Reviews for May 20th, 2009
Directed by Anders Østergaard.
In English and Burmese with subtitles. This suspenseful and captivating documentary focuses on the civilian uprising in Rangoon, Burma against the Burmese military dictatorship during 2007. No one had challenged the dictators since 1988 when students protested against the Burmese government and, in turn, 3,000 protesters were massacred. Aung San Suu Kyi had led the revolt and since then has remained in house arrest. Nearly thirty years later, a small group of video journalists, known as the Democratic Voice of Burma, risk their lives to document events from 2007 uprising which the mainstream media don’t want to cover because of fear. Instead, they broadcast propaganda to make the government appear just and even moral when, in truth, they’re far from it. Out of fear that history will repeat itself in exactly the same way that had occurred during the 1988 uprising, the Democratic Voice of Burma wants to expose the evils of the military junta to the world without sugar-coating or spinning it in any way, shape or form. Not surprisingly, though, especially if you’ve read Naomi Wolf’s book The End of America about the step-by-step processes of reaching a state of fascism, the fascist government in Burma did everything in their corrupt power to suppress any truthful media covering the uprising, banning foreign journalists and even shutting down the internet as a means of further closing down the society as a whole. One of the Democratic Voice of Burma journalists, a Burmese man codenamed “Joshua,” bravely recorded the rebellions in Burma with his small, hidden camcorder. He concurrently documented the plight of other courageous, selfless video journalists just trying to do their job for the sake of democracy and truth. When his life was threatened, Joshua fled to Thailand where he found safety in a house and continued his journalism from there with access to the internet. Director Anders Østergaard blends footage from the journalists’ camcorders along with dramatizations of Joshua’s experiences in a well-edit way that keeps you fully riveted as if you were watching an edge-of-your seat thriller with some devastatingly poignant and infuriating moments. He wisely avoids excessive voice-over narration, talking heads and preachiness. Ultimately, at an appropriate running time of 84 minutes, Burma VJ finds just the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them intellectually as well as emotionally, without a dull moment from start to finish. Number of times I checked my watch: 0 Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories. Opens at the Film Forum.