Denmark/Sweden, 2008, 84 minutes
Fri, May 1 / 6:30 / Kabuki / BURM01K
Sat, May 2 / 9:15 / Kabuki / BURM02K
Wed, May 6 / 8:45 / PFA / BURM06P
If there’s a gutsier group of journalists anywhere on the globe than the network of youthful correspondents that calls itself the Democratic Voice of Burma, we haven’t heard of them. Just as democracy depends on a free press to keep the powerful in check, tyranny demands the suppression of information to preserve power. The military dictatorship that’s controlled Myanmar for decades utilizes a combination of force and fear rarely glimpsed by outsiders. But the eyes of the entire world were riveted in September 2007, when hundreds of monks marched in silent protest through the streets of Rangoon. They were joined by thousands of chanting citizens thirsting for change. The predictable government reaction of shutting out foreign news teams, unplugging the already restricted Internet and spreading propaganda was thwarted by the DVB’s export of camcorder footage to TV stations in Europe and the U.S. A cadre of reporters risked arrest and torture to stealthily record the marches and the military response, while their bureau chief, “Joshua,” coordinated from a safe house in Thailand. Danish filmmaker Anders Ostergaard artfully merges breathless sequences from the smuggled tapes with recreations of Joshua’s cell phone conversations, crafting a harrowing narrative that thrusts us into the protestors’ giddy celebrations and the terrifying aftermath. Burma VJ demonstrates the potential of consumer technology to divert power to the people, but above all salutes the heroes who pressed “record” within eyeshot of the secret police. To paraphrase George Seldes, journalists still need to show the truth and run.
In English and Burmese with English subtitles. Presented with support from Margaret and William Hearst III and in association with the Center for Investigative Reporting. GGA Documentary Feature Contender. West Coast Premiere.