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They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain

25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Shot clandestinely over a 2-year period, this film provides a rare look at the second-most isolated country on the planet, lifting the curtain to expose everyday life in a country that has been held in the iron grip of a brutal military regime for 48 years. Culled from over 120 hours of striking images, the film is an impressionistic journey.  Interviews and interactions with more than 100 people throughout Burma, including an interview with the recently released Aung San Suu Kyi, are interwoven with spectacular footage of this little-seen nation and its people.

Girl in rock quarry (click for larger image)

Burmese fisherman (click for larger image)

Novice Monks (click for larger image)

Silhouettes on bridge (click for larger image)

Product Details

  • Actors: Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Directors: Robert Lieberman
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: November 13, 2012
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B008NNYA16
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,162 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By D. Hartley on July 25, 2012
Format: DVD
Does a nation have a soul? While there are no definitive answers to such rhetorical questions, I can say that after viewing Robert H. Leiberman's surprisingly intimate documentary, "They Call it Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain", I feel that I have experienced something much akin to a revelatory glimpse into the very soul of that country's beautiful people. I confess that I previously had not given much thought to the nation formerly known as Burma. I was aware that it is a Southeast Asian country with a history of British colonial rule. I knew it had been seized and occupied by the Japanese during WW 2. I knew that it had gained its independence in 1948 and since been plagued by civil wars. But beyond that, the country's contemporary socio-political milieu was off my radar (as it was, I suspect, of most Westerners) until recent news footage of our Secretary of State embracing the most high-profile figure in Burmese politics, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Just as the director was wrapping production in 2010, he learned of Suu Kyi's release from house arrest, and arranged for an interview, which he weaves throughout his film. However, it is important to note this is not a documentary about Aung San Suu Kyi. Leiberman has said that he did not initially set out to make a political film; but as he learned during shooting (which was largely clandestine) it is next to impossible to remain apolitical while documenting a people who live under a totalitarian regime (probably only second to North Korea's government for its dogged persistence in turning back the clock on its infrastructure) that has very little concern for their health, education or welfare. One theme that runs rampant throughout is the palpable fear of speaking out (most of the interviewees requested not to be identified).
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on November 16, 2012
Format: DVD
One of the things I enjoy most about the documentary film scene is that it can open up worlds that you might not ordinarily have access to. Such is the case with "They Call It Myanmar." Burma is considered one of the most isolated cultures in the modern world. Once one of Asia's most prosperous nations, much of the land and its people have fallen into abject poverty. Filmmaker Robert Lieberman visited the country over a period of three years and shot enough footage (much of it was captured surreptitiously) to give us a rather intimate portrait of its current state. While Lieberman's film does highlight the history and politics of the Burma, it is the observations from ordinary citizens that really resonate. Many people refuse to be filmed or are frightened of it, but a persistent Lieberman is never without his camera. And in casual moments, we really glimpse the heart of the Burmese people. Deprived of educational opportunities and put to work at a young age, many yearn to see the outside world and Lieberman represents just such a chance to peek into another life.

Most of what I personally knew about Burma revolved around its political state. Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is, to my estimation, one of the most remarkable women of our age. She is featured within "They Call It Myanmar" and shares some candid insight and wisdom about Burma. But the true star of the picture are the locals. Despite deprivations, they are a curious and hospitable culture and Lieberman captures many exchanges that showcase real humor, hope, and warmth. Sometimes Lieberman can come on a bit strong in his questioning, though, and does occasionally seem a bit intrusive. But most people were happy to talk to him even though they knew it would be frowned upon.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By The Shire on November 5, 2012
Format: DVD
While the subject of Myanmar is by its nature fraught with opinion, They Call It Myanmar skillfully provides insight into a beautiful and troubled country without being heavy-handed. The viewer is left to make up their own mind, allowing one to fully immerse themselves in the film. Before watching the film, I imagined the people of Myanmar to be beaten down by a long history of oppression by the Junta. I was surprised at the joy of the people of Myanmar in the face of opposition. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of sadness and hardship to go around, but this film doesn't get stuck in the mire of sensationalism. This documentary does exactly what a good documentary should do -- it takes you on a journey through the lens of a camera and lets you, the viewer, make the connections. I was moved, inspired, angered, saddened, and enlightened. In short, a film to remember.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By cs211 on November 17, 2012
Format: DVD
Cornell Prof. Robert H. Lieberman was invited into Myanmar (a.k.a. or formerly Burma), the "second most isolated country in the world" after North Korea, to make educational films on tuberculosis. He kept his movie camera with him, and evidently filmed where he wasn't supposed to and interviewed a good number of people, mostly commoners. The result is "They Call It Myanmar" (TCIM), a portrait of a country and people that rank among the world's poorest, even though the country was once known as "the rice bowl of Asia". If you are at all interested in the subject matter, you will enjoy this educational, poignant film.

TCIM focuses in sequence on different aspects of life in Myanmar: the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the population; recent history; living conditions; working conditions; healthcare; education; the military (which is also effectively the government); recent uprisings; and perhaps the most important aspect of daily life in Myanmar/Burma, religion. Each of these topics alone could have generated its own hour-and-a-half documentary film, so due both to time constraints and the anecdotal nature of most of the first-hand information gathered by filmmaker Lieberman, the topics are given an overview treatment.

That's of necessity, I realize, but it left me wanting to know a lot more about the governing regime, and how it maintains power by suppressing both internal dissent and external enemies. Lieberman does interview opposition politician (and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner) Aung San Suu Kyi, and her articulate answers provide some insights. But although various other interviewees also speak of being afraid to speak their minds, the visible force of the state that appears in TCIM is pretty weak.
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