Sound of the Spirit

Sound of the Spirits

A Lisu shaman in Myanmar’s Shan State


The Lisu people’s bond with nature is a profoundly spiritual one. Theirs is a world that is filled with the spirits of the forests and mountains where they live and farm. The harvest season may have come to an end but the souls of many a villager have a habit of lingering in the fields of the uplands where they can cause all kinds of mischief. This richly atmospheric exploration of Lisu animism brings us closer to the mellifluous-voiced shaman Byar Wu, whose job it is to summon these lost souls back into the bodies of his community in Chaung Gyi village in Shan State and so prevent sickness and disease.

Director's Statement

Growing up in the concrete jungle of Myanmar’s former capital Yangon, it was hard for me to imagine life in remoter parts of the country without electricity or the comforts of modern living. My fascination for the Lisu began when I travelled to a community near the foothills of the Himalayas to make The Washu Family. The experience made me want to learn more about the Lisu way of life, and so for Sound of the Spirits I went to Lisu villages in the uplands of Mandalay region and Shan State where I observed their spiritual practices that are completely synchronised with nature.

I met many shamans during the course of my research but what struck me about U Byar Wu was not only his dedication to shamanism but also his passion for helping people – even when this means an arduous journey across the hills. ‘I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I refused to help a sick child and their illness got worse’, he told me. 

Myanmar is now more conflicted than ever in the wake of the 2021 military coup. I hope my film will help people to connect with this Lisu community and that discovering their stories will help to build trust and empathy in these times of fear and uncertainty.  

Director's Biography

Lin Hnin Aye (born in 1991) initially received training in journalism at Myanmar’s National Management College and worked as a part-time video journalist before discovering her love of documentary filmmaking. She has since contributed to a number of YFS productions including My Grandfather’s House (as sound recordist) and the Wathann Film Festival award-winning short Missing (as camera assistant). Having trained in participatory video during a YFS course in 2014, she joined YFS Travelling Cinema crews facilitating workshops in communities in Kachin and Shan states. Her documentary portrait of The Washu Family marked her first film as a director. She has gone on to direct a documentary about a Lisu shaman in Mogok township on the border to Shan State entitled Sound of the Spirits.

Director's Filmography

Sound of the Spirits







Camera Assistant





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