Thursday, February 23, 2012

Michelle Yeoh in "The Lady"

Back at work, just in time to write for the new I.H.T.  blog, Rendezvous, which I rather like. I'm glad the paper is doing more stuff in blog form.
Here's my first piece for them.Sorry for the late posting -- the first few weeks of being a full-time working mom have been a bit crazy.


Photo by Kin Cheung / The Associated Press
February 8, 2012, 9:34 pm

Perfect Timing for ‘The Lady’

HONG KONG — There’s one thing you can say about the Asian release of “The Lady,” the new film about Aung San Suu Kyi — they got the timing right.
The film, which chronicles the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s decades-long struggle with the Myanmar junta, opened in Hong Kong on Thursday, three days after my colleague Steven Lee Myers reported that the authorities would allow her to run for Parliament in April elections.
The Asian run for “The Lady” comes after showings on the festival circuit and a limited release in the West. The film is expected to draw greater attention in this region, of course, where the news is closer to home.
The early Twitter response from viewers in Thailand has been nearly euphoric.
The actress Michelle Yeoh and the director Luc Besson started their Asia publicity tour with an event last week in Bangkok, joined by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. “The Lady” was filmed largely in Thailand, near the Myanmar border, since the crew was not allowed into the country. Reuters reported, however, that some of the scenes were shot secretly inside Myanmar by pro-democracy activists.
In Hong Kong, Ms. Yeoh and Mr. Besson held a news conference before attending a fundraiser for Amnesty International last Friday. It was pretty glamorous stuff for a human rights event, with Champagne and women in fur stoles.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Ms. Yeoh, the Malaysian-born star who began her movie career in Hong Kong action films. She addressed journalists in Cantonese and English, peppered with bits of Burmese she had learned for the film.
“This was the role of a lifetime,” she said.


The trailer for “The Lady,” a new film about the Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.
When filming began in 2010, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was still under arrest — she spent most of the last two decades in prison or under house arrest — but her detention order was lifted while the movie was being shot. Only recently has the new government in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, initiated a series of democratic reforms such as the release of hundreds of political prisoners, including members of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party.
“We had no sign that she would get out,” Mr. Besson said.
On the set in Thailand, the film crew built a replica of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s home in Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, complete with its signature red gates.
“One day, we were shooting Michelle at the red door, waiting for her people,” Mr. Besson said. “Then I went back to the hotel and saw the same thing. I thought, ‘Who stole my footage?’ It took me a minute to realize it was CNN.”
“Kim was with us at the time,” Ms. Yeoh said, referring to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s younger son. “He hadn’t seen his mum for years. We were like a little family gone mad.”
Ms. Yeoh met Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi at her home in Yangon in December 2010, but she was blocked from entering Myanmar during a trip there in June of last year.
“The Lady” is expected to hit more U.S. screens in the spring. It will be released in Singapore and Taiwan in March, though there is no word on whether it will be shown in mainland China, a close political and economic ally of Myanmar. Not unexpectedly, the film is banned in Myanmar.
When a Hong Kong journalist asked about rumors that the pirated DVD version was already available in Myanmar, Mr. Besson responded that that would be “excellent news.”
“Anywhere in the world where they don’t have access to cinema, I’m happy about this,” he added, referring to pirated videos. “I’d be happy if Burma broke all the records for piracy.”
“You look pretty free to me,” Mr. Besson said when asked about the state of democracy in Hong Kong. “You’ve got your crazy hairdos. You all have TVs, Internet, phones, iPads. You know what freedom is.
“I was in Burma a year ago, and if you had the Herald Tribune in your arm, you’d go to jail. Enjoy your freedom.”

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