The female lead is played by Maria Erich, a famous German actress, who has done a splendid job in the film.
One of the most anticipated films at International Film Festival of India 2016 (November 20-28) is Twilight over Burma, directed by award-winning Austrian director Sabine Derflinger. The movie is based on the real-life love story between a German-speaking Austrian student, Inge Eberhard, and a Burmese prince from the ethnic Shan community, Sao Kya Seng, who met in Colorado, US, as students. Sao marries Inge, and returns to Burma with her. They lead a blissful life, and the idealistic prince tries to implement many reforms among his community. However, when the military coup takes place in 1962, the prince falls foul of them. He is detained by them, and never heard off again.
The movie was based on the book Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess by Inge Sargent, who now lives in the US, and who had to be coaxed for more than a decade to translate her story on to the screen.
The screening at IFFI will be an Asian premiere, after the movie was banned in military-ruled Thailand, and in Burma, where the junta still hold clout, because of its negative portrayal of the military junta.
This writer saw the arresting film at a sneak preview in Bangkok, held by Austrian ambassador to Thailand, H.E. Enno Drofenik, which was attended by the cast of the film.
Excerpts from an interview with the film’s director Sabine Derflinger:
Are you excited that the film is being screened at International Film Festival of India this year?
Yes, I am. I’ve been at IFFI twice before, including once as a member of the short film jury. I love the festival and the place!
Which other films of yours have been screened in India?
My films Step on it and 42 Plus were screened in festivals at New Delhi and Chennai.
Why was Twilight over Burma made for television and not for the big screen?
Initially, the production house planned the film for the big screen, and they tried to get “permission” to make the film, from its author, for 10 long years. By then, the situation in Europe had financially changed and big productions shifted to TV, because of the wider audience. So, after 10 years, a big German TV house which was into big productions, decided to go ahead with this movie.
Did you read the autobiography of the main protagonist, and did you contact her, before you made the film?
Yes, I read it, and I contacted her via mail, with the help of Alfred Deutsch who was in touch with her for the last 12 years, trying to get the movie done.
Was your responsibility greater, as the film was based on a famous, real-life love story?
Yes, it was a big responsibility, as I knew I had to be authentic. Fiction film is never the real-life story, but I wanted to do a movie that was real and true, and I think we managed it. Inge Sargent liked the film a lot, and wrote me a really nice letter thanking the crew, cast and me, for bringing her life-story on screen.
Please give details of the lead-pair.
The female lead is played by Maria Erich, a famous German actress, who has done a splendid job in the film. The male lead is charismatically played by talented Thai actor Daweerit Chullasapy. It was when we started shooting the film that we learnt the Thai actor had a family-connection to Burma and that his grandmother was born in the old Shan Museum where we shot the film in Thailand!
Where did you shoot the film?
Mostly in northern Thailand, like Chiang Mai, with a few sequences in Myanmar.
What was the experience like, making a film, in Thailand?
It was my best shooting ever! In Thailand, I had a great line- producer and team who had done many international movies. In Myanmar, we shot in documentary style with a small group of people, and it was equally enjoyable and excellently organised. The whole film was just a wonderful experience!
What was the response to the film in Europe?
The audiences loved the film and were very intrigued and impressed by the story. Some of them had read the book, specially women and they loved it.
Has the film been shown to the Shan community in Burma and Thailand?
Only the people involved in the film from the Shan community managed to see the film at a special screening in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, and loved it. The film did not get a public release as it was banned by the Thai military government. It was also pulled out of a Human Rights Film Festival in Myanmar.
Did you expect this negative response to the film in Thailand and Burma?
Not at all. To me, it was a beautiful East-West love story, waiting to be told.
Do you believe Burma will really “open up” in Cinema?
I hope so, for the sake of the wonderful Burmese people.
What film project are you working on now?
At the moment I am shooting the third season of the most successful TV series in Austria Vorstadtweiber. But I’m taking a short break to go to Goa and present Twilight over Burma. I’m looking forward to seeing the reactions of the Indian audiences to the movie.