Burma – A Human Tragedy (2011)

Description (from the DVD sleeve):
In 1989 Aung San Suu Kyi (“The Lady”), returned to visit Burma and decided to stay, casting her lot with the fate of the country.  Put under house arrest for 21 years, The Lady continuously refused every opportunity to leave.  What would make a mother, a wife, a woman sacrifice her family life, her career, her freedom, in this manner?  Through unflinching images of Burma’s reality, interviews with refugees, survivors and Burma’s democratically elected president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma-A Human Tragedy documents the harrowing experience of living under the brutal regime of the military Junta in Burma, and how The Lady’s constant presence in her homeland has brought her compatriots the peaceful show of strength that has fanned and fed the flames of democracy in her people’s hearts, all “For the Love of Freedom.”

Major Cast:
Narrated by Anjelica Huston

Special Features:
Includes free “For the Love of Freedom” bracelet

Directed by Neil Hollander

I knew before watching BURMA – A HUMAN TRAGEDY that this was not going to be a “fun” or “enjoyable” movie.  I knew that there would be no happy ending or feel-good moment when everything turns around and is ok.  Unlike fiction, in a documentary things are what they are, and I knew that Burma is a horrible situation for millions of people.  I just didn’t know how horrible.

B-AHT is the story of the Burmese people and the very few that rule the very many with unflinching violence and horror.  The documentary is woven around an interview with Nobel winner Aung San Suu Kyi, known to her people as “The Lady,” in which she basically spells out for the viewers just how horrible things have become in her country, and just how little the world seems to care.  Burma, aka Myanmar, was a British colony from 1886 until 1948, and since the fall of the British rule has been in constant civil war.  For a few short years the country was a democratic republic, but fell under military rule in 1962.  From 1962 up until very recently (2011), the ruling military Juntas have controlled everything, and have been systematically destroying some of the smaller ethnic groups within Burma, specifically the Rohingya and the Karen.  The Juntas also controlled all of the wealth and natural resources within Burma, to include the poppy fields.

The Lady greets her supporters

B-AHT is a very upfront and frank view into what life was like until very recently in a country that has received very little attention from the world stage.  The Junta were so controlling of the country, and so paranoid of losing their grip that they even refused international aid after devastating tsunami destroyed much of the coast.  To show just how far the government would go to control the people: not only did Burma NOT sign the international ban on landmines, they actually built state factories to make landmines, and were known for planting them around villages that had been destroyed, just to keep the villages from trying to come back and salvage anything not burned to the ground.  Not just continuing to use mines, but using them en masse and not bothering to document where they had planted the mines.  A section of B-AHT follows not only people that have been injured by mines, but elephants as well.

Burmese resistance fighters dig for land mines by hand

On the production side of B-AHT, the film was nicely edited and the narration by Anjelica Huston was very poignant and well recorded.  The video quality varied throughout as some of the footage was stock; it was never really bad, but it was never really awesome either, which is to be expected as I don’t think they were lugging big expensive cameras through the dangerous jungles of Burma.  There were a few bits that annoyed me, most noticeably the opening titles.  I know this is petty, but the opening titles set the mood for the film, and the opening titles for B-AHT screamed, “made for TV, cheaply” to me.  Also, I personally hate real violence.  I knew with B-AHT that I was GOING to see some things I didn’t want to see, and thankfully the video was not as horribly graphic as I’m sure it could have been, but still I did not need to see some of the things presented on screen.  Or, maybe I did; I didn’t WANT to see what I saw, but in seeing the true horror there in Burma makes on realize that it is TRUE HORROR.  I just hope that there will not be any people that “just like gore” renting this movie for the gory bits.

A Karen refugee talks about her husband

Overall, B-AHT was tough to watch.  It was a horrible story about a horrible situation that has been woefully underreported.  I was glad to find, in doing a little more background research for this review, that Burma’s Juntas are no longer in complete control of the country.  I do not know how much better it is there, but anything is better than the reality shown in B-AHT.  This is not a fun movie, not an enjoyable movie, but it is an important movie that needs to be seen.

Overall 8 / 10

B-AHT on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1924238/

B-AHT for sale: http://amzn.com/B008E6ZYOO  (releases August 14th)

B-AHT site: http://www.jellybeanfilm.com/new_project.php?project=Burma%20-%20A%20Human%20Tragedy

Burma – A Human Tragedy (2011)
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