Published Aug 06, 2009The full title says it all: Reporting from a Closed Country. Since 1962 a military regime has run this Southeast Asian nation with a cruel fist. Dissidents have "disappeared," legitimate leaders (namely Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi) suffer house arrest, election results are ignored and media censorship runs rampant.
That censorship extends to the Internet, which a small group of brave video journalists resist by uploading clandestine images of arrests and brutality to the world. Joshua, the 27-year-old leader of the Democratic Voice of Burma, leads these guerrilla journalists, who risk torture and imprisonment, during the mass uprising of September 2007.
We never see Joshua but hear him throughout this gripping documentary, as he guides us through the 2007 demonstrations, which were sparked when government thugs beat up some monks. The Burmese are devout Buddhists and news of the beatings sparked anger.
In a rare event, hundreds of monks peacefully marched through the streets of the capital, Yangon, which soon attracted more than 100,000 citizens. Joshua is electrified by the moment, as he and his colleagues videotape the march up close with small camcorders. However, Joshua is unsure of how the military will react. Surely they wouldn't harm the monks, who are beloved across the nation, would they?
Burma VJ takes us through the days of marches, the inevitable army reaction and DVB's efforts to transmit their footage to BBC, CNN and the rest of the world. The VJs film from distant balconies and behind bushes, all within shooting distance of soldiers. Their footage is dramatic, exhilarating and tragic. Again, given state censorship, all foreign journalists have been banned, which leaves DVB to tell the tale. And they tell it with clarity and conviction. (First Hand)