Burma VJ: Reporting From A Closed Country
by Del Harvey
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The former Southeast Asian nation of Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been under the control of a military dictatorship since a coup toppled the elected prime minister in 1962. This means that Burma’s press and mass media have been under the strict control of a military government that rules harshly and with great indifference for civil rights. Dissent has had little opportunity to take hold in the country, but signs of such opposition began to change in 2007 when a small group of Buddhist monks stepped forward to lead a revolt against the state. As news spread about their actions as many as one hundred thousand people took part in protests against the oppressive and violent leadership.
The official state media ignored the uprising, but necessity gave birth to a new breed of reporters who emerged to cover the revolution - the Democratic Voice of Burma, also known as the Burma VJs, a handful of young video journalists armed with hand-held digital video cameras.
In a desperate act of rebellion, the Burma VJs filmed the protests as well as violent acts committed by police and military officials, then smuggled the footage to colleagues in Thailand, who then passed their images on to news organizations the world over.
Filmmaker Anders Østergaard’s film Burma VJ: Reporting From A Closed Country, takes a hard look at how new technology is pressed into the service of a people’s revolution in a documentary which tells the story of the Democratic Voice of Burma and their role in the battle for a free and democratic country.
Oscilloscope Laboratories debuts the DVD of this critically acclaimed and award-winning documentary on June 15th, 2010.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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