On November 2008 citizens of Burma (Myanmar) voiced their discontent over their government’s decision to raise fuel prices during hard times. Images of mass demonstrations led by monks standing face to face with armed riot police ending with horrific consequences trickled out of reclusive Burma (Myanmar). The large scale protests were displayed for the whole world to see despite censoring attempts from the repressive ruling military regime. It was dubbed “The Saffron Revolution”.

Burma VJ tells the tale of the VJ’s, short for video journalists, who risked their lives to show the world the injustices and violent atrocities committed by the military Junta. The documentary pieces together news clips, undercover footage and reenactments behind the peaceful and determined Burmese protestors. It pays homage to the intrepid VJ’s as they film undercover in the heart of the action.

The film follows “Joshua” the determined Burmese pro-democracy leader of a network of VJ’s. Joshua works in exile in Thailand and serves as the external link for the network of VJ’s working undercover in Burma for the Democratic Voice of Burma, a news agency whose broadcasts serve to counter the false information from government run news agencies. Foreign journalists are banned from the country, so it is up to the network of VJ’s who risk their freedom and lives to show the world of the injustices through cell phone videos, e-mails, and clandestine footage.

What director Anders Ostergaard does so well is that he places the audience in the middle of the action. He is able to piece together the fragments of footage to create a coherent, compelling, and original portrayal that shy’s away from your run of the mill documentary. A timeline of events unravel before you. The sight of peaceful pious monks leaving their monasteries to lend voice to their fellow man only to be shot at, tortured and murdered hits you at the core. It is a testament to the power of Mahatma Gandhi’s movement of non-violence and day multimedia technology.

In light of the recent sentencing of the Burmese Prime Minister-elect Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Burma is once again in the international spotlight. This screening of Burma VJ could not come at a more crucial time. With elections coming up next year we can expect more demonstrations such as the Saffron Revolution to take root once again.

Reporting From a Closed Country
Runs August 28th-September 3rd
The Northwest Film Forum
1515 12th Ave, Seattle WA 98122
Movie line: (206) 829-7863.

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