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Burma VJ: Inside access

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Back in 1988, Burmese citizens who were tired of their country being run by a military regime staged a massive protest, an act that led to the slaughter of thousands of innocent people by the barbaric ruling class. A similar uprising occurred again in 2007, and Burma VJ provides inside access to that clash, even though all media coverage of events transpiring in that impoverished country is strictly forbidden by the government. But thanks to a band of Burmese video journalists who risked imprisonment or worse in an effort to let the world know about the atrocious conditions in their country, valuable footage from that historic confrontation -- which found thousands of Buddhist monks leading the people in rebellion -- was sneaked out of the country and managed to be seen on news broadcasts around the globe.

To be clear, the star rating for Burma VJ is more for its worth as a historical document than for its fluidity as a motion picture. In telling this important story, director Anders Ostergaard had to stage a great number of reenactments -- chiefly, a Burmese VJ who goes by "Joshua" plays himself while showing his role in the proceedings -- and these dramatizations are distracting breaks from the actual footage of the protests. Then again, Ostergaard probably wouldn't have had enough material to fashion a full-length movie without them, so it's a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

At any rate, the authentic footage is powerful stuff, although since we know the outcome of that uprising, and since the world has moved on (court jester Bush is shown telling an assembly at the time that Americans were outraged by the events taking place in Burma; honestly, did enough people look up from American Idol long enough to notice?), the end result is rather depressing. Burma VJ is doubtless meant to serve as a tribute to the courage and indomitability of humans thrust into dire situations, but it can just as easily be seen as a sobering example of the evil that men do.

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