Hollywood Tells Aung San Suu Kyi's Story in 'The Lady'
I’m June Simms. This week on our program, we hear new music from Bonnie Raitt ...
And we answer a letter from a Chinese man who dreams of being a car designer …
But, first, we take a look at a new movie about Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
JUNE SIMMS: French director Luc Besson is famous for his often-violent action films like “La Femme Nikita” and “Taken.” But this week he released a film about a woman of peace. “The Lady” tells the story of Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Christopher Cruise has more on the movie and its star Michelle Yeoh.
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Aung San Suu Kyi left her family in England in nineteen eighty-eight for what she thought would be a short visit to help her sick mother in Burma.
(SOUND: “The Lady”)
AUNG SAN SUU KYI (Michelle Yeoh): “It will be hard for me to get to a phone, so don’t worry if it’s a while before you hear from me.”
But she stayed years.
Aung San Suu Kyi, also known as Daw Suu, followed in the political footsteps of her parents. Her father was a national hero in Burma. He led the campaign for independence from Britain in nineteen forty-seven. He was killed by political opponents soon after independence. Her mother was Burma’s Ambassador to India and Nepal when Daw Suu was a teenager.
Daw Suu became the leader of the democracy movement in Burma soon after she returned to her home country.
(SOUND: “The Lady”)
AUNG SAN SUU KYI: “It may be a little late to be saying this, but you realize I’ve never actually spoken in public before.”
MICHAEL (David Thewlis): “Well there’s no time like the present.”
That is David Thewlis playing Daw Suu’s supportive husband Michael Aris, a South Asia culture expert.
Malaysian actor Michelle Yeoh plays Aung San Suu Kyi. She learned to speak Burmese for the part. She says the language was especially important to re-create the first speech Aung San Suu Kyi gave to the Burmese people.
MICHELLE YEOH: “The first speech that she makes is in Burmese to her people to convince them, and to let them understand, that even though she did marry a foreigner even though she lived outside of Burma for so long, she was her father’s daughter. She can not turn away from what’s happening to her country. And all this is documented in Burmese. So we can’t take liberties and try and do it in English. It just wouldn’t be right.”
(SOUND: “The Lady” in Burmese)
Director Luc Besson found Burmese people to be in the movie’s background scenes. Michelle Yeoh says one of these actors was in a crowd scene for the speech. She says he cried through the entire speech.
MICHELLE YEOH: “We found out that he was there. He said ‘at that time in ‘88, I was in the audience looking up at Daw Suu, hearing her say the speech. Today I am standing behind her listening to her say the speech again.’”
Michelle Yeoh says Luc Besson found many background players who had lived through the events being represented.
MICHELLE YEOH: “He actually went to the Burmese refugee camps up in northern Thailand, and he cast about two hundred of them. All of them were not actors, but they were very natural, of course, I mean they were Burmese. So, the way they moved when they were with me helped me tremendously.”
Burmese officials would not permit “The Lady” to be filmed in Burma. It was shot in Thailand instead.
BURMESE OFFICIAL: “Madame, your restricted residence is at an end. You are now free to come and go as you please.”
Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest in twenty-ten. The movie is being released as the democracy leader is elected to parliament in a reforming Burma.