VIFF 09 Review: Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country


BurmaVJMovieStillSince 1962, Burma has been a ruled by a Military Junta. In 1988, the country saw an uprising of the people and led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and supported by the students, it looked as though Burma might return to democracy but the protests were met by brutal force and ended in bloodshed and the killing of thousands of protesters. In 2007, the country saw more protests the likes of which had not been seen since 1988 but with a country closed to outsiders, news of the brooding revolution were quenched by the military regime. A small group of citizen reporters, men and women with video cameras and computers took it upon themselves to chronicle the events which were unfolding inside of the country and their footage is at the centre of Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country.

Much more than a history lesson on events that unfolded over a few short weeks, Burma VJ is a sort of cheerleader for citizen journalism while also outlining how important technology has become in the people’s movement. The reporters used little more than handheld video cameras to capture the images that put the entire world on alert and though the uprising was ultimately defeated, it showed the world that all was not well in Burma. Powerful images of the country’s 400,000 monks taking to the streets in support of change were only available due to men like the film’s narrator “Joshua”, putting their lives on the line.

Director Anders Hogsbro Østergaard crafts a compelling and powerful documentary using little more than the footage shot by the VJ’s and Joshua’s account of the events as he saw them unfolding from exile. Along with the footage which speaks volumes, we hear his frantic calls to fellow journalists still inside the country and the ever repeated mantra to “keep shooting.”

Burma is still a closed country ruled by heavy military hand which rivals big brother but the fear has not stopped other men and women from continuing to smuggle information out of the country. Burma VJ is not only an eye opening document of the events that occurred in 2007, it is also a plea for help.


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Bob Turnbull

It's pretty fascinating stuff…And it's hard to get your head around the fact that this happens in numerous places in the world.

I've hated it when people use strong words like "fascist" in improper contexts (whether they be far leaning left or right) and having seen this film, it irks me even more. If someone thinks any of North America's leaders are being fascist, just point them to this film. I'd like to think that might level set them a bit…