Film: Burma VJ

Danish director Anders Østergaard’s Burmese footage makes this documentary move as fast as an action film.

It’s the rare documentary that thrills like an action flick, but Burma VJ had me cheering for fearless Burmese citizen journalists like they were Jason Bourne. Danish director Anders Østergaard constructs his adrenaline-charged film out of footage shot by ordinary folks who risk arrest and even death to clandestinely document the brutality of the Burmese junta. Its hero is “Joshua,” a 27-year-old amateur field producer for the underground video news organization Democratic Voice of Burma. After more than 45 years of military rule, foreigners often know more about Burmese news than Burmese themselves, since state-controlled media censor the news and carrying a camcorder is illegal. Through Joshua and his colleagues’ lenses, we quickly see why. In September 2007, Buddhist monks take to the streets, only to be attacked by plainclothes security agents and police. One undercover journalist films the body of a beaten monk floating in a swamp.

Østergaard weaves in news reports, interviews, and historical images, but much of the film is visceral real-time footage. In one scene, the frame shudders as the cameraman races toward the sound of gunshots, and the screen blurs as he spots the police and hides the camera. All the jostling makes for a rough ride, but it’s also what makes Burma VJ so captivating.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.