Miss Nikki and The Tiger Girls is an extraordinary film following Australian Miss Nikki as she helps guide five young Burmese women in their quest to become a sassy pop group – against a backdrop of socio-political repression, rigid social mores and the possibilities of change.
Director Juliet Lamont answered a few questions for MIFF:
How did you get the opportunity to film in Myanmar and meet Miss Nikki?
Nikki is an old friend from university. As soon as I read her update – "I've just started Burma's first girl band" – I knew there was a great story with inherent drama there. So we hid our camera in our luggage and got there before we had any funding, smiling our best tourists smiles. We had a lot more enthusiasm than sense at the beginning!
How did the girls react to being part of the documentary?
They were understandably cautious during our first few trips. The government propaganda about Western culture being alien and evil was still pumping strong, so we were aware to be culturally sensitive. But after time and when mutual trust had been built, we all had a ball. They are natural performers who are hungry for an audience and being in a documentary was something they committed to one hundred percent. They did mention that we were taking a very long time to finish it. Feature films get made in ten days in Myanmar, so we were obviously amateurs!
What were the reactions of the parents in regards to their children's dreams of being pop stars?
Mixed. Fear from some of the parents in the early stages of the process in case the girls got into any trouble due to participating in the film. But as we all got to know each other and the nature of the story became clear we had the full support of the families. Then when the country opened up and the rules changed, there was a collective sense that it was wonderful to share their story with the world.
What was the most challenging part of the shoot?
Finding a way to tell a compelling story when we didn't know if we'd be let back in the country to finish the film. Turning it into a musical documentary helped us piece it together
What was the most uplifting moment during the entire filmmaking process?
Riding on the back of on old scooter chasing Aung San Suu Kyi's four-wheel drive through dirt roads on Election Day in Kawhmu. People by the hundreds lined the roads cheering her and beaming. The looks on their faces felt like change was possible.
Miss Nikki and The Tiger Girls has its second screening 9pm Wednesday 7 August, at ACMI.
Pictured above: scenes from the film