The Greatest Documentaries of All Time: Rachel Grady on ‘Burma VJ’

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Film director and producer Rachel Grady along with her creative partner, Heidi Ewing, run Loki Films whose latest work, Detropia, is due out on DVD & Blu-ray on January 15, 2013.

In 2008 social networking was building steam — Facebook was growing exponentially and overcoming MySpace, and Twitter was fast on its heels. Traditional human communication was changing daily.

Then, in steps Burma VJ. After major buzz at Sundance and IDFA I went to see it in the theater. I sat mesmerized, watching dozens of ordinary Burmese citizen “VJs” or video journalists film the brutal military junta in power — using their phones, cheap cameras, and laptop computers — as they calmly murdered citizens. There was the eerie realization as I watched that they had done this before. Cameras shakily captured the peaceful Buddhist monk protesters who quietly demanded that they and other Burmese citizens be treated with simple humanity and have a voice in how they live their lives.

In my comfortable theater seat I felt a deep sense of belonging and participating in an incredible social justice movement happening on Planet Earth – the audience became part of a historical and necessary revolution that was being fought, not just with bullets and guns, but also with bandwidth and digital data.

I remember clearly thinking this was a “game over” moment. Not over in the sense that brutal and evil dictatorships would no longer exist. They will exist, and they will continue to brutalize and humiliate citizens. But the world will see them do it. They could run. But they could not hide ever again. That had changed forever.

Help choose The Greatest Documentaries of All Time! Vote by Thursday, November 29, 2012.

POV Guest Blogger
POV Guest Blogger
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.