News / Arts & Entertainment

Film Bio of Aung San Suu Kyi Debuts in Toronto

Cast member Michelle Yeoh greets fans on the red carpet for the film "The Lady" during the 36th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) September 12, 2011.
Cast member Michelle Yeoh greets fans on the red carpet for the film "The Lady" during the 36th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) September 12, 2011.

A new film biography of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi had its world premiere Monday at the Toronto Film Festival.

The film, called The Lady, was directed by noted French action director Luc Besson. It focuses on Aung San Suu Kyi's relationship with her British-born husband Michael Aris after she returned to Burma in 1988 to care for her ailing mother.

Aung San Suu Kyi went on to lead Burma's pro-democracy movement, culminating in her National League for Democracy winning elections in 1990.  The ruling military junta refused to acknowledge the results, and Aung San Suu Kyi was subjected to long years of detention.

Aris died of prostate cancer in 1999 without ever seeing his wife again.

The Lady was filmed largely in Thailand and Burma.  

Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, who won fame for her role as a Chinese spy in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, portrays the Nobel Peace Prize winner, while British actor David Thewlis plays Aris.

Yeoh says the film deals with political issues but is above all a love story.

"I'm very humbled. I'm very thrilled to be the person that can tell this story to the rest of the world because it's such an important story to tell because Daw Suu is very inspirational. She continues to be inspirational to people, particularly the Burmese, who are still struggling for independence, freedom, and basic human rights," said Yeoh. "When we came upon the story we realized it was not just about politics, there was a great love story. It was about a man and a woman who were soul mates and who made a choice to do whatever they can for each other and go for what they believed in. Michael Aris, sadly died, in 1999, and it was one of the most difficult periods for Daw Suu because at that time she was still campaigning in her country and they always put the needs of other people before theirs."

Yeoh said Aung San Suu Kyi was unable to participate personally in the making of the film because of her detention.

"We didn't. We couldn't be in touch. We sent a letter saying we would be doing this film, and she knew who Luc [Besson] was and she admired his films, and she knew who I was, but she was not involved in that way because she was still under house arrest very much, and even her family members had not seen her, or talked to her in ten years," she said. "So there was no way - they isolated her, a lot."

Yeoh traveled to Burma to visit Aung San Suu Kyi following her release from seven years of house arrest in November 2010. But Yeoh was deported when she tried to return to Burma earlier this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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