Burma VJ

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Burma VJ
WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIORS Burmese monks stage their own sit-ins.

They hide under the cover of crowds, or else shoot from the periphery as government thugs push around peaceful protesters. These guerrilla warriors don’t carry rifles or rocket launchers; their weapon of choice is a minuscule digital camcorder. The members of the Democratic Voice of Burma fight their country’s military dictatorship by clandestinely filming life under the junta and uploading the footage to Norwegian middlemen, who disseminate these MPEG files to Western news outlets. If Anders stergaard’s documentary simply followed around a DVB reporter—code name: Joshua—and detailed the obstacles this video journalist faces, the film would make for compelling viewing. But the director and his subject happen to capture history when the latter records the uprising that accompanies a 2007 fuel price hike. Citizens and monks voice their opposition in the streets; antidemocratic goons take out their clubs. Thanks to Joshua, the (temporary) revolution will in fact be televised.

Burma VJ’s strength as an informational conduit is occasionally belied by formal constraints; there are only so many ways to show narrated secondhand footage without obscuring the message. But embedded within this meta-testament to the brave Burmese souls who risk all is a reminder that, in our era of info overload (too much imagery, too many screens!), technology is the next-gen frontier for fighting oppression. “I feel the world is forgetting about us,” Joshua declares. Then he points his pinprick lens, clicks his mouse and ensures the fight won’t be swept under the collective rug.—David Fear

Now playing; Film Forum. Find showtimes

See also “At close range”

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