Thursday, 1 December 2011

A Film Review of The Lady and whether you should travel to Burma

Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi
I saw the film "The Lady" a few days ago at an advanced screening, the film is the biopic of tireless campaigner for Burmese freedom and Nobel Peace Prizewinner Aung San Suu Kyi.  And I thought I might try and combine a rather ragged review of the film with some thoughts on whether it is ethically acceptable to travel to Burma.  

The film does give you an interesting insight of Aung San Suu Kyi's curious situation of being someone who had a comfortable life, who due to circumstance found themselves in a position and was left with the quandary of whether she could walk away. Aung San Suu Kyi as a Burmese woman whose father had brought the country independence from the British, felt a compulsion, to stay and campaign from house arrest and other ongoing degradations for freedom.  The generals who are responsible for savage acts are depressingly comic, they seem to look group of taxi-drivers who like to dress up as generals on dress-down Fridays.  Knowing the butchery and inhumanity the real generals have inflicted I felt we should have felt more than amusement upon seeing them.  Perhaps the one things to come from the portrayal of the generals, is that they are constantly playing for time and ultimately seem to only be slightly bothered about external pressure be it from the US, Europe, China or Russia.  

The Fighting Peacock Flag
The film tries to capture Burma's struggle against oppression, through the life of Aung San Suu Kyi's relationship with her husband and her two sons.  And on some level, it kind of succeeds, for brief moments, but overall it doesn't leave you with much hope for her or the country, and it feels quite distanced from the real the horrors faced by ordinary Burmese people for most of the film.   

The film focuses in the main on Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest and she has now been freed from house arrest and with her freedom has come a change in her views on tourists visiting Burma.  Until recently Aung San Suu Kyi and the Free Burma Coalitionwhich are (effectively the elected government which has not been allowed to govern the country) were both firmly against foreign travellers going to Burma.  
But obviously after such a strong and lasting stance against it, travellers are still reticent and concerned about travelling to a country which such an oppressive regime in power. I think those concerns are perfectly justified and regardless of the views expressed by Aung San Suu Kyi and the Free Burma Coalition each traveller must first find peace with their own conscience.  If travellers can do that, then they may find solace in the interview she gave to the Daily Telegraph this November in which she stated that “There has been change, not sufficient yet but we’ll get there” and that she hopes that the changes will occur sooner rather than later.  I'm of the mind that the generals of the junta will loosen the reins of control off a bit and then pull hard on them when they start to feel real power start to slip away from them.  It was only 2007 when the monks rose to protest against army rule and were brutally put down. I hope will be proven to be wrong as time progresses and if the selfless and courageous people who have spent every day of every year since 1947 trying to bring peace and democracy to Burma say they welcome visitors to the country then you have an open invitation from the people best placed to make that judgement.  

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