Watch Burmese punks rebel against brutal military regime

Yangon Calling, filmed secretly using hidden cameras, gets to the heart of Myanmar’s underground punk scene

Yangon Calling is a punk rock documentary in every possible way. It follows a group of underground punks rallying against a brutal regime in the military-ruled Burma. Their look and sound may be familiar to us in the Western world, but it was borne out of cassettes of Brit bands smuggled into the country by sailors in the 90s. The method of filming was equally punk: hidden cameras helped the crew escape the constant secret police surveillance that could have cost the lives of everyone involved. Here we speak with one of the directors, Alexander Dluzak, about what it's like to be a anarchist refusing military control.


“Usually Burmese people are very gentle; the same is true for the punks. They love being feisty and outgoing at first, but most are calm, friendly guys. All of the guys have different characters and personalities, but what connects them is their awareness that life in Myanmar isn’t fair. For most of them punk is a way to express their frustration. Life isn’t easy for a punk in Myanmar. The society is conservative, they get criticised a lot by average Burmese people. But most of the guys don't give a damn. You need a lot of courage for being a punk in Myanmar.”


“This show was a weird and emotional experience. Shooting this movie took a lot of effort. The punk festival was one of the last scenes I shot. I felt it was a bit like a reward for all the hard work, simply because it was so amazing. The show took place at a former strip club on a rooftop in downtown Yangon. There were 150 Punks or so. Most of the guys were totally freaking out. It was awesome. I was constantly filming and found myself checking every ten seconds that the camera was actually recording.”


“The smart looking guy on the street is Konyan, he was one of the first punks in Myanmar and is something like the moral authority of the scene. He is also the organiser behind most of the gigs and runs a small punk shop in Yangon. In the mid 90s, Konyan found a music magazine in the library of the British embassy in Yangon. He read an article about the Sex Pistols who, at that point in time, were making a comeback. He and his friends copied the style of Johnny Rotten and the others. The guy with the bleached hair, sunglasses and leather jacket is Scum. He is the best known punk in the whole country. He spent six years in prision for procession of drugs. Since then he fears nothing and no one. During that time Myanmar was completely isolated. There was no Western music available, but one of Konyan’s friends was a sailor who would leave the country and bring punk rock tapes and magazines from his trips to Europe and the US back to Burma. That’s how everything started.”

Yangon Calling is closing the Asia House Film Festival 2015 tonight. For more, click here