State Counsellor discusses restarting movie production operations during COVID period with movie industry senior executives

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her capacity as Chairperson of the National-Level Central Committee for Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19 held a videoconference yesterday morning from the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss restarting movie production operations during the COVID period.

The following persons attended the videoconference:
Dr Myint Htwe, Union Minister for Health and Sports; U Nyi Nyi Tun Lwin, Chairman of the Myanmar Motion Picture Organization; and U Zaw Min, Chairman of the Mingalar Cinema Group.

The State Counsellor in her introductory remarks said that Union Minister Dr Myint Htwe, was very concerned that the people of Myanmar had become careless with respect to COVID-19; and that this was not the time to become careless and the people should remain ever vigilant. She wanted the movie industry to resume operations just like other industries; although she wanted the movie industry to resume operations there were many things to be considered regarding health matters; in some other countries, they thought they had the COVID under control but had to contend with a new outbreak of the disease.

In Myanmar COVID prevention was most important as the cost of treatment was a very heavy burden for a country like Myanmar which was still a developing country; that was why more emphasis was placed on prevention; regarding the movie industry she wanted to discuss based on two factors generally; one was movie production and the other was the screening of movies in the movie halls. She said they had to consider which of these would have more difficulties to follow the health rules and regulations to a certain extent.

Union Minister Dr Myint Htwe discussed mutual cooperation among the Ministry of Health and Sports, the Ministry of Information and the stakeholders in the film industry which is providing many employment opportunities, entertainment and knowledge.

The Union Minister also emphasized his ministry is helping the film industry in the prevention of COVID-19 disease, and all the stakeholders in this business need to know the precautionary measures of this disease thoroughly to be able to resume this sector.

He continued to discuss the possible risks of infection without showing symptoms as there is no vaccine for COVID-19 until now; the schools have reopened with care not to occur second and third waves of the pandemic.

The Union Minister also discussed the draft plan for film shootings based on the experiences of this business in Florida and the Netherlands; the field surveys of senior health officials at the shootings; recommendations of the ministry on the entire film production process.

A book of guidelines for the shooting was published with 29 recommendations jointly made by the experts from the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Health and Sports.

Union Minister Dr Myint Htwe urged the public to continue wearing masks in public places not to experience the outbreak of pandemic like in the United States, Brazil and India.

Chairman of MMPO U Nyi Nyi Tun Lwin discussed the needs to take records on the shootings, artistes, medical tests, rules and guidelines in the work.

There are 10 pending films to be finalized until now.
Chairman of Mingalar Cinema Group U Zaw Min talked about preparations for organizing centenary of Myanmar film industry and development of Myanmar motion picture business with 220 cinemas across the country and the increasing number of films up to 100 annually.

He also requested the reopening of cinemas, like in some other countries, in line with the rules and directives of relevant ministries.
U Zaw Min also proposed plans to sell only 50 per cent of seats for physical distancing in the cinema and to get financial assistance and loan of the government.

In responding to the discussions the State Counsellor said that care should be taken so that there was no transmission of the COVID disease during the movie-making process; once the movies have been made, the movie theatres were very important for the people to see the movies; in the developed countries movies have become fashionable again; they have recreated the movie theatres as places to have fun, to have recreation and turned them into interesting places.

She wanted the movie industry people to strive to make the same thing happen in Myanmar; for the economy to develop, it was important for all sectors to be successful; she said for her part she had also encouraged the fine arts; she wanted the movie industry to progress and prosper; at one time the Myanmar movie industry held the leading position in Asia; therefore efforts should be made to regain this position; Myanmar would be successful like before if she knew how to use the new technologies effectively.

Once the movie theatres have been renovated, the Ministry of Health and Sports would make visits, formulate rules and regulations and issue necessary instructions; once these movie theatres are able to abide by the rules and regulations, it would be possible to reopen them.

When we reopened the schools some were worried; they were afraid that if the schools had been reopened in a hasty manner, the school children would get infected and the virus would spread; there were also concerns that if the schools were kept closed for a long time, the children would drift away from education and later it would become difficult to send them back to school; these two things had to be balanced all the time; therefore the high schools were reopened first; the high schools were categorized into A, B, C levels and only the A level schools were allowed to be reopened. The schools that were given permission to reopen were schools that had made modifications in accordance with the rules and regulations stipulated by the Ministry of Health and Sports. Once all those schools which had made the necessary modifications had been permitted to reopen, we will wait for one month; during that one-month period, we will monitor if there had been any transmission of the disease and whether there had been any spread of infection among the students and teachers; only after that would we make a decision as to whether we should move to the next phase of reopening schools.

During this time, if the movie theatres did the necessary preparations and modifications, the Ministry of Health and Sports would begin their inspection process; if the process to reopen the high schools went smoothly, it would be able to assume that we have reached a stage where activities involving large numbers of people could be carried out effectively and with discipline. She said that at such a time, the Ministry of Health and Sports would have to decide when the movie theatres should be reopened.

In making her concluding remarks the State Counsellor said that at the present time the Union Government had been giving as much support as possible to control the negative impact of COVID-19; they were making assessments to determine how effective these measures were; assessments were being made at this time to determine the effectiveness of reducing the impact on the economy; what changes need to be made and which measures need to be maintained. She said they had to consider how they should proceed untill the end of the year and how they should proceed in the next year. The funds that had been spent this year would have a great deal of positive impact for the next year’s budget; they had to consider for the short-term as well as for the long-term; they would give support as much as possible to the fullest extent; they had to consider how much support could be given and in what manner support could be given; they were doing their best in accordance with the availability of the national budget.
She continued by saying that she wanted the movie industry to succeed; she wanted them to succeed not only for the economy but also for the country; in this age, the whole world has accepted that the entertainment industry is a kind of “soft power”. The progress of Myanmar’s fine arts can influence, overwhelm and spread all over the world; she said they have the policy to encourage the fine arts industry for the long-term interest of the country.

She said activities to educate and remind the public about COVID have lost steam and have lost interest; that was why she wanted to obtain the help of the people in the entertainment industry to increase the effectiveness of COVID-related campaigns for public education and awareness and to make these more interesting. The role of people in the entertainment industry is very important; she wanted to make an appeal to the people in this industry to participate enthusiastically for the progress and security of the country.

She said we need to contain the spread of COVID; if this disease spread without control it would create a lot of difficulties for Myanmar; the cost for treatment would be very high; Myanmar had taken advance measures since 4 January with respect to COVID; that was the reason we have been able to contain the disease; at present some of the returnees brought back the disease; we have quarantined all the returnees and have sent those who have been infected to the hospitals for treatment; we have given full treatment to our people; she said she wanted to thank all those who have given assistance for the nation’s economy; it was the duty of the Union Government to render assistance to those who have given support to the national economy; they were reviewing the situation to determine what would be the best way to utilize public funds with regard to the status of the national budget.

She said the national movie industry could make considerable progress if efforts were made to improve the movie industry and the art of movie-making; at the same time, because of COVID, efforts need to be made to make the movie theatres more hygienic and pleasant places for people to go. In this matter of COVID, we are searching for success with the participation of the whole country; Myanmar has been able to contain COVID up to now, because of the participation and cooperation of all the people; she hoped that Myanmar would be able to effectively prevent the COVID with the participation and cooperation of everyone, till the danger of the disease came to an end.

She ended by sending best wishes for the progress of the movie industry, movie theatre industry and everyone in the entertainment industry.