The Controversy Surrounding Burma VJ

Just watched Burma VJ, an interesting through the camera look at the relationship between videographers from the Democratic Voice of Burma and the Burma protests of 2007, which may have sown the seeds somewhat for Burma's upcoming election, an election which will be far from perfect, but an election nonetheless which may start creating more accountability for the powers that be in the slowly moving southeast Asian nation.

I wondered if the staged scenes with "Joshua", the self-exiled coordinator of the videographers, felt too staged and out of place by how perfectly filmed these were as opposed to the raw protest footage, which was maybe the point though, for effect and visual breathing. It also gave the movie its narrative structure with Joshua "calling" the videographers as they were filming the action.

Quick research led me to a Time article, Burma VJ:Truth as Casualty, which points out that even some of the protest scenes were staged in Thailand. Director Anders Ƙstergaard is said to often use these techniques in his "documentary" movies.

There is one scene which I did find to be too good for one of the videographers to pull off, when the junta has barred more than five people from assembling, and hiding behind a pole, he counts, one...two...three... etc... hundreds, as people start assembling again before his very camera.

In this case, those scenes were filmed in identical style as the original protest footage. Does this go too far? Michael Moore also does this a lot, and says his movies are based on a premise, and that he remains a storyteller who uses video, true or not, to make a point. Is this applicable in the case of Burma VJ?

Watch the excellent movie and judge for yourself. I think it's ok, but the Time journalist, Andrew Marshall, seems to disagree.

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