Mon, Dec 13, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Germans film an eccentric's dream of flying at all costs


In Myanmar, one of the world's most isolated countries, three young German filmmakers have managed to portray the story of one man's unlikely dream of building a helicopter.

Just weeks before Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was dismissed for corruption in a power struggle among the ruling junta in September, the three Germans entered the country on tourist visas and headed north towards the Chinese border and the village of Bhamo.

Film of Myanmar is scarce and visitors are closely monitored.

Yet Christian Kage, 29, Benja Sachau, 28, and Philipp Fuchs, 27, were able to film for several days in August as they followed the progress of Sein Win, an eccentric 63-year-old tour guide who has been nurturing an unlikely dream for the past three decades.

"I imagine every day and every hour how to fly," Sein Win says in English in the film.

"James Bond inspired me. My inspiration came from The Man With the Golden Gun."

Against all the odds in a country wracked by shortages, Sein Win has built a helicopter -- or something closely resembling it.

The frame is made from water pipes, the "pilot" sits on a seat adapted from a bicycle and Sein Win has crafted the rotor blades from teak wood, each weighing 40kg.

"Normally helicopters are made of aluminum and fiberglass, but I cannot get that here," he says, sitting on his craft.

"I have a friend who was in the airforce. He knows a little bit about helicopters, not very much, but he helped me with the engine," he explains.

The 15-horsepower engine drives the heavy wooden blades with a belt -- but they rotate far too slowly to allow the helicopter to leave the ground.

"I have tried it three times in an airfield but it cannot lift off," Sein Win says. "It needs a 30-horsepower engine but that would cost US$3,000 here."

The military allowed him to use the airfield, which suggests that the hardline regime tolerates Sein Win's attempts to build his flying machine.

Although he does not say he has any intention of leaving Myanmar permanently, he is burning with curiosity about the world outside.

"I want to see how people live in different countries, how they build big machines, cars and airplanes," he says.

"Nobody can prevent me from going into the air. I can fly free in the air."

Benja Sachau, who like his two colleagues is from Berlin, had met Sein Win by chance when he was travelling in Myanmar in 2002.

They stayed in touch by letter and two years later Sein Win agreed to let the Germans film him.

Christian Kage says the trio had expected to be closely monitored by the authorities, but when it came, the approach was from a harmless elderly man purporting to work for the information ministry.

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