Oct 23, 2021
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REVIEWED: Burma VJ

TO411 documentary review
by staff writer Daisy Maclean

The story originally was to be a portrait piece of a young reporter known as ‘Joshua’, a member of an underground network of activists (Democratic Voice of Burma) who risk their lives daily to document the oppressive conditions in the country. However, when the events of September suddenly took a turn, Danish director Anders Østergaard found himself on the precipice of history.

Academy Award nominated documentary, Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country is one of the most important DVD releases this year. The film covers the 2007 Saffron Revolution through footage that has been smuggled out of the country and skilfully woven together by Østergaard. Shot by a few brave undercover video journalists who risked torture and life imprisonment in order to ensure the truth about what was happening in their country got out; it gives a powerful global voice to those Burmese that struggle for freedom in a police-state.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962 and has not seen an uprising since 1988, a protest that ended in thousands of deaths when the military opened fire, and thousands more imprisoned. The protest did lead to the democratic election of Aung San Suu Kyi, however the military refused to hand over power and she has been under house arrest for the past 22 years. Up until 2007, people had been afraid to protest, afraid to speak out against their government. Plain clothes agents wander the streets with video cameras, hunting down dissidents in big-brother fashion. When the film starts, only one man stands in protest outside of the gates, and people are afraid to speak to anyone with a camera. Foreign TV crews are banned from entering the country.

The cost of living began to rise by 30 to 60 per cent, in 2007 (the average wage is $300 a year) and small groups began to gather in peaceful demonstration. The harsh actions taken by the government to disband a group of protesters resulted in the injury of three monks. An apology was demanded by the people. When the government refused, more and more people took to the street including thousands of monks in their traditional saffron coloured robes. It is estimated that at the peak of the protests, up to 100 000 people marched demonstrating in Yangon, citizens forming a protective barrier around the monks. Amidst the peaceful protestors, the vicious police agents, and trigger-happy military the video-journalists did their best to keep the world informed of events inside the closed country. History was recorded on mobile phones and small hand-held cameras that had been smuggled into the country and hidden in bags, but up until now we have only seen short segments.

Burma VJ knits together all of the footage to reconstruct the events from the beginning to their brutal end. The film revolves around a person whose face we never see: ‘Joshua’, who allows us to experience the events through his eyes. Østergaard worked closely with ‘Joshua’ to create re-enactments of certain situations that he couldn’t film, such as telephone conversations, which he then worked around the authentic footage shot by the VJs. This gives the film a much stronger build of tension as we switch between ‘Joshua’, helpless and isolated in the Thailand office and the escalating violence happening in Burma.

Video journalism takes us beyond the experience of being living-room spectators. It makes us witnesses. From Vietnam to 9/11 to the 2004 Tsunami, the camera has played a powerful role in how we view events and the kind of action, we as a global community, take. 

“Sometimes I feel really unhappy when I think about my colleagues in prison”… “I always remind the younger generation that what you are having known is the result of the people who sacrificed before you. We have everything ready now. We have cameras when we want to make a story. We have computers when we want to edit a story. And this is… not because of me. And this is not because of DVB even, we can say. This is because of every Burmese people. It is because of the situation in Burma. So we have to be respectful, whenever we are using all these things. And we have to remember all the time that we need to fight for their freedom.” -Joshua

Daisy Maclean will review recently completed documentaries for TO411 Daily – please contact her for more information: daisy@to411.com. 

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Headline, Industry News

REVIEWED: Burma VJ

TO411 documentary review
by staff writer Daisy Maclean

The story originally was to be a portrait piece of a young reporter known as ‘Joshua’, a member of an underground network of activists (Democratic Voice of Burma) who risk their lives daily to document the oppressive conditions in the country. However, when the events of September suddenly took a turn, Danish director Anders Østergaard found himself on the precipice of history.

Academy Award nominated documentary, Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country is one of the most important DVD releases this year. The film covers the 2007 Saffron Revolution through footage that has been smuggled out of the country and skilfully woven together by Østergaard. Shot by a few brave undercover video journalists who risked torture and life imprisonment in order to ensure the truth about what was happening in their country got out; it gives a powerful global voice to those Burmese that struggle for freedom in a police-state.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962 and has not seen an uprising since 1988, a protest that ended in thousands of deaths when the military opened fire, and thousands more imprisoned. The protest did lead to the democratic election of Aung San Suu Kyi, however the military refused to hand over power and she has been under house arrest for the past 22 years. Up until 2007, people had been afraid to protest, afraid to speak out against their government. Plain clothes agents wander the streets with video cameras, hunting down dissidents in big-brother fashion. When the film starts, only one man stands in protest outside of the gates, and people are afraid to speak to anyone with a camera. Foreign TV crews are banned from entering the country.

The cost of living began to rise by 30 to 60 per cent, in 2007 (the average wage is $300 a year) and small groups began to gather in peaceful demonstration. The harsh actions taken by the government to disband a group of protesters resulted in the injury of three monks. An apology was demanded by the people. When the government refused, more and more people took to the street including thousands of monks in their traditional saffron coloured robes. It is estimated that at the peak of the protests, up to 100 000 people marched demonstrating in Yangon, citizens forming a protective barrier around the monks. Amidst the peaceful protestors, the vicious police agents, and trigger-happy military the video-journalists did their best to keep the world informed of events inside the closed country. History was recorded on mobile phones and small hand-held cameras that had been smuggled into the country and hidden in bags, but up until now we have only seen short segments.

Burma VJ knits together all of the footage to reconstruct the events from the beginning to their brutal end. The film revolves around a person whose face we never see: ‘Joshua’, who allows us to experience the events through his eyes. Østergaard worked closely with ‘Joshua’ to create re-enactments of certain situations that he couldn’t film, such as telephone conversations, which he then worked around the authentic footage shot by the VJs. This gives the film a much stronger build of tension as we switch between ‘Joshua’, helpless and isolated in the Thailand office and the escalating violence happening in Burma.

Video journalism takes us beyond the experience of being living-room spectators. It makes us witnesses. From Vietnam to 9/11 to the 2004 Tsunami, the camera has played a powerful role in how we view events and the kind of action, we as a global community, take. 

“Sometimes I feel really unhappy when I think about my colleagues in prison”… “I always remind the younger generation that what you are having known is the result of the people who sacrificed before you. We have everything ready now. We have cameras when we want to make a story. We have computers when we want to edit a story. And this is… not because of me. And this is not because of DVB even, we can say. This is because of every Burmese people. It is because of the situation in Burma. So we have to be respectful, whenever we are using all these things. And we have to remember all the time that we need to fight for their freedom.” -Joshua

Daisy Maclean will review recently completed documentaries for TO411 Daily – please contact her for more information: daisy@to411.com. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Headline, Industry News

REVIEWED: Burma VJ

TO411 documentary review
by staff writer Daisy Maclean

The story originally was to be a portrait piece of a young reporter known as ‘Joshua’, a member of an underground network of activists (Democratic Voice of Burma) who risk their lives daily to document the oppressive conditions in the country. However, when the events of September suddenly took a turn, Danish director Anders Østergaard found himself on the precipice of history.

Academy Award nominated documentary, Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country is one of the most important DVD releases this year. The film covers the 2007 Saffron Revolution through footage that has been smuggled out of the country and skilfully woven together by Østergaard. Shot by a few brave undercover video journalists who risked torture and life imprisonment in order to ensure the truth about what was happening in their country got out; it gives a powerful global voice to those Burmese that struggle for freedom in a police-state.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962 and has not seen an uprising since 1988, a protest that ended in thousands of deaths when the military opened fire, and thousands more imprisoned. The protest did lead to the democratic election of Aung San Suu Kyi, however the military refused to hand over power and she has been under house arrest for the past 22 years. Up until 2007, people had been afraid to protest, afraid to speak out against their government. Plain clothes agents wander the streets with video cameras, hunting down dissidents in big-brother fashion. When the film starts, only one man stands in protest outside of the gates, and people are afraid to speak to anyone with a camera. Foreign TV crews are banned from entering the country.

The cost of living began to rise by 30 to 60 per cent, in 2007 (the average wage is $300 a year) and small groups began to gather in peaceful demonstration. The harsh actions taken by the government to disband a group of protesters resulted in the injury of three monks. An apology was demanded by the people. When the government refused, more and more people took to the street including thousands of monks in their traditional saffron coloured robes. It is estimated that at the peak of the protests, up to 100 000 people marched demonstrating in Yangon, citizens forming a protective barrier around the monks. Amidst the peaceful protestors, the vicious police agents, and trigger-happy military the video-journalists did their best to keep the world informed of events inside the closed country. History was recorded on mobile phones and small hand-held cameras that had been smuggled into the country and hidden in bags, but up until now we have only seen short segments.

Burma VJ knits together all of the footage to reconstruct the events from the beginning to their brutal end. The film revolves around a person whose face we never see: ‘Joshua’, who allows us to experience the events through his eyes. Østergaard worked closely with ‘Joshua’ to create re-enactments of certain situations that he couldn’t film, such as telephone conversations, which he then worked around the authentic footage shot by the VJs. This gives the film a much stronger build of tension as we switch between ‘Joshua’, helpless and isolated in the Thailand office and the escalating violence happening in Burma.

Video journalism takes us beyond the experience of being living-room spectators. It makes us witnesses. From Vietnam to 9/11 to the 2004 Tsunami, the camera has played a powerful role in how we view events and the kind of action, we as a global community, take. 

“Sometimes I feel really unhappy when I think about my colleagues in prison”… “I always remind the younger generation that what you are having known is the result of the people who sacrificed before you. We have everything ready now. We have cameras when we want to make a story. We have computers when we want to edit a story. And this is… not because of me. And this is not because of DVB even, we can say. This is because of every Burmese people. It is because of the situation in Burma. So we have to be respectful, whenever we are using all these things. And we have to remember all the time that we need to fight for their freedom.” -Joshua

Daisy Maclean will review recently completed documentaries for TO411 Daily – please contact her for more information: daisy@to411.com. 

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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