Burma VJ (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/07/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 84 mins

Powerful, inspirational and frequently terrifying documentary that tells a genuinely fascinating story and will provoke both sadness and righteous anger in equal measure.

What's it all about?
Directed by Anders Ostergaard, Burma VJ tells the story of Burma's underground network of video journalists, who risked their lives to capture footage of the September 2007 uprising by Buddhist monks and civilians against the ruling military junta. The film is narrated by 27 year old “Joshua,” who coordinates a crew of journalists for the Democratic Voice of Burma and whose job it is to record, collect and smuggle footage to the world's press (via the internet or satellite phone).

Incredibly, Ostergaard was already profiling Joshua when the protests began, sparked by a massive increase in fuel prices. Though some of the linking footage is reconstructed, Joshua's cameras are there for the moment the monks (the only force large enough to really threaten the junta's authority) first take to the streets and the rest is, quite literally, history.

The Good
The film provides a fascinating insight into how Joshua and his team were able to obtain their extraordinary footage in the first place (essentially, by keeping an ear to the ground and mobilising fast, handheld cameras at the ready) and contains some terrifying sequences such as when one of the police officers spots Joshua's camera. It also includes a deeply upsetting section on the murder of Japanese photojournalist Nagai Kenji.

The Great
Though the film is frightening and desperately sad in places, it also contains moments of joyous triumph, such as when Joshua discovers his footage on the BBC. This is, however, followed by crushing depression, because you realise that the rebellion was eventually crushed and that the political situation remains unchanged.

Worth seeing?
Like the best political documentaries, Burma VJ provokes both sadness and anger, while (hopefully) inspiring you to take action of some kind. It's also a deeply moving story about human courage and the astonishing tenacity of the journalistic spirit. Highly recommended.

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Burma VJ (15)
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Content updated: 17/10/2017 14:03

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