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Beyond Rangoon (r)

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Subject: "Beyond Rangoon"  Please forward to everyone u know on net
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Status: R

                           "BEYOND RANGOON"
                A Motion Picture of Epic Proportions                      
                             By U Kyaw Win

	     "The only thing necessary for the triumph  
               of evil is for good men to do nothing."  

                       Edmund Burke, British Statesman
	"Dr. Win, we are making a film about Burma.  We would like to talk 
to you.  When can we meet?"

	Never in the wildest of dreams did I ever entertain the thought of 
doing anything Hollywood.  Coming on a slow afternoon in my office at 
Orange Coast College, the voice on the other end sounded suspiciously like 
a prank from a classmate of pubescence long ago.

	"Sure," I responded.  "Anytime!  And where are you?" asked I.  "In 
Beverly Hills. I am the executive producer," the caller shot back, 
sounding somewhat irritated at my reckless demeanor.

	"Beverly Hills is out of my driving range," I said.  "Besides, I 
dread driving the freeways and shy away from L.A. as much as I can," I 
continued, certain that the prankster had been soundly ensnared.

	"Alright, we will come to you," the caller said, probably 
believing he had a comic on his hands.  "I will call back in a few days to 
arrange a mutually agreeable time," said he, and there ended the 

	When an uncertain situation confronts me, I usually turn to my 
wife Riri, for counsel.  I immediately telephoned her and said, "I got a 
strange call from someone who claims to be a Hollywood film producer," all 
the while thinking the culprit to be a classmate from my Woodstock School 
days in India.

	"Why don't you just let it slide and relax?  Everything will fall 
in place.  If it pans out, this will be a good opportunity to tell the 
truth about what is going on in Burma," was her wise counsel.

	And so, on a sunny day in August 1993, John Boorman, his executive 
producer and an aide came to our Laguna Hills home in California's Orange 

	We talked at length about Burma.  John Boorman asked many 
questions.  He was most interested in the religious, cultural and 
anthropological aspects of Burmese life.  And, of course, we discussed the 
political situation, specifically the military era.  When I talked about 
Burma in the context of China and India and my familiarity with the 
latter, his interest was heightened, for his father had served in Colonial 

	Conversations continued after lunch which consisted of Indonesian 
and Burmese dishes carefully prepared by Riri.  She made sure that the 
spices embellished the dishes just enough to whet the palate.  By now Riri 
and I had warmed up to a chance to be part of a large endeavor that would 
tell the world about Burma.

	After lunch I showed John Boorman and his aides into my study.  
They were fascinated by the literary and art collections found in our 
home, even borrowing some books to take back with them.

	It was a stimulating afternoon spent with an artistic giant, even 
if it took on the air of an inquisition.  But I was thoroughly up to the 
mark.  Not being a moviegoer, film directors were of no moment to me.  I 
must confess that I knew nothing about John Boorman.  But I learned 
quickly.  A librarian at Orange Coast College dug up reams of information 
on the famous British filmmaker.  John Boorman's intense commitment to 
just causes, as revealed in his biography, struck a sensitive chord in me.

	Upon parting, the executive producer turned and said, "I'll call 
you next week."

	Well, "next week" came sooner than that.  John Boorman had found 
the man he was looking for.  "Would you be willing to join the film crew 
as special advisor on location in Malaysia?"

	Wow!  What a lightning jolt!  Me, on a film crew?  This was too 
good.  I had never been on a movie set--not even visited Universal 
Studios, a Southern California attraction frequented by people from all 
over the world.

	This once-in-a-lifetime diversion from academia involved being 
away from the campus for a semester.  I consulted my colleagues in the 
various disciplines, including those in the film department.  I talked to 
my dean and the college president.  "Would it be possible for me to take a 
semester's leave of absence?"  The resounding answer amounted to: "You'd 
be a fool if you didn't go."   Did I ever think myself being 

	So on a hot and muggy, yes hot and muggy, afternoon even if it was 
15 December 1993, I arrived in Penang.  The next morning I bumped into 
John Boorman in the elevator.  Coming from Ireland, he had checked into 
majestic Equatorial Hotel a few hours after I had done the day before.  We 
had breakfast together and went over my duties.

	I immediately went to work advising the art, production design, 
drafting, costume, wardrobe, props, and casting departments.  The work was 
most fascinating.  Here I was, doing something for which I had absolutely 
no training but knowing exactly what needed to be done.

	I supervised the painting of hundreds of signs used as props in 
the movie.  The artists came from Sri Lanka and none of them knew Burmese, 
but they did a marvelous job reproducing the curly cues of written 
Burmese.  In the process, I learned a useful Singhalese word, 
"ah-ing-karang," which means "take if down or erase it" (to start over 
again).  One particular sign which was sub-contracted out, escaped my 
inspection for it showed up on the set just prior to shooting.  Attempts 
to remedy an error failed.  To my distress, it slipped into the film even 
though seen only for brief seconds.

	During the early pre-production phase, film location sites had to 
be reconnoitered.  I went along with the director, first assistant 
director (Mark Egerton), production designer (Anthony Pratt) executive 
producer (Sean Ryerson), director of photography (John Seale), props 
master (Eddie Fowlie), and production supervisor (Chandran Ratnam) on 
these forays.  We flew in an eight-seater aircraft to Ipoh to scout jungle 
locations in and around the royal city of Kuala Kangsar on the Perak 

	I was also despatched to Thailand to obtain props and Karen 
costumes from the Thai-Burmese border.  Attempts to recruit Buddhist monks 
and Karen villagers as extras only partially succeeded due to their 
failure to obtain travel documents.

	I spent many hours with Tony Pratt, the production designer, who 
sketched every set before they were built.  Once built, we checked them 
thoroughly, correcting or embellishing for authenticity.

	In addition to the principal actors and actresses, the cast 
consisted of some 2,600 Malay extras.  They had to be fitted and made up 
to look as authentically Burmese as possible.  The casting department 
recruited them from the kampongs (villages) and schools in and around 
Penang and Ipoh.  It was my task to rule on whether particular faces 
resembled Burmese ones.  I coached some Burmese lines to frontliners who 
had difficulty with the tonal language on short call.

	The crew ran into difficulty obtaining Malays who would have to 
shave their heads and don yellow robes to act as Buddhist monks.  
Eventually Thais from across the border had to be imported.  Someone in 
casting had the brilliant notion that I had the face of a Buddhist monk.  
So, I got drafted for a small part for which Director John Boorman 
afterwards confided that my acting was "convincing."  My only line as an 
agitated monk, however, did not survive the editor's cut.

	Ten trucks loaded with equipment, generators, grips, water, food, 
wardrobe, etc. had to be driven to each location and returned to the 
staging areas after each shoot.  There were some 100 crew present at each 
shoot.  Everyone had an assigned task.  They worked in tight teamwork, 

	A scaled-down replica of Rangoon's Sule Pagoda was built on a bus 
parking lot at Penang jetty.  Made of fiberglass and painted gold, it was 
supported by steel frame.  It looked so real that Burmese friends shown 
photographs of me standing before it asked, "How did you get a visa to 
Burma?"  It was a magnificent structure which took three months in the 
making.  But I was saddened to see it torn down after the filming.

	A monstrous reclining Buddha was literally built into the foliage 
along the Perak River near Kuala Kangsar.  From the tip of the nose to the 
top of its forehead it measured 26 feet.  I was the monk in that scene 
when the tour party ooohed and aaahed at its serene immensity while 
Professor Jeremy Watt (Spalding Gray), their leader, tried to "impart" 
some Buddhist philosophy about the soul.  The sculptor, Mansell 
Rivers-Bland, did a superb job with this and dozens of other sculptures 
appearing in the film.

	Altogether four villages were carved out of the jungle and one 
existing village was used in the filming.  One bridge which spanned the 
Perak River and another suspension bridge across a ravine were built.  All 
except the existing village were destroyed once the shooting was over.  
The preparation, and expense, that went into construction of sets and 
props that only appear for fleeting moments in the film is simply 

	"Beyond Rangoon" is the story of a young American physician, Dr. 
Laura Bowman (Patricia Arquette), whose husband and young son were 
murdered in a home robbery.  To pick up the pieces of what remained of her 
life, she takes a trip with her elder sister Andy, also a physician, 
played by Frances McDormand.  When the tour group departed Burma, Laura 
was left behind to obtain a new passport to replace the once that had been 
liberated from her.

	On the way out of Rangoon's American Embassy she encounters Aung 
Ko, a tour guide portrayed by U Aung Ko of Paris.  The tour guide, a 
one-time physics professor who was imprisoned and who later lost his job 
for aiding some students who were being hounded by the military regime for 
participating in an earlier anti-government protest, promises to show 
Laura the sights beyond Rangoon.  This was during the massive 
pro-democracy demonstrations of 1988 when the country was briefly closed 
to international air traffic.

	During a solo outing one evening, Laura sets her eyes on Aung San 
Suu Kyi (Adelle Lutz) who was wending her way through a tumultuous crowd 
to address a rally.  Suddenly, troops move in to obstruct her path.  
Weapons at the ready, their commander orders her to halt.  She turns to 
her aide who tries to restrain her and motions the escorting party to 
remain back.  She moves slowly towards the soldiers, who, seeing this 
beautiful frail woman, tremble.  They disobey their commander; they do not 
shoot.  She ascends the podium amidst deafening applause.

	I portrayed Aung San Suu Kyi's aide, dressed in formal attire.  
Wearing the silk longyi that once belonged to my father U On Kin, it was 
my special way of honoring his memory.  That particular scene was shot on 
two consecutive muggy March nights.  My heart was so burdened when 
shooting and re-shooting the scene that I had to turn from the set several 
times to regain my composure back into the role.

	Laura is moved by Aung San Suu Kyi's strength and beauty.  The 
rest of the story is a suspenseful one.  In the end Laura is helped out of 
Burma through the jungles to Thailand.  Her life is resurrected after 
witnessing Aung San Suu Kyi's courage; she is inspired by the Buddhism 
that has permeated Burmese life; and by her guide Aung Ko's own 
phoenix-like history.

	The movie's most memorable line is uttered by Aung Ko when he 
pacifies young students who are pummeling a Burmese soldier.  "If we do to 
them what they have done to us, we will become what they have become," he 
admonishes the young.  It is a tenet that begs embrace.

	Shooting began in Penang on 12 February and ended on the Perak 
River near Kuala Kangsar on 25 May 1994.  The work was tedious, hard-- 
long hours in humid heat.  The tropical weather got hotter and wetter as 
the weeks progressed.  It was hard on Riri to remain home alone in 
California for this long a stretch.  She did visit me on location twice 
while our son Zali, and daughter Dewi Sita, each did so once.

	In addition to Burma and Malaysia, the cast and crew came from 
Ireland, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South 
Africa, Canada, and the United States.  Without exception, they became 
deeply interested in Burma and identified themselves with its plight.  
They acquainted themselves with Burma's trauma and some even visited the 
country before shooting began.

	When it was all over, I went to Perth, Australia and waited for 
Riri, who flew in from America.  Working on a story that has burdened my 
heart left me drained.  Separation from her husband also took a toll on 
Riri.  It was now time to unwind.  We feasted on Australia's pristine 
beauty visiting long-separated friends while making new ones as we went 

	For well nigh three decades, I have been an outspoken critic of 
the military tyranny in Burma.  But all the pieces I have written, the 
words uttered and the protest demonstrations I have participated in seem 
to have been minuscule compared to what was accomplished as a team member 
that made "Beyond Rangoon."

	After being warmly received at the Cannes International Film 
Festival in May, "Beyond Rangoon" will be released world-wide by Columbia 
Pictures on 25 August 1995.

	When future generations of Burmese reflect on the past, it is my 
earnest hope that they will smile on the effort of those who recreated on 
film the trauma that visited their land under the military boot.  And, if 
"we in it shall be remembered," it would have been worth our while.  I 
rejoice in being invited to participate in this monumental task.  It was a 
signal honor.

	Give "Beyond Rangoon" a rousing ovation.  It is dedicated to Aung 
San Suu Kyi, Nobel Laureate for Peace of 1991, a truly courageous person, 
an inspiration.  When the tears dry, speak out against the tyranny in 

	To Riri and our children Zali and Dewi Sita, whose support 
sustained me, I am ever grateful.

	John Boorman, I thank you, Sir.

                      IN MEMORY OF 8-8-88.