Interview: Seasonal Rain by Aung Phyoe @SeaShorts

Nyo Thu Nwe in Seasonal Rain (2018)

Some years ago, Seasonal Rain director Aung Phyoe came together with a group of friends to start a blog featuring creative writing. The stories written by Kyi Aye, an acclaimed modernist writer in Myanmar, were a favourite. The group would type her writings out from magazine scans and put them up on the blog. It was then that Aung Phyoe came across Kyi Aye’s short story “Seasonal Rain” and fell in love with its cinematic quality. “I was in my last year at film school and dying to make a short,” Aung Phyoe told SINdie, “So I contacted the writer’s family and asked for permission.”

Seasonal Rain is one of three entries from Myanmar screened at the 2019 SeaShorts Film Festival. It is the coming-of-age story of a young woman Aye Aye (Nyo Thu Nwe) catalysed by sudden rain on a day out. In a present-day Yangon setting, the subtlety of Aung Phyoe’s storytelling and the reticence of the characters appear almost anachronistic.  

“Well, I love films by Naruse Mikio, the Japanese master and get influenced by him. I tried to convey what I want to say without being too obvious.”

“But the filmmaking style is influenced by Indian masters like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mirnal Sen, where I use too much track shots. Later I realised some are not necessary,” Aung Phyoe added.

The shots in Seasonal Rain are thoughtfully composed. Aung Phyoe has a keen eye for layers and continuity. He is mindful of stylistic impression, but less so of emotional nuances, which makes the portrait of a young woman less vivid.  

We asked Aung Phyoe what he enjoyed most about the filming process. He said, “Since it is my first short film, I just did it as I wanted to. Two of my film school friends from India came down to Yangon, and with the help of my local friends we shot it. I love this freedom, everything as I wanted to without questioning myself why.”

Seasonal Rain was well liked by the audience in Myanmar. Aung Phyoe was surprised that everyone from Myanmar said they preferred Seasonal Rain to his second film Cobalt Blue, which he found more sophisticated. Perhaps it was its simplicity that made Seasonal Rain down-to-earth and refreshing! 

“It is difficult for independent filmmakers in Myanmar, as everywhere,” Aung Phyoe observed, “But in recent years, there are a few hard-working producers who want to produce short films by young filmmakers.” Without government support though, it is difficult for young filmmakers to make feature films of the mainstream format.

Myanmar’s local mainstream film industry is doing well, Aung Phyoe told us. However, “storytelling is mostly the same old thing.” 

“But I am hopeful as the new generation of filmmakers is trying to make an impact at the international festival circuit as well as the local domestic market – we could set up the Myanmar New Wave soon."

Written by Teenli Tan
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