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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Burma VJ: Reporting From A Closed Country

To open up this review, I must at least make further reference to the fact that I think that this is the year of the documentary film. With work such as Tyson, while certainly flawed, and the masterpiece Anvil: The Story of Anvil, this has already proved to be a great year for the documentary film. However, with the arrival of Burma VJ, it will prove to be an exceptional year. The premise of Burma VJ is that the film is shot entirely on amateur footage in Burma, a country ruled by a military dictatorship, with extreme suppression of the media, around the time of the September 2007 peaceful protests against the opression of the regime which Burma has been ruled under since 1962. Now, released at the start of last year, Sylvester Stallone's film Rambo was the first film in an English language to really show light the regime of Burma, if unsuccessfully due to the nature of the violent regime being used as a plot device for the film's action. However, with Burma VJ, I am very glad at the fact that quite an obvious issue of human rights has properly been given the light it deserves. This film is very important and sh0uld be released on wide release, if just to inform people of the hideousness of the regime. Very much the counterpart to Anvil, in which Anvil is very a little story, Burma VJ is a big story of a great issue which clearly needs to addressed. However, in a manner similar to Anvil, this documentary film is the kind of film that would be massively lauded if it was a piece of fiction. Throughout the film, through the efforts of undercover journalists, who generally have cameras hidden inside a bag, we are thrown into a world who's door's have been closed to the world. Also consistent in the piece is the unending tension as the camera takes us through the overcrowded streets, in which many government employees are in plain clothes near indistinguishable from the rest of the country's inhabitants. Interspersed with phone calls and recreations of the attempts of members of a suppressed and banned news station to get this footage to the public in order to cause uprising, this proves to as tense and almost in the vein of classic conspiracy thrillers from the 1970's. A number of critics have cited the recreations as a means of undermining the actual footage. I do not believe this does so. I believe that it highlights the human emotions rampant throughout, and the recreations create a coherant story of the struggle of the Burmese people against the regime. It also helps highlight the neccessity for freedom of speech in the press and the power of the medium of technology and film these days. Many people who see this will be moved to activism as a result in my opinion, and the fact that this film has in fact has been able to be made highlights just how signifcant film is in our world, particularly in highlighting the injustices and human rights situations around the world. Also, whenever the protests are actually going on, you feel so great and so triumphant at the unity of humanity against oppression, particularly when the government agents attempts to take the journalists covering the events into detention but the monks supporting the protest encircle them. Director Anders Ostergaard has crafted a piece which is of significant importance and for which he should be very. This film, which encapsulates so many different emotions, good and bad, should be preserved as a time capsule of the triumph of the human spirit and unification over the forces of evil.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.4/10

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