Burma VJ

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Burma has been suppressed by its own military since the mid sixties. A dictatorship that is as faceless as it is brutal, they squelch any sign of rebellion to the point that everyday citizens of Burma are scared to speak out against the oppression. In mid 2007, a couple of things changed.

Mainly a group of video journalists captured the massive protests that the monks (who are not known for their political involvement) and students started over the severe gas hike that proved disastrous to many lower class people. These protests had a whiff of the kind of rebellion that was seen in the late eighties. A political activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, defeated a military candidate for a major office in their capital. The military ignored the results of the election which angered the citizens of this poor country who sought Aung San Suu Kyi as their savior after years of oppression. Massive protests started and were only quelled when several thousands of people died in the streets by the hands of the military.

However the current protests of this film had something that the earlier protests did not. Anonymous video journalists hit the streets to show what was going on in their turbulent country and smuggle their raw footage to major news broadcasters around the world. This group, called the Democratic Voice of Burma, broadcast these images back to the Burmese through a satellite located in Europe. Using only handicams, these men put themselves in extreme danger just by whipping out their cameras. But they persisted and the world learned about the atrocities that plagued this gorgeous country.

Burma VJ is narrated by one of these of these video journalists as the protests build and then climax in massive disappearances of prominent religious figures and citizens. This video journalist was not present while the protests were going on, but rather in Thailand hiding out from the authorities that seemed to be everywhere in Burma. He received the footage of the protests and talked to the people who were on the front lines of the rebellion. The main reason he is the narrator is mainly because after the protests, he was the only one left. Most of the journalists were disappeared or were sent to jail to serve out lifetime prison sentences. This is punctuated by one of the most haunting images of this documentary, a monk lying face down in a river next to a housing community. Both of the image of the monk and the action of severe sentences to these journalists sent a message to the Burmese public that insurrection would not be tolerated. But Burma is harder than one thinks to be put down. These protests and rebellions didn’t overthrow anything, but it put a crack in the infrastructure that is hard to cover up. And that alone is a victory.

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