Miss Nikki & The Tiger Girls

If you think it's hard making it as an all-girl band, try being the first to do it with a military dictatorship breathing down your neck.

Miss nikki and the tiger girls 01
Women of the World, Global Voices
Premiere Date
June 1, 2014
60 minutes
Funding Initiative

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The Film

Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls is an intimate portrait of a spirited young Australian band manager as she tries to empower Myanmar's first all-girl band to speak out in one of the world's most repressive regimes.

"I don't know if I'm helping or hindering them. But once you've encouraged someone to find their voice, you can't just expect them to shut back up again can you?" The film follows the quest of one idealistic ex-pat and five starry-eyed Myanmar girls who are fighting for their right to sing in a country where freedom of speech carries enormous risk.

A bubbly singer and dancer from the age of six with her own aspirations of fame, Nikki finds herself a long way from home. She was teaching in Yangon orphanages when she saw a gap in Myanmar's music scene: there were no girl groups. "Girls have more to sing about than copies of Western love songs. They want to sing about the reality of their lives here." These could prove to be dangerous words in a country that recently imprisoned comedian Maung Thura for 59 years for doing exactly the same thing. Nevertheless, Nikki is staunch in her belief that creative expression is a human right that demands to be defended.

After auditioning 100 hopefuls, a grueling and often comical process analogous to a Burmese X Factor, five girls are chosen to be the Tiger Girls. The girls come from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. 'Tricky' lives in a two room flat with her Kayin family who run a tiny street pork stall. 'Missy' is a devout Buddhist glamor model who is the daughter of a military general. 'Chilli' comes from the Chin State and has left her rural village and her family to chase her dream of stardom in the big city of Yangon. 'Baby' sings hymns every Sunday in her father's Baptist church. 'Electro' comes from a family that works for UNICEF and encourages her to continue her studies.

After a tentative start as the girls established their pecking order within the band and came to trust Nikki, they forge strong bonds like family. But the biggest challenge to this dream comes from their local producer Peter Thein a hardheaded Burmese businessman who owns the franchise. He exerts increasing control over the band, deciding what they wear, the color they dye their hair, and how they spend their time.

Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls is a metaphor for a country on the brink of change. It explores freedom of expression, censorship, art vs. fame, and the ripple effect of empowering the voiceless through music.