Burma VJ

Burma VJ


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Guerrilla reporting has its risks and limitations. When the penalty is life in prison, even death, keeping those cameras hidden is of vital importance, which restricts access to a considerable extent, although any pictures coming out of a locked down country, such as Burma, especially during the monks’ “revolt” of 2007, is of genuine value.

Narrated by “Joshua”, the unseen protagonist, this is the story of DVB, the Democratic Voice of Burma, a TV station in exile that operates on the ground, with a select group of video cam reporters, a co-ordinating HQ in Thailand (one room with a radio connection) and a Norwegian contact with access to a satellite, capable of beaming news footage back into Burma and around the world. This may sound as sophisticated as a CIA sting, but actually is closer to the escape committee at Colditz Castle.

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As well as handheld shots of feet, clothing, sky and buildings, there is the September 2007 uprising when the monks take to the streets in protest against the doubling of fuel costs. In a country where everyone is afraid of speaking out, or speaking at all, such a public display of defiance can be described as nothing less than barefaced courage. The last time students and workers demonstrated (1988), 3000 people were killed.

The response to the appearance of the monks is surprising. Many join the march, while others stand on the sides of the road, or on the roofs of office buildings, clapping. Except for armed guards outside Aung San Sui Kyi’s house, the police and soldiers are nowhere to be seen. A few days later the government decrees that “gatherings of more than five individuals are forbidden”. This is ignored. A day later a curfew is announced in Rangoon and then the violence begins.

“They are trying to grab the monks. They are tearing off their clothes.”

You see them being thrown into trucks. A Japanese journalist is shot dead in the street. Gunfire can be heard everywhere. Crowds run in panic.

This film is a testament, a witness, a scoop, a cry for help, a recognition, a suppression, a determination to be heard, an act of faith, a murmur of the heart, a defiance, a defeat.

Reviewed on: 31 Mar 2009
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Burmese journalists risk life imprisonment to report from inside their sealed-off country.
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Director: Anders Ostergaard

Year: 2009

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Denmark

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