Heroic Mamma: Aung San Suu Kyi

Michelle Yeoh playing Aung San Suu Kyi in Luc Besson's new film "The Lady". Freeze frame from Trailer provided by Europacorp.

French Director Luc Besson’s latest film “The Lady” was presented yesterday at the Rome Film Festival.  It is about Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.   The film is a beautiful and heart-rending tale of love and passion.  Tears were streaming down my cheeks throughout the whole movie.  The film follows Aung San Suu Kyi from when she is a mother living with her British professor husband in Oxford, back to her homeland, Burma when her mother falls ill.  She takes up residence in her family home in the midst of a ferocious crackdown by the military junta on student protesters.

Aung San Suu Kyi quickly becomes the leader of her country’s non-violent movement for democracy.  Suu Kyi’s political story has been widely reported, but her personal story is less well-known.  The film weaves spectacular images of the elegant, attractive Aung San Suu Kyi (played by Michelle Yeoh) with garlands of flowers around her neck and orchids in her hair visiting tribal peoples in remote areas of Burma (filmed in Thailand), and horrifying scenes of soldiers gunning down democracy protesters on the streets of Rangoon, with emotional scenes of her trying to communicate on fuzzy phone lines with her husband back in England.

The military junta makes her life miserable, putting her under house arrest, imprisoning and torturing her followers and refusing her husband and two teenage sons visas to visit her.  She takes her captors on with courage and dignity, walking right up to a line of soldiers poised to shoot her and quietly passing them.  She refuses to succumb to the junta’s pressure and will not leave the country even when her husband is dying of cancer.

The hardest part of this film for me was watching her make the decision to stay in Burma and be a leader to millions of Burmese who had placed their hopes for their nation in her hands, and leave the man she loved and her two children behind in England.  In an interview with director Luc Besson, I told him about my tears, he said that as a father of five, he could feel the pain both for Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband Michael Aris.  He told he has also cried every time he watched his own film.

I also had a chance to interview the actress Michelle Yeoh who played Aung San Suu Kyi. Yeoh has starred in “Memoirs of a Geisha”, the James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, but she clearly became passionately involved in this latest role and recounted to me how after she finished filming she managed to go meet with Aung San Suu Kyi in person.

“Certainly it was very memorable, I was very nervous before I went because I had been living and breathing and listening to her for so long, I thought I knew her – but I didn’t. But as I got into the house I turned around she was there, all she did was something very simple, she just opened her arms very wide and gave me the biggest hug, and she’s the most slender woman, but you don’t feel that she’s frail. You sense a great sense of inner peace, gentleness, and caring.”

Mother, wife, political activisit, peace-prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the greatest heros of our time, and she is still fighting for democracy in her country.

Post in: Italiano


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    Hi Trisha,

    Thank you for a very moving post. Many of us here in the States have followed this brave woman’s fight in the face of a crushing junta – it must be over twenty years now. I am, however willing to wager that few are aware how great the personal cost. We never heard about it. Was that perhaps her wish? Thank you for the enlightenment. I look forward to viewing the film.

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    Talk about an iron will!! It now looks as if some real progress is being made in Myanmar. Let’s hope!

    Good for Michele Yeoh. She looks just like Aung San Suu Ki in your photo.

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    Deep thought! Thanks for cotrinbtuing.


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