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Song of Souls (2023)

Song of Souls

A deeply-felt lament for Myanmar’s Shan State


Shan State in Myanmar is home to a rich culture filled with ancient songs, traditional dances and beliefs. It is also a place where civil war has been raging for over sixty years. Shan folk singer Nan Mya Han was a star when she was young. Now she is older her metaphorical verses reflect the deep sense of loss that pervades a people battered by Myanmar’s ruinous politics. Interweaving her songs with compelling scenes of rituals around healing, death and birth, the film transcends the purely observational to become a multilayered, elliptical exploration of decay and impermanence that is both moving and totally mesmerizing.

Director's Statement

In our country, people believe that if someone experiences frightening events, their guardian soul runs away and they will never dream again. To cure this problem, their guardian soul must be summoned back to them.

Song of Souls is not only about the voice of a mother bewailing her vanishing children but also the sound of my own soul being called back as a filmmaker. In this film, I pay homage to the last songs of an old, classical female Shan singer who is close to dying. Her songs are not only about the sunset, love and nostalgia but also refer to her wishes for the future of Myanmar.

Song Of Souls is also an inner journey to my childhood memories of listening to Shan storytelling, traditional folksongs, the Kinnari Bird dance and the sounds of drums while interpreting them as symbols of the aftermath of war.

Director's Biography

Sai Naw Kham grew up in Tangyan Township in Myanmar’s northern Shan State. Moving to Yangon in 2007, he first studied chemistry and worked as an editor for Charr Music Production. He made his first foray into directing in 2014 during his first year at Yangon Film School with The Crocodile Creek, a short film which merged myth and memory to explore present-day environmental issues in Myanmar’s Yangon River. For 32 Souls (YFS, 2015), he travelled to his native Shan to portray one woman’s memories in this war-torn part of Myanmar. Following its international premiere at DOK Leipzig in 2016, this film went on to screen to acclaim at festivals in Korea and Nepal. In 2015, he was cinematographer on the YFS short fiction film, Book Lover, and in 2020 he directed The Forgotten Voices of the Mekong as part of an anthology of short films entitled ‘Mekong 2030’. Song of Souls is his first feature-length documentary and secured a world premiere at the prestigious Sheffield DocFest in 2023.

Awards & Nominations

June, 2023
Sheffield Doc Fest
World Premiere, Nomination for Jury Youth Award
Sheffield, England, United Kingdom

Director's Filmography

Song of Souls



The Forgotten Voices of the Mekong



No Real Body




Animation and Audio Interviews











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