Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country (2008)

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country is a documentary that has been getting rave reviews since the past summer. It was released in three theaters in May. It was recently nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary with a Metacritic score of 82; I wanted to check it out. I realized that the movie has been given a DVD release, so I had to watch the film online. (I wish that these documentaries are shown to the general public at least, so people don’t have to download torrents of it.)

Director Anders Østergaard reconstructs the events of a protest taking place in Burma circa 2007. The movie is constructed out of smuggled footage taken my small digital video cameras from 30 underground video journalists called the “Democratic Voice of Burma”. The leader of the group is called “Joshua” who is documenting the unrest of the Burmese people after a 40 year military regime is taken over their lives.

There was a well-documented uprising in 1988 where a student-led demonstration happened on the streets. They thought that they would get democracy in their country, but the regime had military force and gunned down three thousand of them.

The video journalists’ faces are hidden to protect themselves from jail time. In the summer of 2007, the people of Burma were fed up with the regime inflating the cost of living. Public unrest soon followed. The regime did not want any outside influences in their conflict. Any person that this is filming the protests who had their cameras confiscated, the footage destroyed and face a long jail sentence.

The VJs document the protest by hiding the cameras in tents or under their arms. They send the footage via the internet to outside news outlets like the BBC or CNN so they could find out the latest developments.

The people felt like all hope is lost when an unmistaken force joins the protest. Hundreds of Buddhist monks who don’t involve themselves in political activities marched, because they felt that the country was suffering and that they should do something about it. The presence of the monks inspires the people, a hundred thousand strong, to rise up against the corrupt regime.

I was fascinated by this movie. I never heard of this protest with all coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The movie was reconstructed and re-enacted from the footage of what happened. That didn’t take away from the impact of wanting change when all seems lost.

The first part of the doc was meh in my opinion. Hearing “Joshua’s” broken English didn’t help matters that much. When they got into the meat and potatoes of the documentary, that when it really revved up for me.

Judgment: This documentary is about a subject that you might not get to see without the determination of these fearless VJs.

Rating: ****1/2


About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on February 11, 2010, in 2008, Academy Award Nominee, Documentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. You would be surprised all the stuff that happens around the world that is never reported at all by the likes of CNN, Fox News or MSNBC…

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