Burma: pwe festival (c.1925) – Ananda Coomaraswamy (?)

6 mins., b&w, silent (English intertitles)

Source : NAFC, Film no. AS-89.2.6.

This films documents the pwe festival that takes place on the occasion of the dedication of a house or a monastery in Myanmar (formerly Burma). The dancers, who are young girls, are accompanied by musicians playing drums, xylophones and flutes.

Tacked onto the end of the performance in the film, there is another section, preceded by a title simply saying ‘Burma’, which consists of a series of poor quality shots of day-to-day life in Pagan, the old Burmese capital.

This film forms part of the Ananda Coomaraswamy Film Collection,  but there is no introductory title specifically indicating that Ananda Coomaraswamy himself shot it, as was the case with a number of other films in the collection. However, there are certain stylistic similarities, not least the lengthy explanatory inter title at the beginning of the film, as well as the highly descriptive wide-angle camera framing. On the other hand, the technical quality of the image is rather better than in many of the earlier Coomaraswamy films.

If Coomaraswamy did make this film, he would have done so on his second Asian tour, so either he had improved his technique by then or perhaps he asked someone more experienced or skilled to shoot it for him.

© 2018 Paul Henley