Surprise semi-keynote today, from one of the prime video journalists featured in Burma VJ: KS was searching for him when he was organising FCP and couldn't track 'em down, but he just found out they're passing through and grabbed him to speak to us.

He's showing us clips from his new film, Into the Current, about political prisoners. More soon.
LATER: Well, this is embarrassing. I've inadvertently deleted all the verbatim notes I took of his talk. Maybe it was Freudian: he was speaking really fast, and my transcription was rather garbled. Let's see what I remember.

San wants us to know that it wasn't always like this: when he was working in the '00s with Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), he had to work through a system of underground safe houses from which they transmitted media to CNN, BBC, WXYZ. They provided the main coverage of the Saffron Revolution of 2007: at first the monks didn't trust any of the press to take photos,  but they recognised the activists, the ex-political prisoners of DVB, and granted them access.

The Internet back then was ridiculously slow, but they made it work for them. They'd have three or four people working to upload a three-to-four minute clip, broken up into 30-second chunks and delivered via connections at different consoles in cybercafés. Never thought he'd actually get to see any of his coverage, but he was in his dorm (I think) one night when one of his roommates was adjusting his TV and accidentally got their station: before that he'd kept his job secret, for his safety, for everyone's safety.

Once, he told us, he walked into one of the DVB safe houses, forgetting to use the secret codes they used to make sure everything was safe inside. He found the military police beating up his colleague, and had to disavow all knowledge of the operations, claim he was just a stranger who got lost, who's that guy you're beating up, I've never seen him before in my life, before racing back home to make calls, to alert all the safe houses that the government was on to them.

Since 2008, he's been hiding out in Bangkok. A lot of what he's been doing is touring the world's human rights film festivals, promoting Burma VJ, which was nominated - not the winner, he corrected Keng Sen - for an Oscar as Best Documentary.
But he's also been working on his new film. Into the Current took three years to edit - a lot of the footage is harvested from DVB's archives going back to the early nineties.
These are shocking stories - imprisonment without trial, electric shock torture, beatings resulting in permanent disability, death under mysterious circumstances. And of course, when folks are released, friends are scared to be seen with them, to employ them - better to just give them cash to get them to stay far far away, San told us.

At least that's what things used to be like. Now, political cartoons joke that these former pariahs are going to become Members of Parliament soon. Two years and everything, everything has changed.

San mentioned at one point this is the first time he's giving a talk in Myanmar - he's been travelling the world, speaking out for his nation, but it was just two days ago that he finally dared to come home. Jeanne Hallacy, the director of Into the Current, told us about his homecoming: his whole family turned up (except his mother, who'd passed away), and there was even a small delegation of political prisoners he'd helped free, waiting to greet him. Crazy emotional, she said.

He also bumped into Zarganar, who's promised to feature the movie in a local film festival, after which San will be speaking on a panel with renowned human rights activist Bo Kyi. Times of change indeed, and not a moment too soon.
 


Comments




Leave a Reply