The organisers of Filmfest Hamburg are substituting the gifts to filmmaker guests with a financial donation towards the costs of medical expenses for the imprisoned Myanmar filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi.
The gesture, which includes bouquets of flowers at the festival’s premiere screenings and award ceremonies, is a show of solidarity with the director who is suffering from liver cancer.
Ko Ko Gyi, who is also the founder of the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival, had been in pre-trial custody since last April. He was sentenced at the end of August by a Yangon court to one year’s imprisonment with hard labour for criticising the Tatmadaw - the official name for Myanmar’s armed forces - in a series of Facebook posts.
Since 2005, Ko Ko Gyi has directed eight feature-length films and two documentaries, the most recent being Thanaka (2012), a documentary about Aung San Suu Kyi which remains a work in progress. He has also been a leading voice for human rights in Myanmar and an advocate of Burmese artistic and film freedom.
PEN America, Amsterdam’s IDFA and the International Film Festival Rotterdam have also highlighted the director’s fate in public statements as he awaited trial detention at Insein Prison in Yangon.
Earlier this year, Filmfest Hamburg protested at the sentencing of the Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof to one year imprisonment by a Revolutionary Court for allegedly “endangering national security” and “propaganda against the Islamic government”.
Rasoulof had first visited the Filmfest Hamburg in 2005 with his film Iron Island and had been living in Hamburg with his family since 2012.
The Filmfest Hamburg runs from September 27 until October 5.