Big Brother in Burma


It’s a much-repeated joke in Burma that George Orwell wrote not one but three books about Burma.  His Burmese Days showed Burma during the British Raj, while 1984 and Animal Farm neatly summed up the totalitarian regime that turned one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia into one of the poorest.

This is my rather roundabout way of saying that if you don’t have plans for Sunday or Monday, please go to the Red Vic Movie House to see Anders Østergaard’s Burma VJ.  I haven’t yet seen it, but a friend who exhausted herself at the last Sundance Festival said that it was probably one of the best docs she’d seen.

Usually I eschew pushing media I haven’t experienced firsthand, but the trailer gives me the shivers.  Sadly, it also reinforces the truth of the sick Orwellian joke that has been visited upon the people of Burma for too long.

This will be no passive experience, as the Burmese American Democratic Alliance and the Buddhist-inspired Clear View Project will be on hand after each evening screening for what surely will be an intense Q&A.

Please set us know what you think in the comments if you do go!

7 Responses to “Big Brother in Burma”

  1. susi  on October 4th, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Bravo. Thank you for bringing this film to my attention. I have spent time in Burma on numerous occasions over the past ten years, and it pains me to see this footage. To the point that I am re-motivated to find ways to give my support . . . not an easy thing, believe me. The world has no idea how dire the situation is there. These people are smart, patient, peaceful . . . and victimised.

  2. susi  on October 4th, 2009 at 10:13 am

    The entire film can be viewed at any time on Youtube.

  3. bittermelon  on October 6th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Hi Susi, thanks for commenting here, and for sharing your personal thoughts. AND, for the Youtube tip!

  4. Nancy  on October 8th, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Your readers might find this article and the links interesting:
    The Burma Campaign is an organization devoted to returning democracy to Burma.

  5. TW  on November 14th, 2009 at 12:33 am

    I’m glad to know this documentary is on YouTube. A book I can highly recommend is Searching for George Orwell in Burma, which takes exactly the premise of this blog post: his Burma Days as a colonial police officer in the 1920s, which turned him into a fervent anti-imperialist, his Animal Farm, mapping with Burma’s disastrous experiment with socialism, and 1984, which is the world in which the Burmese today live. Highly recommended.

    Since the US has no commercial or diplomatic presence in Burma, it seems to me American citizens’ activism might be better spent on Chinese, Indian, and Thai activists, who might educate and influence their respective governments, as these countries do have relations with Burma.

  6. nico  on November 16th, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Completely agree: I think Emma Larkin’s Searching for Geo. Orwell in Burma is essential reading.
    In the Museum Store, we routinely sell out of Orwell’s novel, Emma Larkin’s book, and The Glass Palace.

    I was just going to give you my review of the last one, but I may as well just link to this:

  7. TW  on January 4th, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Good to know Larkin’s book is available at the bookstore. I was traveling in Burma just a little over a year ago. It was interesting to see so many copies of Orwell’s Burma Days being sold everywhere. If only they had his other work.

    I much enjoyed The Glass Palace as well.

    I plan to see the exhibit this weekend before it closes!

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