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In 1962, the Burmese government was overthrown in a coup by the socialist military, who maintained control of the country until 2011. During this time, Burma deteriorated into poverty, while any protests or statements made against the ruling government were quickly crushed through intimidation, torture, outlandishly long jail sentences and executions. In 1988, a series of marches, rallies and protests now known as the 8888 Uprising were brought to a bloody end as the military killed 3,000 civilians in the streets.
With the media controlled by the state and a ban on any footage leaving the country, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) has trained its journalists to work as guerrilla cameraman, working in the shadows to capture any acts of oppression or revolution. They work as a network but rarely meet, communicating using mobile phones and internet chatrooms, and frequently putting themselves at great personal risk. Being captured could mean death, with our narrator, known as 'Joshua', having his footage wiped early on by secret police and being forced into exile. Clever reconstructions of Joshua receiving updates on a new uprising now known as the Saffron Revolution, led by the Buddhist monks, forms a tense narrative.
The footage captured by the DVB is astonishing, with the action taking place right before your eyes. It is also, at times, incredibly intimate. Early on, the monks distrust the DVB, suspecting they are secret police. When the cameramen are attacked by plain-clothes military, the monks protect them and trust is immediately solidified. You are instantly swept up by the protesters elation and feel their incredible sense of hope, so it's absolutely shattering to see it all torn away. Director Anders Ostergaard weaves the footage together expertly, and the film is wholly deserving of its Best Documentary nomination at the Academy Awards in 2010 (and probably deserved to win). It's as close as you could get to being on the streets of a country under a crushing regime, and the results are frustrating and terrifying.
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