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Mona's Musings : Eyes on Burma

【明報專訊】When the bloody crackdown in Myanmar (also known as Burma) hit the headlines in February amidst the dirty load of international news, we weren't sure how to respond. Beyond solidarity felt for the protesters demanding democracy and deep sorrow for those brutally shot, our hands were tied.

Or perhaps, our minds were also tied. Truth be told, besides the familiar name of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar isn't among our most familiar countries. Since its independence in 1948 from British rule, the country has been under heavy junta control until 2011, during which it was largely closed from the outside world. Information about Myanmar was sporadic, and often of urgency. In 2007, a monk-led uprising similar in nature to the recent protests resulted in relentless military crackdown. At that time, civilian journalists risked their lives to document the mass killing — monasteries raided, monks detained (扣留) or slaughtered, bodies floating in rivers. The recordings were transmitted to international news outlets via satellite networks, allowing the audience to feel the pulse of the violence. Yet, it was until much later that the full development of the protests was released in the documentary Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country, which won the World Cinema Documentary Film Editing Award at Sundance Film Festival 2009. By then, most of the journalists involved in the initial shooting were detained as political prisoners, or killed.

Burma VJ will be shown at Broadway Cinematheque, along with two other documentaries and two featured dramas about Myanmar from May 1 to May 16. All the films revolve around Buddhism and ethnic minorities — two undercurrents of contemporary Myanmar politics. To supplement the films with something more diverse and robust, check out the IG account "Myanmart", a creative outlet for Burmese artists to speak their thoughts via different artistic media. If you're looking for constructive changes, Hong Kong based NGO "Connecting Myanmar" has been fundraising and offering scholarships for Burmese students for the last decade. While there is nothing we can do to stop the killing, we should perhaps make use of the channels of information to learn when they are still available. After all, access to information has become an increasingly rare privilege to our counterparts in many parts of the world.

More about "Eyes on Burma":www.cinema.com.hk/en/movie/special/28

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Mona C. has a strong appetite for stories. Feed her enough.

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