VIDEO: The trailer for Burma VJ
Unlike totalitarian states with cult-of-personality frontmen, Burma's government is a nameless, faceless junta. As dictatorships go, that has its advantages: fear and paranoia run arguably deeper in Burma (a/k/a Myanmar), a country so impenetrably Orwellian that the leadership is commonly referred to both by its own citizenry and by the international media as "the generals."
Those generals are responsible for decades of appalling human-rights violations — most notably the 1988 killing in the streets of 3000 demonstrators and, in the midst of a series of 2007 anti-government protests, the quasi-execution of a Japanese journalist. In a turnabout-is-fair-play blow against the empire, nameless, faceless video journalists (the VJs of the film's title) captured smoking-gun footage from those 2007 protests and smuggled it (under penalty of death) to Europe.
That's where Danish director Anders Østergaard came in, weaving the contraband video with new material into a powerful documentary that showcases the heroism of ordinary Burmese people. Although the junta is far from being toppled, it's moving cinema to witness how the simple act of clapping can so unnerve the mighty generals.