The first feature film to ever be screened at Number 10, in an event set-up by Sarah Brown on Aung San Suu's birthday, and the first feature from the Co-Op Group's new partnership with distributor DogWoof - Burma VJ is a guerilla documnetary made up of footage smuggled out of Myanmar (Burma) by video journalists in the country (and is a great example of open video's relationship with traditional film):
"Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Anders Østergaard, the award winning, powerful and shocking documentary provides a unique glimpse into life on the streets of Burma’s capital – Rangoon. The vast majority of the film consists of illegal footage using concealed cameras. Burma VJ, reveals this hidden world, seen through the eyes of the undercover VJs (Video Journalists) who document everyday life under a military regime.
Filmed over a number of days, the VJs by chance end up recording the appalling treatment of the Burmese citizens and monks – which caused a global uproar, after their peaceful protests resulted in violent opposition by their government.
The Burmese VJs risk torture, imprisonment and even death in their quest to report honestly what is going on in their closed country. The material in this film has been made possible through illegal smuggling and broadcast to international media (whom the government accuses of lying) and into Burma via satellite. Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals and Sustainability, explains The Co-operative’s motivation for supporting this film:
“People put their lives on the line to get this footage out of Burma in the hope that the world would take notice. News stories come and go, but the oppression in Burma is as bad as anywhere on the planet, and we mustn’t turn a blind eye”.
The film not only exposes the threat the government faces from the camera wielding VJs but also the day-to-day hardships faced by the Burmese.Independent film distributor Dogwoof has teamed up with The Co-operative to release Burma VJ in the UK.
Burma VJ will be previewed nationwide at the Saffron Premiere on 14 July and released on 17 July by Dogwoof and The Co-operative.
The Co-operative has been trying to keep Burma in the public eye for a number of years. Since 2000, The Co-operative Bank has declined to provide financial services to any company with a significant presence in Burma. In 2005, The Co-operative Financial Services supported the Burma Campaign UK in a campaign that argued the case for the withdrawal from Burma of Total. The Co-operative Travel has also delisted the country as a tourist destination.
(This article was based on a press release from Substance PR with minimal editing)