Pushing Myanmar — As dictatorship declines, filmmakers James Holman and Ali Drummond go back to Yangon, documenting the community built around its DIY skatepark.

When James Holman, Alex Pasquini and Ali Drummond first set foot in Myanmar eight years ago, things were very different to how they are today: The country was under a brutal military dictatorship which used violence to repress any sign of dissent, freedom of the press was nowhere to be found.

However, it was not just political instability that brought these two filmmakers to Yangon – they were there to skate, and to show a different, more human side of a country that was so often depicted as simply rife with repression.

Kids_Skatepark_1 Hein Htet SoeFast forward to 2013, and although the dictatorship is still firmly in place, the group of friends have made two documentaries on the Burmese skateboarding community: 2009’s Altered Focus: Myanmar, and 2013’s Youth of Yangon. The films highlighted a scene that, albeit small and lacking in resources, has stayed defiant and extremely passionate about the sport.

Altered Focus and Youth of Yangon drew worldwide attention – including from non-profit organisation Make Life Skate Life, who, with the help of volunteers and local communities, build accessible concrete skateparks around the world. Thanks to the films, Myanmar became their next target.

Now it’s 2017. After 54 years of dictatorship, Myanmar has a democratically elected government, and Yangon has its own, very cherished, international standard skatepark. It’s a reality that seemed impossible back in 2009, so it only makes sense that Ali and James would return with their cameras, this time to show the real-life impact the skatepark has had on the community.

That is what we see in Pushing Myanmar – a true testament to the good that supporting skating can do to both a city and its people.

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