(More filler, but hopefully enjoyable filler, as I dig myself out of a hole: an excellent documentary that also got a US release in 2009 and even made two appearances here in the Twin Cities. Originally publish on In Review Online.)
An image may be worth a thousand words, but, in the world of guerilla journalism, a moving image within an oppressed state is worth much more. Burma VJ tells the behind-the-scenes story of the men and women who risk their lives for just such an image. In the summer of 2007, a series of peaceful protests against the Burmese military junta culminated in one of the largest public demonstrations in the country’s history and also produced one of the most resolute crack-downs. The symbolic heart of the protests was thousands of Buddhist monks who took to the streets resulting in the media coined moniker “The Saffron Revolution.” However, as revealed in this extraordinary documentary, the only reason this story was able to capture international sympathy was because of the unprecedented video footage smuggled out of the country by a dedicated underground network of amateur journalists. Burma VJ is not only an indictment against the ruthless Burmese military junta, but a rare depiction of heroic filmmaking in the brave new world of reporting. Working for the Democratic Voice of Burma and armed with a small video camera, Joshua, the focus of the film, dangerously skirts arrest and potentially much worse in order to shoot the news as it happens. The riveting hand-held footage breathes authenticity and urgency from the ground level. Just as the brave VJs (video journalists) selflessly forge a trail to lift the veil on a society that is otherwise closed off from the world, director Anders Østergaard reveals the gripping story behind the momentary news snippet. Even the passive and sometimes clumsy lens of Burma VJ can’t restrain the heartbreaking resiliency and candor of this bold film and its indelible subjects.