The Arts

Prize-winning film sheds light on misunderstood minority in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar — Often misunderstood in their own homeland, members of the Kayan Lahwi minority are known in particular around the world for the coils of decorative brass rings they wear around their necks.

A film about their lives — Kayan Beauties — has recently received a series of awards and honors.

In April 2014, the film took a special jury award at the ASEAN International Film Festival in Malaysia. That same month, the film’s writer and director, Aung Ko Latt, and its screenwriter, Hector Carosso, were honored at the annual Layan tribal festival.

Earlier, the film won for best cinematographer and best sound at the 56th Annual Myanmar Academy Awards.

The feature-length drama tells the story of three Kayan women who travel from their village to sell handicrafts in a distant city. A young girl who has recently acquired her first brass rings accompanies them. In the city, human traffickers abduct the girl. So, far from home and out of their element, the women find themselves involved in a desperate search for their friend.

Mr. Latt, who is a member of Myanmar’s Bahá’í community, said his desire to create a film about the Kayan was very much motivated by his relgious beliefs. “Very simply, humankind is one,” he said. “Kayan Beauties is a movie for humankind, containing lessons and ideas for all humans.

“No religion accepts discrimination, trafficking and selling people,” he said. “Also, the promotion of women’s empowerment is strong in the story. It shows that in remote areas and villages, there are real people; they are not somehow less than city people.”

Mr. Latt first visited the region some years ago to teach music in the villages. He stayed almost eight months.

“From the very beginning, I felt a strong connection to the people and to their culture,” said Mr. Latt. “Through our conversations, I had the spark of an idea for the film.”

Minority groups are, as a whole, marginalized in Myanmar, said Mr. Carosso, “and with regard to films, normally not considered. And the horrible reality of human trafficking is growing in every country of the world.”