Mobile Cinema

Under the Mask - TB Screening Campaign 2019


We are proud to share the exciting news that the FilmAid Foundation, in co-production with the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU), completed its first full length TB drama film UNDER THE MASK in March 2019. Focusing on the challenges of the Tuberculosis disease, its symptoms, treatment and prevention, Under the Mask presents the real life issues facing TB patients living along the Thai Myanmar border, including the various aspects of stigmatisation TB sufferers face and the devastating impact this often fatal disease can have on livelihoods and families. The narrative of the film is based on the real testimony of tuberculosis patients and, despite dealing with such a diffcult subject, the film is entertaining and inspiring and allows the audience to empathise with both the physical and emotional journeys of the characters.

The film was produced with the financial support of FilmAid Asia and MORU the Mahidol Oxford Research Unit (MORU) under a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Grant.


The production of UNDER THE MASK represents part of FilmAid Foundation’s mission of educating and empowering communities through the emotional impact of film and the memorable experience of shared storytelling through mobile cinema screenings. Using our participatory methodology, we train refugees and others to make films that speak to their own communities in a culture and language that will be readily understood. Directed by Saw Ler Wah, a long term FilmAid Asia/Foundation team member, the film took its name from the fact that TB patients have to wear masks for the duration of their treatment, which can last for up to 20 months or longer. Saw Ler Wah and Saw Min Thu, the Director of Photography, spent time with chronic TB patients at the SMRU Shwe Koh Ko Clinic to get first hand accounts of their personal experiences. Using this testimony and under the mentorship of Mary Soan, FilmAid Asia/Foundation’s Director, Saw Ler Wah was able to craft a powerful and moving script which accurately portrays the experience of living with and overcoming, this potentially deadly disease and the value of sharing this knowledge with others. 


Working in co-production with Dr Michele Vincenti, who leads the TB programme at SMRU and her dedicated medical team, important technical and practical messages were successfully woven into the story to provide accurate education and information on transmission, symptoms, treatment and prevention of the disease.

One of the most important issues arising from this global disease is stigmatisation towards those affected by TB and these are also highlighted in the film, emphasizing the need for better understanding and empathy towards sufferers of the condition. Crucial information for prevention and the need to follow a strict treatment regime, such as necessity of taking prescribed medicine at the same time each day, are also emphasised to show that you cannot fight TB without help and better health awareness.

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Using actors drawn from the local villages and SMRU clinic staff, the story follows the lives of 3 main characters as they journey from diagnosis to treatment; all with the help from the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) TB team.  None of the actors had any experience of acting before and it is the mark of the skill and calm of director Saw Ler Wah that they were able to remember their lines and understand the repetitive and painstaking process of film making. “Just one more time”!!


Under the Mask was shot by our DP Saw Min Thu, an original FilmAid Asia graduate, whose talent and creative vision gives the film a veracity and cultural sensitivity which engages and draws in the audience on a difficult subject matter through every frame. The editor was Patrick Sone Lin Htoo who has worked with FilmAid Asia for many years and has become a highly skilled and versatile editor, animator and graphic designer.


The music composer was Min Khai Linn at Classic Studio and together we have created a beautiful and energising soundtrack to the story. The film is shot in full HD and runs 75 mins and the language is Burmese with Karen, English and Thai subtitles. The film will also be dubbed into Karen Language.


The film premiered in Shwe Ko Ko in Karen State on 22 March 2019 marking a much anticipated goal for FilmAid Asia and the Foundation in terms of starting cross border screenings and reaching audiences at a grassroots level! We thank MORU and SMRU for this opportunity to produce and outreach this film which demonstrates so clearly how film can bring hope and change lives.


Htee Law Shu village, Karen State - Night Screening

Htee Law Shu village, Karen State - Night Screening

Following detailed pre-scouting and interactive meetings with village leaders, a five week outreach campaign was launched when the intrepid FilmAid Foundation and SMRU teams set off together on the first cross-border mobile cinema screening campaign in Karen State (Myanmar), marking a milestone in FilmAid Asia/Foundation’s history.


The Mobile Cinema team - FilmAid & SMRU - On the Road!

Health education with the movie is more effective than verbal sessions, because we (the community) can memorize a lot and share what’s in the movie…pamphlets are not very effective, as most villagers can’t read or write.

The campaign was able to successfully reach rural 16 villages in 5 different districts of Karen State, with screenings specifically scheduled at night to accommodate the daily work routines of the farmers and local villagers. Pre and post screening question and answer sessions were conducted to allow for deeper understanding of the subject and testing for TB was offered for those who were concerned they may have symptoms.

Htee Law Thit village - Post screening questionnaire

Htee Law Thit village - Post screening questionnaire

The teams faced a myriad of challenges as they encountered difficult terrain and the early onset of the rainy season but true to form they managed to overcome any problems and bring the mobile cinema successfully to the eagerly awaiting villagers, many of whom had never seen a film before.

Htee Kew Htam village - Post screening questionnaire

Htee Kew Htam village - Post screening questionnaire

In addition to screening the educational drama, Under the Mask, other short messaging clips were shown to encourage good health and hyiene behaviours.

Evening screening in Htee Law Shu village

Evening screening in Htee Law Shu village

At the end of the five week campaign, the teams had successfully reached 3,107 villagers and TB testing revealed 2 confirmed cases. The feedback from the villagers overwhelmingly confirmed that watching a film helped them understand the issues surrounding the disease better than that gained from a brochure and the shared screening experience helped them overcome their fear and misunderstandings about the disease. They requested we come back as soon as possible!

Kyant Set Village

Kyant Set Village

We are now in conversation with SMRU to set up more cross border screening campaigns in the coming months but we need your support to help make this a reality! TB can affect anyone, in any country - your donation can have a real impact - Remember you cannot fight TB alone - It’s time to Act together! Thankyou!

Local Karen Villagers

Local Karen Villagers