Film: Burma VJ

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

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


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.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

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

Subscribe

Support our journalism

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

Donate