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Aung San Suu Kyi film speaks out

AungSanSuuKyi.jpgThe film about Aung San Suu Kyi is much further on than expected and is almost finished filming. However as the key people involved in the film start talking about it we discover it's not actually a biographical film but does cover some of the key moments in her life.

In fact it may be more of a love story than a biographical film, but one that will tell an amazing story of her commitment to her country and the people there and doesn't end in the typically happy fashion you would expect from cinema, especially with recent events.

The film, called The Lady and directed by Luc Besson, would be expected to end where recent events have brought the story, to her recent release after this long period of house arrest, ending on an uplifting note. However the film was written some time ago and instead will end on a rather more down beat and thoughtful turn.

The Guardian has the news from the production and reveals that the story will cover an eleven year period from 1988 to 1999, starting when Aung San Suu Kyi left Oxford to visit her sick mother in Burma and ended up staying, becoming the opposition leader to the Burmese generals who control the country, and ending when her husband, Michael Aris who had been forbidden from entering Burma to be with his wife, died after being diagnosed with cancer.

Andy Harries, a producer on the film who was a producer on The Queen, The Damned United and The Special Relationship, and born in the same Scottish city that I was, said of the ending of the film:

”The film builds to that incredible and depressing crossroads...That is the human tragedy of it all.”

The film began life when Harries and his wife visited Burma in the early nineties.

"At the time Suu Kyi had just won the election but was under house arrest. It was an extraordinary experience for us. On the one hand, it is a stunningly beautiful country but on the other it is frightening – the austerity, the poverty, the sadness of the people. We weren't really allowed to go anywhere and people were scared of talking to us. It left a long impression on both of us."

His wife is the screenwriter Rebecca Frayn and together they began researching the film some three years ago, and when a finished script was ready after a year and a half there seemed little interest in getting the film made, not only was the leading character not known but the bigger studios were intent on churning out revenue earning entertainment.

Harries said that they sent the script to Michelle Yeoh's agent and that she was the only and the perfect choice to play Aung San Suu Kyi, and Yeoh was very interested.

”Michelle rang me 24 hours later saying she'd read the script and she was coming to London to meet me. We met, she looked at me and said 'this is a fantastic script, how are we going to do it?'”

Mind you, they didn't have permission for the film from Aung San Suu Kyi's, but they continued and Harries said that they felt an obligation to get the story and the tone just right.

”This is a very interesting story, a powerful story and, I think, an important story. She has not had the publicity that, say, Mandela had...Her situation is remarkably similar, she is one of those extraordinary people driven by principle who are determined to bring about change peacefully.”

Now, one would assume, with three weeks left of filming that they do have permission, especially through the recent news of Michelle Yeoh meeting Aung San Suu Kyi. The actress told The Guardian of that meeting that:

”The first thing we did is hug and I thought you are really skinny, man. One of the first things she said was 'why doesn't the BBC world service have more music?...

...You feel a real sense of calm when you're with her. She's a very striking figure. She is so proud of her culture and the best way to show it is with dignity and elegance. She has a glow and an aura about her.”

Luc Besson issued similar praise on her, saying she was more of a heroine than Joan of Arc and saying that she was Ghandi like in her beliefs that people should have basic human rights, that she is extremely non-violent, and yet an oppressive regime has tried unsuccessfully to crush her voice.

It all sounds as thought it could be a fantastic film, but the problem will be marketing it to a worldwide audience. Perhaps that's not so much of a problem now that she has been released, for instantly she arrived on television screens and newspapers worldwide and her story was told across the globe.

With Besson directing and Yoeh starring it does seem as though it will get much more notice worldwide. Then add in the fact that David Thewlis will play her husband and the story is going to be a dramatic and emotional journey that many will relate to, The Lady and the film will gain a whole lot more exposure, marketing campaign for the film or not.



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