Friday, July 17, 2009


Burma VJ

Burma VJ What should people do against a repressive regime? It would be naive to think that demonstration and protest alone can overthrow a hard line military government. Certainly not enough if the outside world is not aware of the demonstration and not lending supports.

Everybody knows the tacit, so does the anti-government movement in Burma (now it's called Myanmar). Based in Norway, a group called "Democratic Voice of Burma" (DVB) sends its underground members to Burma with video cameras to document the protests, and smuggles those footage out of Burma. Danish filmmaker Anders Østergaar's documentary "Burma VJ" (Denmark 2008 | in Burmese/English | 84 min.) tells a story about this group's effort to bring the anti-government activities to people outside Burma.

Triggered by a sudden rise of fuel prices due to the removal of government's subsidies, a series of protests broke out in Burma beginning on August 15, 2007. The protests lasted more than a month, joined by monks, until the military junta cracked down the protesters on September 26, 2007.

27-year-old "Joshua" coordinated over 30 self-claimed underground video journalists (VJs) to videotape the protests, hoping the protests would provoke blood shed and escalate the conflicts, and eventually overthrow the military government.

This film almost entirely focus on Joshua's effort to obtaining the "money shot" during the protests in order to gather supports from the rest of the world. The film does little to explain the objectives of these protests and what made these people, especially the monks, to protest on the streets day after day, sometimes risking their lives and facing imprisonment.

Burma VJ

This one sided documentary must be extremely inspiring to people who are involved in the movement of anti Burmese military ruling. Unfortunately, in the age of Youtube, almost everyone who has a camera at hand is shooting something. For many who are not familiar with the struggle in Burma, these footage might be lost in the sea of Youtube clips. Aiming cameras at these protests in Burma is indeed a courageously brave act. However, to be a VJ and to tell a compelling story require much more skills.

Perhaps that's precisely the reason Joshua was hoping people would become more provocative and people would die during the protest. Hopefully, the images would be captured on cameras. Otherwise, the mob scenes on the streets are soon to be forgotten.

"Burma VJ" opens on Friday July 17 at Landmark's Lumiere Theatre in San Francisco, Shattuck in Berkeley, and Rialto Lakeside in Santa Rosa.

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