In February 2021, a military junta seized control of the Myanmar government, deposing elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and detaining members of her political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). Protests erupted throughout the country in opposition to the coup led by General Min Aung Hlaing, whose military crackdowns have brought the country to a standstill and exacerbated economic and social crises tied to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Although shot before the traumatic events of 2020-21, Money Has Four Legs still visualises many of the systemic issues underpinning this current crisis. Economic inequality, social instability and political injustice are all keenly felt in the film’s story, centred on an independent filmmaker’s struggles to realise a feature film project under the shadow of government censorship, presenting a satirical metacommentary on the challenging circumstances of the film’s own production. Since the film’s release, producer Ma Aeint has been arrested without trial and its director has fled the country, adding even greater urgency to its story of corruption and government censorship.
Responding to Money Has Four Legs, this panel connects director Maung Sun, Myanmar scholars Jane M Ferguson and Roger Lee Huang, and moderator Duncan Caillard to discuss the current crisis in Myanmar, the country’s underlying systemic problems underpinning this crisis, and the under-explored history of Burmese national cinema.
Maung Sun is a Myanmar-based animator and filmmaker, and the director of Money Has Four Legs. He graduated with Japanese major from Yangon University of Foreign Languages in 2005. He founded Electronic Pictures production in the hope of making a change in 2012. His first feature length script as a co-writer 4 LEGS (2012) won the Main Jury Award at Myanmar Script Fund 2016, Memory! Film Festival. The Other Side of the River, the script he co-wrote, was selected in Ties That Bind 2018 and Locarno Open Doors Lab 2018.
Dr Jane M Ferguson teaches anthropology and Southeast Asian history at the Australian National University. Her research areas include Myanmar and Thailand, from issues of ethnicity, insurgency and statelessness to popular culture and the history of Burmese cinema. She is Editor of the Journal of Burma Studies and author of Repossessing Shanland: Myanmar, Thailand and a Nation-State Deferred.
Dr Roger Lee Huang is lecturer in political violence with the Department of Security Studies & Criminology at Macquarie University. He has broad research interests in the politics, international relations, and security of East and Southeast Asia. He has previously worked at Lingnan University (Hong Kong), the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan and Academia Sinica (Taiwan) and has interned with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Yangon, Myanmar. He is the author of The Paradox of Myanmar’s Regime Change.
Duncan Caillard (moderator) is a PhD candidate in Screen and Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne, and a coordinator of the Screening Ideas program. His research addresses empty space, silence and inactivity in contemporary art cinema, with a focus on independent filmmaking in Southeast Asia.