Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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August 23, 2010 , , , , , , , , , , ,

Floating tomatoes is a 34 minute documentary by Burmese filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi. Water, Water everywhere but not a drop that is safe to drink. With the fifth anniversary of hurricane Katrina fast approaching and the devastating floods in Pakistan, I was looking for a documentary about water, for the ‘film of the week’. One that has not been not widely publicized or screened extensively.

“Floating Tomatoes” was filmed on the beautiful Inle lake known for its Intha people and their unique leg rowing tradition. Surrounded by mountains, the fresh water lake is situated at 2900 feet and is the second largest lake in Myanmar.

The film’s cinematography is simply gorgeous. It is a poignant portrait of a hard working fisherman/farmer family with two children who farm tomatoes on a floating garden. The film tastefully reveals the unique Intha subculture of leg rowing and floating gardens on the Inle lake.

I have not heard or seen leg rowing before. The fisherman stand on their wooden boats and wrap one leg around the oar and they propel the boat by swinging that leg wide while dragging the oar through the water. It is almost dance like, one needs to be skilled at balancing on one leg and gracefully row the boat.

Like the farmer in the film, more than 100,000 people earn their livelihood by growing tomatoes in Inle Lake’s floating gardens. To grow the tomatoes the farmers like the their counterparts on the land, use large quantities of fertilizers, four different kinds of pesticide, insecticide and fungicide and obviously all of it gets right into the water.

Most of them are aware that the water is unsafe for drinking but use it for everything else and handle the chemicals with bare hands. I cannot imagine the toxins in their bodies and the environmental impact of this practice. But at the same time, the words of the farmer still echo in my head, “I don’t know what things have contaminated the water but our lives, our hopes and our family rely on this tomato”.

The people just don’t know what else to do. It is a vicious cycle, the fertilizers in the water decrease the fish population and so the farmers rely more on the tomato crop and use more chemicals for greater yield which further decreases the fish and hence they can’t make money fishing. The film left me wanting to know more about what can be done. Can the people be taught organic or natural farming practices, or taught another vocation.

Other than Burma VJ, I have not seen or heard of a documentary from Myanmar. The film is available on you tube ( I am not sure about copyrights). I have a lot of questions to ask Min Htin and hence have tried to contact him. Will post more if and when I get in touch with him.


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I got director Min Htin’s email and have written to him.:).


August 26, 2010

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