Film: Burma VJ

Danish director Anders Østergaard’s Burmese footage makes this documentary move as fast as an action film.

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It’s the rare documentary that thrills like an action flick, but Burma VJ had me cheering for fearless Burmese citizen journalists like they were Jason Bourne. Danish director Anders Østergaard constructs his adrenaline-charged film out of footage shot by ordinary folks who risk arrest and even death to clandestinely document the brutality of the Burmese junta. Its hero is “Joshua,” a 27-year-old amateur field producer for the underground video news organization Democratic Voice of Burma. After more than 45 years of military rule, foreigners often know more about Burmese news than Burmese themselves, since state-controlled media censor the news and carrying a camcorder is illegal. Through Joshua and his colleagues’ lenses, we quickly see why. In September 2007, Buddhist monks take to the streets, only to be attacked by plainclothes security agents and police. One undercover journalist films the body of a beaten monk floating in a swamp.

Østergaard weaves in news reports, interviews, and historical images, but much of the film is visceral real-time footage. In one scene, the frame shudders as the cameraman races toward the sound of gunshots, and the screen blurs as he spots the police and hides the camera. All the jostling makes for a rough ride, but it’s also what makes Burma VJ so captivating.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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