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Originally published Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 3:00 PM

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Movie review

'Burma VJ — Reporting From a Closed Country': recording Burmese atrocities

"Burma VJ — Reporting From a Closed Country" is a passionate, powerful Danish-Norwegian documentary about the Burma uprising of August-September 2007.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

"Burma VJ — Reporting From a Closed Country," a documentary by Anders Hogsbro Østergaard. 84 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains rough language, shocking images of street violence). In Burmese and English, with English subtitles. Northwest Film Forum.

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The title, "Burma VJ — Reporting From a Closed Country," says it all in this passionate Danish-Norwegian documentary about the Burma uprising of August-September 2007.

The whole world was watching, largely because photographers and other journalists used digital cameras and the Internet to record and transmit the atrocities that happened daily. When the government tried to shut them down, they defiantly found other routes.

By December, however, the underground's Rangoon headquarters were discovered. Reporters who weren't caught went into hiding. Others faced lifelong prison sentences for recording the brutal treatment of monks, nuns and other rebels.

Narrated by a frightened journalist who trembles as he accumulates forbidden footage and provides a historical viewpoint, "Burma VJ" uses shocking video images and reconstructed scenes to create a coherent, mostly chronological account of what happened.

The sheer size of the protests is captured in several shots that suggest that most of the country was up in arms. The outcome, which echoes the grim finale of a similar 1988 rebellion, is far from positive.

The movie reaches for inspiration only in the commitment of the rebels and the ingenuity of journalists who found a way to tell the story.

John Hartl:

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