"They Call It Myanmar" reveals a face long hidden: that of Myanmar, also known as Burma, now emerging from the isolation of an authoritarian military regime. Robert H. Lieberman, a novelist, filmmaker and professor at Cornell University, took three years to shoot documentary footage surreptitiously during assignments for the United States Embassy and a nongovernment organization. The result is eye-opening and insightful.
The movie covers the country's history, including its domination by the British and Japanese, its independence in 1948 and its fall to a military coup in 1962. It outlines the Buddhist precepts that sustain most of its people. And it addresses the 2007 nonviolent protests that Buddhist monks took to Yangon, a major city.
But most important, the film talks to regular citizens: on the street, in a restaurant, at a temple and tourist spot. Those interviewed are gracious and exuberant, living in a country rich in natural resources but trapped in crushing poverty.
At least they have Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize-winning dissident formerly kept under house arrest for most of the past 21 years, now an opposition leader in parliament and chairwoman of the National League for Democracy. A recurrent, compelling presence in the film, she comments eloquently on the country's past and future.
Her intelligence and integrity bode well for Myanmar's destiny.
'THEY CALL IT
* * *
Rating: Not rated
Director: Robert H. Lieberman
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes. In English and Burmese with subtitles.