From Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the UK, the U.S., Germany, Netherlands, Israel, Spain, Belgium and Canada, Burma VJ: Reporter i et lukket land (Burma Video Journalist*: Reporting from a Closed Country) is pulsating, brilliant, imaginative, humane. Using video cameras and cell phones, it consists almost entirely of clandestinely shot footage of the peaceful 2007 street protests in Rangoon (Yangon), Burma, which included thousands of Buddhist monks, that was smuggled out (to the Democratic Voice of Burma’s TV station-in-exile in Norway) and satellite-beamed back in to Burma and around the world to show that “Burma is still here.”
Denmark’s Anders Østergaard is the filmmaker, and the journalistic voice of experience we hear narrating throughout belongs to “Joshua,” code name for a reporter for the DVB. Theirs is a riveting, haunting collaboration!
The documented events (mostly shot in August and September) are shadowed by the Burmese tragedy of September 18, 1988, when a protest march resulted in at least 3,000 deaths and disappearances at the hands of the military, which seized control of the country, renaming it Myanmar, as if to erase all historical memory of their ignominy.
Now, again, protests were militarily crushed. In a stunning moment, we see reverse-motion applied to those confronting armed soldiers, presaging the former’s defeat.
This is one of those works where technique is bound to the heart and the soul of those at risk: the protestors, those they represent, journalists; here, documentarians participate in an epic consciousness by speaking for a nation, its people and their aspirations—here, democratic. The transcendent reality of Burma is what it hopes to become. Objectivity cloaks subjectivity. At the same time, the protest’s fresh defeat deepens the sorrow of Joshua’s voice.
Østergaard’s numerous awards for this documentary include the Joris Ivens Prize at Amsterdam.
* a guess
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