This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
"They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain" is the much-discussed new documentary about the sealed-off nation of Burma. The film could also have been titled, "The British Renamed it Burma." Under any name, it is a beautiful nation, sharing borders with Thailand, China, Bangladesh and India.
Here is a nation that has undergone much hardship after winning independence from Britain in 1948. It was controlled until 2011 by a military dictatorship. It is currently in the process of democratic elections, and on Sunday its famed Nobel Peace Prize winner, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, apparently won a seat in Parliament.
She is one of the subjects of "They Call It Myanmar," a film that was shot secretly by Cornell professor Robert H. Lieberman during two visits there arranged by the U.S. Department of State. Held under house arrest for most of her adult life, Suu Kyi is the leader of the main opposition party. She is composed and serene, sounding not like an angry dissident but like a reasonable and balanced person. She embodies gentle intelligence. As it turns out, her 15 years of house arrest ended not long after this interview was filmed.
It is reckless to make broad generalizations about any group of people. I don't want to imply that the Burmese under military rule are happy. What I do observe is a land where the precepts of Buddhism are so embedded that philosophical acceptance is widespread. It is not a successful nation. The national economy lags far behind its neighbors in southeast Asia, its educational level is unusually low, and although its tourist business thrives, the nation (at least as seen here) has not yet been colonized by fast food and chain stores that make much of the world look like a Western shopping mall. Even Lieberman, an outspoken critic of its military regime, loves it.