Colorado is home to more than two thousand refugees from Burma, an isolated country in southeast Asia. Among them is Drucie Bathin, the head of the Colorado Rangers Organization, which works on the model of refugees helping refugees, and the subject of our cover story, "A World Away." And what is it like in the world where she came from? A new film showing in Denver tomorrow attempts to lift the curtain.
They Call It Myanmar was shot clandestinely by Cornell University physics professor, novelist and filmmaker Robert Lieberman. (Of why he became a physics professor, Lieberman says, "My mother said I have to have an honest job.")
Lieberman began the project in 2008, when the U.S. State Department afforded him the rare opportunity to spend time in Burma working with young filmmakers. Lieberman says he was intrigued by the people of the country and began filming them with a small, high-end consumer camera, which is strictly against the rules. For decades, Burma has been a dangerous place due to civil wars and the oppressive policies of the former ruling military junta. In the past year, a new nominally civilian government has begun to turn things around and loosen restrictions on the media, though not by much, Lieberman says.
But Lieberman didn't set out to make a political film. Instead, he wanted to show outsiders what it's like to live in Burma. "Because of their extreme isolation over the last half-century, you have a culture that is intact. Corporate influences have not yet entered," he says. But Lieberman admits the film couldn't avoid politics altogether, especially after he got an interview with politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aun San Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest in November 2010.
"The politics started seeping in because there's no way you can talk about Burma without talking about the politics," Lieberman says. But, he adds, "it's not a message film. It doesn't hit you over the head.... It raises questions but doesn't answer them. We want the viewer to dig in deeper and ask those questions. This is an introduction to Burma that seems more timely now than ever. It takes you and it goes all over Burma, wherever I could travel."
The film has done well, earning praise from Roger Ebert and selling out theaters on both coasts. It will be in Denver for one night only -- tomorrow at the Esquire Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets here.
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And watch the trailer below:
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Video: Teenage refugees from Burma perform traditional dance for the New Year."