Saturday, 7 April 2012

Burma VJ

Starting out as a small-time documentary, the 2008 film Burma VJ is something everyone should get on-board with, especially since the small South-East Asian nation is now front and centre in the media spotlight again. 

One of the most oppressive and restrictive governments on the planet, the Burmese military junta has shaped the way Burma is ruled for over 40 years. After anti-government protests in the country flared tensions in 2007, news of the riots were spread across the globe. Starting small and making waves through the public, the campaign of civil resistance were crushed brutally and swiftly by the government.

Burma VJ is complied together with footage that was smuggled out from Burma as well as reconstructed scenes of the Thailand editing suite in which the film was made.  Released in 2008 when the "Saffron Revolution" was still a hot topic on the media's lips, the film took the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature that year.

The film is unapologetically brutal in its depiction of the riots and the subsequent military action. There are no reconstructions of the protests and riots. All of these sequences are actual footage taken by hidden cameras; being caught filming in Burma ensures arrest and torture. The films protagonist, Joshua, risks his life to get word of the injustice to the worlds media and it really connects with the viewer. They show the revolution in its entirety; from initial murmurs on the street to full-scale tear-gas drenched riots in alleyways and across barricades. 

Burma VJ is harsh and unforgiving, in the same way the Burmese government is with its people. It doesn't avoid the fact that people are captured and tortured, that the protesters are hunted and killed. It is very close to the bone. Fully deserving of the Oscar, Burma VJ is eye-opening cinema that doesn't sensationalize and play up the drama for shock effect like a Michael Moore film. It is real and genuinely affecting.

With the recent by-elections giving the country its first slim (and I mean slim) glimpse of democracy, watching Burma VJ is a real eye-opening experience of how little attention is given to the struggles that the Burmese people undergo on a daily basis. It tells an important and heart-wrenching story in a brutal fashion and sheds light on a corner of our world that is usually shrouded in darkness.
If you haven't seen it before, now is your chance. 

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