Exciting news this morning: The recent film Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country, which features the work of citizen journalists inside the title country’s 2007 “Saffron Revolution,” has been shortlisted for the 2009 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature
Here’s what the editors of the Guardian said in their powerful endorsement of the film earlier this year:
There is an awful lot of rough camera work in the just-released film Burma VJ. Heads missing, over-eager zooms, jumpy shots; that kind of thing. Hollywood directors sometimes do this to inject urgency into that otherwise-tepid thriller, but here the lack of cinematic polish is neither voluntary nor superfluous. A record of life inside totalitarian Burma, this documentary was filmed undercover by amateur video journalists (or VJs) on Handycams kept out of sight of the military junta. If the batteries gave out, the VJs used camera phones instead. The generals run Burma’s TV and radio, and they control most print media, so the anonymous VJs who are the subject of this film perform a rare and brave service. Called the Democratic Voice of Burma, this non-profit network gathers its footage in secret, before smuggling it out of the country. Burma VJ concentrates on the Saffron Uprising of September 2007, when thousands of Buddhist monks marched against military rule. This gesture of defiance soon swells into a mass protest. “Film them all! So many!” cries one marcher to a VJ, and the camera pans around balconies and rooftops crammed with cheering protesters. It is a moving scene, all the more so because the viewer knows that soon the uprising will be crushed, with thousands killed and arrested. Citizen journalism is much talked about, but this film shows it at its best – as a powerful force, allowing the world access to places and episodes that would otherwise remain hidden.