Review of Freedom Film Fest 2012 on Sunday, 28 Oct at The Substation by Jen Shek Voon

Part 3 (Final)

Film #4:Cry Freedom -Into The Current (5pm to 7pm)

By Jeanne Marie Hallacy and The Democratic Voice of Burma | 75 mins | English

with 30 mins discussion: moderator: Lynn Lee

Film & Director’s Profiles

 Jeanne Marie Hallacy, journalist and film director has studied Burma for nearly 2 decades, and Burma’s struggle for democracy, and how the military dictators surround their bubbles with wealth from their rich natural resourceful country.

The Democratic Voice of Burma (“ DVB”) is a non-profit media organization based in Oslo, Norway. Run by Burmese expatriates, it makes radio and television broadcasts aimed at providing uncensored news and information about Burma (also known as Myanmar), the country’s military regime, and its political opposition.

In July 1992, DVB began broadcasting programming into Burma via shortwave radio. According to DVB, these broadcasts reach millions of listeners.

On May 28, 2005, DVB expanded its programming and began satellite television broadcasts into the country. The organization stated that it hoped to reach some ten million Burmese through this new effort (which it claims is the first free and independent Burmese language television channel), which was funded in part by non-governmental organizations such as Free Voice of the Netherlands, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Freedom of Expression Foundation.

Into the Current tells the story of Burma’s unsung heroes – its prisoners of conscience and the price they pay for speaking truth to power. It illuminates the profoundly inspiring political vision of many recently released prisoners, at a time when Burma is just beginning her historical change towards democratic reform. The film poses key questions about the legal and institutional reforms needed to end political repression

and torture. It looks at how key leader non-violent leaders, other than Aung San Suu Kyi, have contributed to lasting change for freedom and democracy.

Review & Commentary

Who are the unsung heroes?

Aw Oo Tun ; better known by his alias Min Ko Naing, (literally “Conqueror of Kings”) is the President of Universities Student Union of Burma (Myanmar) and a leading democracy activist and dissident. He has spent most of the years since 1988 imprisoned by the state for his opposition activities. The New York Times has described him as Burma’s “most influential opposition figure” after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

On 7 July 1988, many imprisoned student activists were released. The following day, Min Ko Naing and others released the first statement in the name of the new All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), an organization that had previously been known for its struggle against British colonial rule: “We shouldn’t be swayed by the release of our fellow students. We will continue to fight.”

The ABSFU continued to release statements by Min Ko Naing urging protests to the military government, including one calling for a general strike on 8-8-88, a number which would later become synonymous with the movement itself.

The film documents the many times that Min Ko Naing was released and then re-arrested, and showed his courage in the face of the toughest adversity, and also whilst in solitary confinement in the dark, he would talk to ants, and compose a song which he sung. And this became the National Anthem for all political prisoners in solitary confinement, as they passed the tune and lyrics from one to another, by singing it.

The other hero in the film is Bo Kyi, who works tirelessly from Mae Sot, Thailand, a transit camp on the Thailand/Myanmar border with bad teeth from chain-smoking cheroots. He is the outside voice for all political prisoners in Myanmar and his hero is Min Ko Naing, whose name is painted on his right palm in the movie poster but in the film, it is his brother’s name.

Bo Kyi was one of Human Rights Watch’s two honorees (the other was a journalist from Uzbekistan named Umida Niazova).

And the film showed him making the acceptance speech of the Award, in which he said:” I accept this award tonight on behalf of all my brothers and sisters standing tall in the horrific prisons of Burma”.

“I was arrested as I was eating with my family. I was handcuffed, hooded, and taken away in a car. I was ordered to lie down so that no one could see me”.

“When I removed my hood I saw I was in a tiny cell. During interrogation, they did not provide food and water. When I looked on the wall, I saw blood splatters from the prisoners who came before me. People had carved their names on the wall. Some of those names were the names of my friends”.

“I asked myself, “Where are they now?” Are they in prison? Are they being tortured? Are they dead?”

It is such words and images that makes the human spirit move mountains, and the film touches the soul of all those watching as they admire the bravery of all those in and out of Burma who in the current and swimming against the tide for the fresh air of freedom.

Let us then renew Luc Bresson’s plea to use our freedom to help those who are in chains.

Post Film Discussion

Lynn Lee (with James Leong) is a seasoned documentary filmmaker, having done films like North Korea’s Cinema of Dreams, The Bomber and The Maestro’s daughters.

The discussion after the film was brief as the audience was still feeling the impact of the film, and there was a remark made that in the land of the brave, there is also the rampant abuse by Rohingyas Buddhist monks who mount organized attacks against their Muslim brethren due to their long standing historical difference.

It would seems that there is no end to ethnic violence and genocide worldwide, and we have not learnt our lesson from the killing field fields in Congo/Rwanda, Bosnia/Serbian, and the Sunni/ Shia divide in the Middle East and Pakistan.

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Film #5:Dare To Document: 5 Broken Cameras

By Ermad Burnat and Guy Davidi (8pm to 10pm)

Guy DVD Films, Burnat Films Palestine, Alegría Productions | 2011 | color / black and white | video | 90’ & 52’ || Arabic with English and Bahasa Malaysia subtitles; with 30 mins discussion:

Moderator: Lynn Lee

Film & Director’s Profiles

Five Broken Cameras is a highly awarded documentary film which chronicles a Palestinian family in their village of Bil’in over a five year period from the birth of Ermad’son in 2005 and Gibreel’s first words (“cartridge” and “army”  to the time when he questions his father as to why he does not take a knife and do something with it to the men from the Israeli Defense Forces (“IDF”) and their soaring human spirits and resilience and humors in the face of the multiple forays by the IDF and their encroaching on their land and livelihood —and with the passing of the write off of each bullet-ridden camera, their raw footages has a powerful tale to tell.

Over the course of the film, Ermad becomes the peaceful archivist of an escalating struggle as century-old olive trees are burnt and new sheds are lifted away and concrete outposts bulldozed, lives are lost, and a wall is built to segregate burgeoning Israeli settlements.

Guy Davidi is the Israeli Film Editor and Co-Director.

Emad Burnat (Palestine) and GuyDavidi (Israel), Directors of the film received a production grant from the New Foundation for Cinema & Television, Israel –  Greenhouse’ leading partner, after it was selected in the Fourth Greenhouse Pitching Forum as best project and received a US$15,000 development grant from Claire AguilarVice President of Programming at ITVS

Festivals :

* Eurodok Documentary Film Festival

* IDFA Feature-Length Competition

* Sundance World Cinema Documentary Competition

 Awards:

* Best Picture in The Traverse City Film Festival – (USA)

* Best Documentary in Durban Film Festival, South Africa

* GOLDEN APRICOT – Yerevan International Film Festival – Best Documentary (Armenia)

* Best Feature Documentary at Jerusalem Film Festival

* Grand Jury Award at London Open City Docs Fest 2012

* Doc/Fest Sheffield 2012: Audience Award

* Planet + Docs – The Marshall of Lower Silesia Award (Poland)

* Planet + Docs – The Millennium Award Grand Prize (Poland)

* One World Film Festival 2012 Directing Award (Czech-Republic)

* Tempo Film Festival – Best Documentary (Sweden)    

* Movies that Matter – Students’ Choice (Netherlands)

* Movies that Matter – A matter of Act Award (Netherlands)

* Cinema Du Reel 2012 Louis Marcorelles Award

* EuroDok – Best Documentary (Norway)

* SUNDANCE 2012 World Documentary Directing Award

* IDFA 2011 Audience Award

* IDFA 2011 Special Jury Mention

Review & Commentary

Well it was worth staying till the end of the screening of this film, as this is a powerful commentary of the resilience of the Ermad, his brothers, his extended family and their children in the face of the might of the IDF and the building contractors of the new Jewish illegal settlement.

The creativity and imagination and the cat and mouse games played between the Bil’in villages and the IDF brings both sighs and black humor to viewers as the various episodes are played out.

My favorite scene is when Ermad and his family looked up the tree and see all the chicken roosting there, and asked why don’t they return to their home and roost on the ground. This symbolizes the spirit in all living things, in that we all want to get a better view of life and sometimes the effort of the climb to the top is well worth it, even though the glimpse of the sunrise from the top is momentary.

Post Film Discussion

The discussion after the screening centered on some views which commented on the hopelessness of the Palestinian cause; to the plea for us to understand the Israeli Palestinian long term conflict and the problem which any ruling Israeli Government has to pander to the religious zealots and their minority seats in the Parliament that holds the balance of power, and who see it as their faith to re-populate the ancient land of Judea; the right of the Palestinians to return;  and the spillover effects between Israeli and Iran if ever the line in the sand is crossed with the passage of time as Iran accumulates sufficient uranium grade materials for a small number of nuclear devices to be armed.

There was also a very knowledgeable lady who had just returned from the Occupied West Bank and she gave us a good back ground on the making of the film. She said that she had tried to contact Ermad, who is now working as a taxi driver, and has obviously recovered from his life threatening injury which we saw in the film.

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For computers, it means to start again in safe mode. For us, we hope we can also start again in safe mode. But it's more like re-booting our systems and starting from much needed basics for democracy in Singapore.
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