Quick Review: Burma VJ

The 2009 film Burma VJ provides an insider perspective of the troubles in Burma/Mynamar in 2008. A few thoughts about the film:

1. The movie is told from the perspective of a small group of video journalists. With some handicams (the sort of handheld camcorders you could buy for a few hundred dollars at Best Buy), these men were able to show the conditions in the country to the world, breaking the embargo on outside media put on by the military junta.

2. A quick overview of the story: when the government doubled gas prices in 2008, people responded in protest. When the Buddhist monks joined in, the protests gathered steam. As the people were gaining attention around the world, the military junta responded by arresting and beating up and killing at least one monk. The protests died out and once again, the people were left to suffer.

2a. I remember hearing about this on the news back in 2008 but sadly, I knew nothing of what had gone on.

3. One thing I have wondered about is the power of the Internet to do good. Does the Internet actually lead to better relationships between people, more knowledgeable citizens, and a more robust civil society? I am usually skeptical. But this film suggests good can come out of even a spotty Internet connection. The world’s major news networks were utterly dependent on these videojournalists. They were also able to depict the plight of the Burmese people with limited equipment and power. Although they were ultimately not successful in overthrowing the junta, they may have been close.

4. The Buddhist monks play a prominent role in this film. While the monks are not supposed to get involved in politics, they can react in defense of the oppressed people. When they join the people’s protests, the tide seems to turn against the government. This was a reminder of the ability of those with the moral high ground to produce change in society.

This was an interesting film that exposed both the plight of the Burmese people and the effect a small group of dedicated video journalists can have in a desperate situation.