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Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

Burma VJ (2009)

BurmaVJ Screenshot

This is a moving and affecting account of the uprisings in September 2007 against the oppressive military regime in Burma, captured on film by a group of intrepid video jockeys (VJs). The documentary comprises of footage shot secretly and smuggled out of the country by these amateur journalists risking life and freedom to bring to the world the state of protests in Burma.

The VJs use low-tech equipment frequently hidden in bags or on their person and consequently the footage is often shaky and blurry. However, the low-tech imagery only enhances our sense of personal involvement with the events that unfold on screen. Further, the content is so powerful that it seems only appropriate that form take a backseat to substance.The emotional impact of the film is heightened by the first person account of events by one of the leaders of the underground VJ movement , Jason, who remains a shadowy figure right through the film. His anxiety that Burma will be forgotten by the world is palpable and this seems to imbue his actions with a higher purpose. Like us, he is relegated to being a bystander, much to his dismay. However, from his hideout in Thailand he orchestrates the activity on the ground in Burma and galvanizes other VJs into action.

Our emotional involvement is ramped up as the protests gain in momentum particularly when the monks get involved. Creeping in is also a sense of impotence as we learn more about how the anti-government demonstrations have erupted sporadically for two decades with practically nothing to show for the effort. The demonstrations of 2007 which the movie tracks follow in that path of futility in terms of the end result. We are left a little deflated, wondering what purpose any of this serves. Yet, Jason remains largely undaunted and in a moving final shot, we see him returning surreptitiously to Burma to reload for another round of covert media coverage of the government’s atrocities.

The film takes on additional resonance given the current protests in Iran where citizen journalists played a pivotal part in bringing to us news from the streets. There too, the harsh and ruthless powers-that-be appear to have crushed the resistance.

We watched this documentary in an intimate setting – a little theater with just 10 seats all of which were taken. At the end, as the credits rolled, there was a stunned silence in the room out of respect and awe for what we had just witnessed.

This is perhaps a film that you could view quite as easily on DVD but we were happy to contribute our $10 towards the making of movies like this one.

Pan-Card: A-              Scorn-Card: A- 

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