she keeps her distance because of their differences. (Credit: BPL)

Jaden is mesmerised by Burmese dancer Hnin Thuzar (Hla Yin Kyae), but she keeps her distance because of their differences. (Credit: BPL)

Buddhism is an integral part of life in Myanmar. (Credit: BPL)

Buddhism is an integral part of life in Myanmar. (Credit: BPL)

It’s not hard to see why this film resonates with the Myanmarese diaspora in Singapore – numbering at an estimated 50,000 according to a Nikkei Asian Review article published in 2016.

At the Blog Aloud session, Christina shared that she herself has lived 16 years in America, but still is asked by people where she is from. “So I learned that you have to know where you truly come from in order to answer that question,” she said in English.

From left: Christina Kyi, Nann Wai Wai Htun, Hla Yin Kyae and Zenn Kyi at the Blog Aloud session.

From left: Christina Kyi, Nann Wai Wai Htun, Hla Yin Kyae and Zenn Kyi at the Blog Aloud session.

The film title comes from “mudras”, or symbolic gestures in Hinduism or Buddhism that are so much a part of life in Myanmar and Burmese dance. “I want to use it to symbolise Myanmar. ‘Mudras Calling’ symbolises the motherland calling Jaden,” she explained.  

Christina and the cast members fielded a good number of questions from the audience, who included those who appeared to be of primary school-going age. A couple of them were not shy to ask Christina questions as well. One asked in English, “How do you come up with the stories?” After which Christina asked her to repeat her question in Burmese.

 

One of the youngest members of the audience asking Christina a question. (Credit: Golden Village)

One of the youngest members of the audience asking Christina a question. (Credit: Golden Village)

 

Mudras Calling (pronounced mu-drah) is Christina’s first film. Her second film, Deception: Oo Pel Dan Myin, was somehow completed sooner and released earlier this year. Robust response towards Christina’s movie guarantees that more of such niche films will be screened at Golden Village. As the Q&A session drew to a close, each member of the audience wanted to take a picture with Christina and her cast.

Everyone wanted to take a picture with Christina and the cast. (Credit: Golden Village)

Everyone wanted to take a picture with Christina and the cast. (Credit: Golden Village)

Christina (in pink longyi and short hair), and other members of the cast (in traditional Burmese costume) gamely posed for picture after picture. (Credit: Golden Village)

Christina (in pink longyi and short hair), and other members of the cast (in traditional Burmese costume) gamely posed for picture after picture. (Credit: Golden Village)

Chemist Aung Ko Ko, 45, was among those who left the cinema reluctantly, hand in hand with his wife, teenage son and nine-year-old daughter. The family has been in Singapore for 14 years.

When asked what was different about Mudras Calling than other cinema offerings, Mr Aung said, “We were born in Myanmar. I want them (my children) to know about their roots, our faith and culture. Hollywood movies are very nice, yes, but you don’t get anything from it.”

Catch Mudras Calling before it ends its run at the cinema now.

 

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