They Call it Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain
They Call it Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain, 2012, USA
Myanmar is the second most isolated country on Earth and has been ruled by a military dictatorship for almost 50 years. Author and filmmaker Robert H. Lieberman made this documentary over a period of two years. He had to be very careful where he filmed, as he risked arrest if guards or police officers did not like where he was filming or who he was filming. He also did not identify anyone by name in order to protect them.
Admittedly, I did not know much about Myanmar, aside from the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi, who I’ve admired for quite some time. She’s an amazing woman, and I’m eager to watch The Lady, which examines the love story between her and her late husband. Before watching it, I felt that I should watch They Call it Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain so that I could learn some more about the country, apart from the political issues. Both films are available on Netflix!
The documentary was fascinating. The people of Myanmar strike me as very cheerful, polite people. Most of its citizens are terribly impoverished and many children do not get more than a year or two of schooling but everyone Lieberman interviewed seemed very happy. Lieberman connected this to the deep Buddhist faith most Myanmar citizens have. They’re taught that suffering and struggle in this life will lead to a better position in their next life. There are several important Buddhist temples and pilgrimage spots within the country and many citizens make a pilgrimage at least once in their lives. Lieberman got footage at one such spot and it was amazing and quite moving.
Suu Kyi was interviewed for the documentary and her insights into her country and its history are fascinating. She says that ruling with an iron fist will create the impression of peace and order, but that is not the case in reality. Myanmar has been under military rule for close to 50 years, but the protests in recent years have shown that the country’s youth, in particular, are ready to push back. It’s quite encouraging, and I hope to see change come in the country within the next few years.
Lieberman also touched on Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar in 2008, killing approximately 150,000 people. The military would not allow aid workers and doctors into the country from Thailand even though help was desperately needed. The military downplayed the devastation from the cyclone in order to prevent any sort of fallout. I’m ashamed to say that I had not been aware of this cyclone prior to watching the documentary, and I’m not sure if that was because facts were so under-reported, or if it simply wasn’t covered in the news as heavily as other natural disasters have been. I was shocked I hadn’t heard of it, because the death toll was so huge. It’s an absolute tragedy.
I loved the documentary, and thought it was a very insightful look at a mysterious and isolated country. Check it out on Netflix!