Who is Luc Besson's "Lady"? And can new film affect Myanmar's politics?

by Anthony Kaufman
August 27, 2011 7:44 AM
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Luc Besson, France's answer to Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Bruckheimer, and a filmmaker more known for ass-kicking chick flicks "Le Femme Nikita" and "The Professional" than political consciousness, has a new kind of movie about female strength: "The Lady," a sweeping bio-pic about the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Who is that you might ask?

If you don't follow Myanmar's political situation--and how many of us do (the film doesn't have a U.S. distributor)--Myanmar is right now in the news in a big way, with Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest for 21 years until she was released in November 2010, seen as playing a key role in reshaping the country's political future. The movie couldn't be more timely.

"The Lady," which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept 12 and opens the Rome Film Festival on October 27, recounts Suu Kyi's political and personal struggles as she fought against the country's oppressive military leadership (we can certainly expect a reenactment of an incident in which her motorcade was attacked by "200 men" "wielding metal chains, metal batons, stones and other weapons" (Wikipedia). International star Michelle Yeoh (pictured, in the movie's poster, who plays the famous leader) reportedly was blacklisted from Myanmar for her role in the film, and deported when she flew to the country in June.

But recent events suggest the country could be inching away from totalitarianism: On Sunday, it was announced that Myanmar's capital would host a European film festival from October 22-29 (no word if "The Lady" is screening) and the New York Times published a story just last week that reported Thein Sein, the former general who was elected president in February, has proposed peace talks with rebel groups, met with leading dissidents, and loosened rules on media censorship.

In article in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, Aung San Suu Kyi is quoted as saying, "I think the president wants to achieve real positive change."

While reports are skeptical of substantive political transformation within the nation, Besson's film could keep up the pressure on the country's autocratic rulers by keeping Suu Kyi in the limelight, galvanizing her supporters, and bringing her plight to a wider Western audience.

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