Dharma Punk-tuation

Dispatches from the Noise Pop Festival

The annual Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco is twenty-five years old! I have been ignoring it for so long that I decided to visit one of the venues, Artists’ Television Access, the  non-profit art gallery and screening salon on Valencia in the heart of the Mission District in to watch some of the films, one a feature length import from Germany called “My Buddha Is Punk.”

1. Dharma Punk-tuation

My Buddha Is Punk

(2015) (1 hr 8 min) #music #punk #documentary

Kyaw Thu Win Is in a punk band call Rebel Riot. He is a cheerful mid-twenties-year-old who lives in Yangon (AKA Rangoon), the largest city of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). His homeland is a burgeoning riot of over 100 ethnic grouping just north-west of Thailand and sharing a long border with it going south.

At the time, Myanmar was run by a military dictatorship, albeit slowly making political reforms amidst the rise of pro-democracy advocate and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National  League for Democracy, but there is still a civil war going on, and with multiple ethnic clashes, especially between Buddhists and Muslims.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country in 2011 and President Obama one year later.

The country has been under military rule for about thirty years. An ostensibly civilian leadership came to power in 2010, but there are few real civil freedoms.

Kyaw is determined to develop the punk scene in Myanmar. He lives in a communal arrangement called Common Street with other punks, and travels repeatedly to regime’s promises, and wants to raise awareness of his country’s repeated violations of human rights.

Through his music and demonstrations, he criticizes the ongoing civil disturbances in Myanmar and the targeted persecution of ethnic minorities nonaligned with the government.

He travels the country and at his own band’s gigs to promote his own spiritual and political philosophy among the young generation: it’s a melding of Buddhism and Punk that is purely non-religious and non-authoritarian. This presents a major challenge for him, a dilemma that is not resolved but fuels the energy of his passion as a cultural renegade and musical creator.

This is a very impressive production done entirely by a German crew. It is making the rounds of festivals and university screenings and can be watched in its entirety from one of the sources here.

About the Director

Andreas Hartmann is a filmmaker and cinematographer headquartered in Berlin­. He won a scholarship to Myanmar to make this, his second documentary during 2012 and 2013. His new documentary Free Man (2016), is about a young nonconformist living on the streets of Kyoto as a jiyujin (free man).

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Note: This article may soon be reprinted in the pages of Punk Globe.

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