The absurd beginning of Myanmar Diaries we know. The fitness lady who on February 1, 2021 livestreams her morning gymnastics at the parliament while behind her a coup d’état takes place against the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. We lost our laughter as weeks of heartbreakingly determined, but powerless, street protests ensued. The demonstrators were no match for the military junta, which did not shy away from brute force.
We may have forgotten Myanmar, the struggle continued. Hundreds of civilian militias formed in the cities, towns and jungle. Those Baram-majority militias now often join forces with ethnic groups against which the military has been fighting for decades. The legitimacy of the military kleptocracy is lost, a long, bloody and chaotic civil war awaits.
We see it getting started in Myanmar Diaries, a compact, hybrid documentary. Secretly filmed images of protest, brutal violence, arrests and guerrilla struggles are intersected with commentary, dialogue, poetry and performance. Activists have to make choices. On strike or back to work? Stay in the city now that your safe house has been betrayed or into the jungle?
As director of Myanmar Diaries an anonymous collective is performed; the activists remain faceless in view of reprisals. This is done using traditional means: close-ups of the back of heads or mouths, blurring of faces. Face masks prove useful both against Covid and against military oppression. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t get personal that way; empathy requires faces. In 2020 put Welcome to Chechnya – about the Chechen pogroms against LGBT people – that’s why we use deep fake technology to create faces.
Myanmar Diaries is hopeful. The battle has just begun, the diary still contains countless blank pages. They are probably described with blood. But hopefully anonymizing in part two is no longer necessary.