Benefit screening for Myanmar

It’s been seven weeks since cyclone Nargis ravaged the country of Myanmar, also known as Burma. According to government estimates, 78,000 people were killed and 56,000 went missing. More than a million still need help, most of them in remote areas of the Irrawaddy delta.

Now the director of a Canadian documentary about Myanmar’s national sport is hoping to help with a series of benefit screenings.

Directed by Toronto filmmaker Greg Hamilton, Mystic Ball tells the story of chinlone, a fascinating, noncompetitive game that combines dance, meditation, and acrobatics. There is no opposing team, and the goal is to keep a rattan ball in the air using only knees and feet. After its release in 2006, the film won several awards, including ones at the Vancouver International Film Festival and Toronto’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

Special screenings of Mystic Ball have been held across Canada, and two are scheduled for Vancity Theatre on Tuesday (June 24), at 7 and 9:30 p.m. All proceeds will go directly to the chinlone players featured in the film.

“A lot of them lived in woven bamboo houses, and whole houses got blown away—some of them lost everything,” said Hamilton on the phone from his Toronto home. So far, he has raised $5,000 dollars through screenings in Toronto and Victoria. Besides raising money through ticket sales, he said, many people are also making donations.

Hamilton, who has visited the country more than 20 times, will also speak at both screenings. The next day, he leaves for Myanmar to deliver the funds. For info and tickets to the Vancouver screenings, visit www.viff.org/ .

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