Science Film Festival “We don’t want to just show films and then send the audience home”

Science Film Festival Myanmar 2013
Science Film Festival Myanmar 2013 | © Goethe-Institut

Joshua Pyae Sone Oo (23) works as a Program Assistant and IT specialist at the Goethe-Institut Myanmar. Even prior to the opening of the Institute in February 2014, he held this position in Yangon, representing and supporting the Goethe-Institut. Since 2012 he has, among other things, assisted Daphne Wolf, who worked with us locally from 2007 to 2013, in the organization of the Science Film Festival (SFF). We spoke with him about the beginnings of the festival.

The Goethe-Institut in Myanmar officially opened in February 2014. But the Science Film Festival (SFF) is being held for the third time. How does that work?

Joshua Pyae Soe Oo Joshua Pyae Soe Oo | © Goethe-Institut Myanmar /Valeria Turrisi Although the official opening was not until 2014, the Goethe-Institut has long been active in Myanmar. That’s why this is already the time third around for the Science Film Festival. In fact, the Science Film Festival has actually existed since 2005, in 13 different countries. We in Myanmar came on board in 2012. I think it's great to use this format to give children the opportunity to gain new experiences.

The organizational implementation in 2012 and 2013 was not easy, due to the fact that the Goethe-Institut was not yet physically present in Myanmar. The first thing was just getting permission from the Ministry, but of course there was also the search for sponsors and many other areas. We had to convince everyone that we were really working on behalf of an institution. In the end, however, both festivals were a great success. Many local social enterprises helped us, and we cannot forget the young people who made themselves available as volunteers.

Film festivals in Myanmar are recently enjoying quite a boom. What sets the Science Film Festival apart from other festivals?

Unlike the other festivals, the SFF is aimed directly at children. Of course, we don’t want to just show films and then send the audience home. The SFF is a so-called edutainment program, so it sees its job as being not only in the area of education, but also in the entertainment sector. In addition to the film screenings we conduct experiments with the children, let them try things for themselves and actively gain experience. We give them the opportunity to ask questions and understand what they’ve seen.

Amazed audience Amazed audience | Photo: Joshua Pyae Sone Oo Why do you think it is important to show films about science to children? At first glance this seems to be a rather dry subject.

Exactly that is our mission: to make science more accessible and interesting for children. Of course, they already know a little about science, they learn that in school. We want to help them to reflect on what they have learned and to internalize it, but also to let them learn new things and give them the opportunity to investigate topics more intensively. They can take the theory they have seen in a film, and try it out with us in practice. In the process, they recognize that science is a part of everyday life. The children learn, for example, how dangerous it is to throw plastic bags into the water or onto the street, and learn why we should plant trees.

What can the audience expect on the topic “Future Technologies” 2014?

To be honest, this issue is a huge challenge and requires a lot from the audience, even those who are already studying. But the films we show are not limited to the field of technology. Science in relation to nature and science in everyday life are also addressed. We have received 277 film submissions from 50 countries. But for the screenings in Myanmar we will select only 20 to 25 films.

The Volunteers The Volunteers | Photo: Joshua Pyae Sone Oo According to what criteria are the films selected?

First and foremost, it is important that the films are easily understandable for young viewers. Also, extensive background knowledge on specific topics should not be required. We want to present a broad variety of films and also offer the opportunity to participate in a range of additional activities. Each topic dealt with in the films should also be useful in the daily lives of the children.

What experiences have you had in the last three years and how has the festival evolved since the beginning?

The best experience was in 2013. We were at very many different places: Yangon, Mandalay, Mon State, Kayah State, Shan State and in several delta regions. A total of more than 10,000 spectators came. That was three times more than in 2012. This success was a wonderful validation of our work. I very much hope that this year we can visit new places, cities and regions. I want to reach more people and hope that the Ministry of Education, local organizations, social groups and companies will all pull together with us and support us.