Cinema as a Primal Scream: Our Review of ‘Myanmar Diaries’

Posted in Movies,, What's Streaming? by - March 24, 2023
Cinema as a Primal Scream: Our Review of ‘Myanmar Diaries’

Myanmar Diaries comes from The Myanmar Film Collective, a mixture of Burmese people and their allies outside Burma, the former risking their lives to shoot this footage. During the film’s festival release, it got a mixture of criticism. The negative ones and even some of the positive ones talk about the film’s lack of narrative unity. But this is the opposite of my experience where some of the key moments feel similar, if not admittedly repetitive. The film has footage upon footage of the Burmese military government officials arresting citizens, a harsher versions of the police brutality videos we used to see a lot of. A strange thing happens as I watch this film, where I start analyzing the footage. Such analysis requires some surprising emotional detachment. After all, what separates this footage from its North American versions, and am I right to call the footage here ‘harsher’?

My initial thoughts weren’t even content wise. A lot of what we see in Myanmar Diaries are arrests. They’re not the straight up murders that we see police inflict upon their mostly Black victims. And this isn’t to say that North America is worse than Burma. What is clear though is that these cameras are more reluctant to get up close. This is true even if they’re probably using smartphone cameras. After all, there is the one scene where it shows the camera maybe getting a few steps in and the police end up arresting the guy. There’s the silver lining in that footage ending up in the documentary for some people in the world to see. Burma is the few places where mass arrests happen and cameras are reluctant to give us access to that footage. Witnessing is an act of important privilege, second to citizens’ voices screaming out.

The Myanmar Film Collective doesn’t just do the kind of DIY reporting that is no longer prevalent in this age of social media. COVID and youth culture affect some of the film that ends up on Myanmar Dairies. Some images, at the risk of sounding harsh, is Gen-Z nonsense. The film begins with a woman doing a TikTok dance while sleek armored cars are rolling up behind her. A man cover sis face with a black plastic bag. A lot of it is effective, like that of a young woman sitting in bed in a Thai hotel room with a teddy bear she smuggles out of Burma. Another is of a young couple, one half of the couple learning that a smoke break saves him from a mass arrest. The youth of Burma are unsure of their education and future more than we are in comfrotable North America.

Myanmar Diaries is an OVID exclusive.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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