Films produced in the old days used to appear on the big screen with a new film screened at the cinema every Friday morning. Since I was 13 we would queue to watch the films hours ahead of the show.Treasure can take various forms, for some it is precious gems, for others family photos, for Ko Myo, it is his collection of classic movies, which totals over 10,000 titles
Ko Myo’s shelves are crammed with movies, organised variously into Oscar winners, Oscar nominated, decades, and the best 1000 films movies. Many of the films are rare old movies, some classics, others long forgotten by most people.
“Rare films are not affordable; those who are movie fanatics and extravagant can afford to collect them. I used to lend movies to film buffs but some didn’t bother to bring them back, which is why I started making copies to share them. One film can cost US$40-70.
His collection also draws the attention of famous celebrities and other collectors who wish to browse his titles and perhaps even improve their acting from watching some of cinemas finest films.Once, an old visitor came to his library and upon finding a classic film he had watched in his youth, his hands trembled as he recounted the stars and what the film was about.
In addition to provoking nostalgia trips, Ko Myo has also used his library as an educational resource for his own family. Both of his daughters improved their English through watching foreign films and they are now both studying abroad.
“I taught my daughters to learn English from films; they watched it with subtitles the first time and if they found some unfamiliar words then they would pause the film and look them up in the dictionary. They would then watch the same movie a second time but with no subtitles. Within three months, their proficiency was dramatically improved”
For collectors, trips abroad are a necessary part of finding rare films. Many collectors share their film bounty upon returning to Myanmar.
“When we find a good film which we really want, we feel as if we have won the lottery. If there is a scratch on one of our favourite DVDs then we feel as if we have lost a gold stone,” he said.
Despite advances in home entertainment nothing quite compares to the wonder of the big screen, especially for youths. U Khine Tin (59) remembers his early cinema experiences fondly and credits them with inspiring a desire to work in film.
“It was common to see dozens of people queuing up to get cinema tickets whenever a new film was screened; I usually bought two tickets and would watch the same film twice in the week. When digital movie players were introduced in the country around 2000, I started to collect discs, mostly the classics I enjoyed in my youth. I have a collection of classic romances and dramas shelved at home, my house now looks like a mini-cinema,” he said.
U Khine Tin has worked in the film industry for the past nineteen years and believes that films are not only a source of enjoyment, but also an excellent educational tool.
“Cinematography in the West is 40 to 50 years more advanced than in Myanmar; directors, actors and even technicians could learn a lot from them by watching the best films they have produced such as Gone with the Wind, War and Peace, Psycho, An Affair to Remember and My Fair Lady,” he said.
“Now I am over 60, my parents, who are still alive, always urge me to spend the rest of my days praying and meditating, I answer that I am always praying and meditating in front of the television,” said collector U Nay Win.
“There were no television sets in our country when we were young so if we wanted to watch films we had to go to the cinema. I thank my parents for taking me to the cinema and giving me the opportunity to enjoy them since I was eight; watching good films from a young age was my motivation for collecting,” said another collector, who did not wish to be named.
His collection has led to some teasing by his wife who claims that when he dies she will stuff his grave full of movies because that is all he would ever bring back from trips abroad.