×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sydney Film Review: ‘Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls’

Capturing a nation in transition, Juliet Lamont's entertaining documentary is a fest crowdpleaser.

With:
Nikki May, Wai Hnin, Ah Moon, Htike Htike, Cha Cha, Kimmy, Peter Thein. (English, Burmese dialogue)

Showbiz dreams and political commentary mix harmoniously in “Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls,” an entertaining docu about the first all-girl pop group to emerge from Burma (Myanmar). Filmed between 2010 and 2012, when the release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi brought fresh hopes of freedom to many of Myanmar’s citizens, the docu effectively presents the big picture of a nation in transition through a Girl Power-charged portrait of the group and its go-getting Australian manager-mentor, Nikki May. The sophomore feature by promising documaker Juliet Lamont (“The Snowman”) is a fest crowdpleaser and ought to notch significant worldwide airplay on suitable broadcasters.

Using a tourist visa and a small camera to sidestep the lockout of foreign media during Myanmar’s 2010 elections, Lamont opens with eye-catching footage of the power pop ensemble performing outdoors for a wildly enthusiastic crowd. While stern-faced oldsters look on from a distance and military police observe without interfering, the sweltering throng is cooled off by friendly use of water hoses and not the fierce spray of water cannons associated with repressive regimes. The immediate and compelling impression is of Myanmar experiencing the “youth running wild” phenomenon that swept many Western countries in the 1950s.

Compact profiles of the five Tiger Girls are culturally and musically illuminating. Cha Cha’s dream of making it in Hollywood faces a hurdle in the shape of her stern, ex-military father; Ah Moon is confident and ambitious, but her strictly religious family does not approve of her Muslim boyfriend; Htike Htike lacks dancing ability; Wai Hnin’s singing isn’t up to scratch; and Kimmy, from the Chin Hills Christian minority, is contemplating plastic surgery to correct her “Northern and ugly” looks. One of Lamont’s neat stylistic touches is to include a solo song from each member that expresses her hopes and fears while advancing the storyline.

Whatever their religious and cultural differences might be, the Tiger Girls regard helping their families financially as a prime motivator for success. The five are similarly united by a desire to challenge the widespread perception in Myanmar that young women who sing and dance in public are prostitutes.

Guiding the combo through unchartered territory is May, a straight-talking, self-critical young Aussie who abandoned unspecified career plans of her own to train the promising but unpolished singers. One of the docu’s strongest threads involves May’s dealings with Peter Thein, a local showbiz entrepreneur who signs the Tiger Girls to his stable, then drops them after they fail to secure a deal to appear in TV commercials for a major brand. As bluntly explained by Thein, such contracts are essential for commercial success in Myanmar’s entertainment business. Worse still, a dispute over ownership of the group’s name forces the Tiger Girls to adopt the new identity of Me N Ma Girls.

From this low point at around the halfway mark, the docu’s fighting underdog spirit revs up nicely. Against the energizing backdrop of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release and election to parliament, May encourages the girls to write original songs with political and social content now permitted by relaxed censorship; an eye-opening trip to Bangkok, style makeovers and the recording of a new album soon follow. Though tinged with a bittersweet air, the overriding emotions in the final scenes are optimism and a sense of triumphing over many of the odds.

Directed and lensed with plenty of verve, the docu leaves a few unanswered questions about the financial role played by May’s b.f., Chris, a little-seen “oil and gas man.” But in its primary function of introducing the Tiger Girls/Me N Ma Girls to audiences and contextualizing their personal lives and professional struggles, the pic delivers the goods in bouncy and breezy style. Crystal-clear recordings of the group’s up-tempo live performances are part of the movie’s thoroughly pro technical presentation.

Sydney Film Review: 'Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls'

Reviewed online, Sydney, June 16, 2013. (In Sydney Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 75 MIN.

Production: (Documentary — Australia-U.S.) A Screen Australia and Iris Pictures presentation of an Iris Pictures, ITVS Intl. production in association with Screen NSW. (International sales: Films Transit Intl., Montreal.) Produced by Jessica Douglas-Henry. Executive producer, Sally Jo Fifer.

Crew: Directed by Juliet Lamont. Camera (color, HD), Tom Jefferson; editor, Rochelle Oshlack; music, Benjamin Speed; sound (stereo), Ian McLoughlin; associate producer, Juliet Lamont.

With: Nikki May, Wai Hnin, Ah Moon, Htike Htike, Cha Cha, Kimmy, Peter Thein. (English, Burmese dialogue)

More Film

  • Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    Film News Roundup: 'Lawnmower Man' Director Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    In today’s film news roundup, “Elijah” gets a director, a French fry documentary starts shooting and “Uglydolls” moves its release date forward. PROJECT LAUNCH More Reviews Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Film Review: 'Dead Women Walking' Brett Leonard, best known for directing ”The Lawnmower Man” and “Virtuosity,” will direct the supernatural feature film “Elijah,” [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Commercial Negotiations Set for February

    With no fanfare, SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have set a mid-February start for negotiations for a successor deal to the union’s master contract, Variety has learned. The current three-year deal — which covers about $1 billion in annual earnings — expires on March 31. SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the ad industry [...]

  • SONDRA LOCKESONDRA LOCKE - 1986

    Oscar Nominee Sondra Locke Dies at 74

    Actress and director Sondra Locke, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination in her first movie role for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” died Nov. 3 at 74. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department confirmed her death. She died due to breast and bone cancer, according to Radar Online, which reported that she [...]

  • Clint Eastwood and Alison Eastwood'The Mule'

    Clint Eastwood: Why Alison Eastwood Came Out of Acting Retirement for Her Dad

    Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison Eastwood was done with acting after appearing in 2014’s “Finding Harmony.” Or so she thought. More Reviews Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Film Review: 'Dead Women Walking' It was a Friday night and she and her husband were heading to dinner when her father’s producer Sam Moore called. “He [says], [...]

  • 'Dead Women Walking' Review: Uncompromising, Powerful

    Film Review: 'Dead Women Walking'

    The sober and gripping “Dead Women Walking” focuses on the final days of a series of female inmates facing the death sentence. Divided into nine chapters, each inching its way inexorably closer to the moment of execution, the drama turns the fragmentation of its approach to a powerful advantage. Not only do the individual stories [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Sam Mendes' World War I Drama '1917' Set for Awards-Season Launch on Christmas 2019

    Universal Pictures has given an awards-season release date of Dec. 25, 2019, to Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1971.” Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners is producing “1917” through its DreamWorks Pictures brand. “1917” will open in limited release on Christmas Day then go wide two weeks later on Jan. 10, 2020. More Reviews Broadway Review: [...]

  • Ventana Sur Queer Latin Film Panel

    Ventana Sur: Panel Talks Merits, Setbacks in Latin Queer Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES — Four venerable professionals from the cinema world joined on Monday evening for Queer Cinema In Latin America, a frank discussion on Latin America’s role within the queer filmscape for Ventana Sur’s Industry conference series held at the UCA campus in Buenos Aires. Touching on advancements in character arc and notable achievements in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content