What would it take to make you be strong enough to sacrifice your life for a cause? That was all I could think about having watched Burma VJ, a documentary which collates footage supplied by various video journalists working for DVB, an independent media company condemned by the junta ruled state.
The courage required to partake in a peaceful protest, knowing that there was a high risk of death, is mind-boggling. In Burma, there is no such thing as safety in numbers. Demonstrations are banned. Members of the army can and will shoot civilians. Part of the reason, I imagine, is to show face. They cannot let the population get caught up in a “power to the people” movement in case they overthrow the government.
When the monks starting marching in September 2007 (part of a number of anti-government protests to remove fuel subsidies which caused the price of diesel and petrol to suddenly rise as much as 100%), people thought it would be safe to join them. The government is Buddhist and respects the monks. Their respect, however, was something of the past. This time they shot the monks too.
The film made me question whether I would have joined the protests. I believe in the cause, but would I have laid my life on the line to defend it? Probably not. I’ve already shown myself to be a lazy and selfish world citizen by having never attended a single demonstration in the past.
What is even more remarkable about this documentary is the courage demonstrated by the video journalists. Being caught filming runs the risk of imprisonment, torture, death or all three.
I urge you to watch this film for two reasons.
1. It is an interesting perspective on what’s happening in Burma, made even more relevant by the recent sentencing of Aung San Su Kyi.
2. Human courage never ceases to amaze me. And it makes me question what are the things I really believe in and how far I would go to defend these beliefs.
Ps – If you’re London-based, then there will be a screening at the Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square at 6.20pm on the 11th September 2009.