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The Best of 2009: 'Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country'

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Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country


To call this film a simple documentary would be an understatement, it is a film by several documentarians rolled into one solid piece of journalism. It is an engrossing experience into the eyes of a courageous Burmese citizen doing the right thing for his people. It is also a heartbreaking experience for any spectator. Designed by the Democratic Voices of Burma, the film is a collage of several tapes from hidden cameras capturing the incredible events that swept the Burma (also known as Myanmar) capital of Rangoon and the entire nation in late 2007.

The narrator is known only as Joseph to protect his identity from the brutal junta that has ruled the country with an iron fist for more than 40 years now. With cameras tucked away in bags and backpacks, these guerilla cameramen shoot everything they possibly can. Unfortunately, the government also has civilian-dressed government agents constantly roaming the streets looking for, quite ironically, spies. After a few unsuccessful but peaceful strikes made by ordinary citizens, a band of Buddhist monks decided to make a nationwide protest against the junta. In a dazzling display of orange draped individuals swarming the streets like a bright flag, their appearance alone made millions of Burmese citizens take notice and feel hope in the Stalinistic enforced nation. What followed is a horrifying series of events accounted by Joseph and his terrified reporters. It is incredible to see this kind of footage since a certain number of other dictatorships have completely closed off their borders to the outside world in order to prevent exposure.

Like some of the best episodes of Unsolved Mysteries, there is an eerie element to some of Joseph's reenactment scenes where he hears everyone's voices. The voices and viewpoints are as real as anyone living and breathing. The extraordinary people who were a part of these events will never forget these unspeakable acts. A film like this reminds Burmese everywhere that hope will never fade. It is a dazzling compilation by the Norwegian filmmakers who serve as the Burmese reporters' main channel to the outside world.