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A film documenting a day in the life of a Karen photojournalist as he covertly shot the September 2007 uprising has won the Best Documentary Award at the newly-established Art of Freedom Festival in Rangoon.
The film, Click in Fear, directed by DVB cameraman Sai Kyaw Khaing, follows Law Eh Soe during a period when the former ruling junta, acutely aware of the international fallout should its crackdown on protesting monks make headlines, exercised a zero-tolerance policy towards journalists in the country.
Despite holding a press card, he was trailed by police and nearly arrested. For weeks he was forced to move from location to location to avoid certain imprisonment.
“I didn’t expect the award,” says Sai Kyaw Khaing, who heard the news yesterday. “I just want people to see what happens in Burma– it’s for the people who love justice and freedom.”
It took around three months to collect together all the footage and carry out several interviews on the Thai border with Law Eh Soe, who is now in the US. The 40-year-old also features in a book documenting the lives of Burmese under military rule, titled Nowhere to be Home: Narratives from Survivors of Burma’s Military Regime.
In it, he describes the perils of being a journalist in Burma. “As a photographer, you’re just crazy for it—you don’t care what’s happening. I know there are hundreds of people beside me, but I just take the picture. And then when my blood cools off, I think, ‘Oh, they might come and arrest me’.”
Has life changed for journalists inside the country since a new government came to power in March? Sai Kyaw Khaing is unsure: “There’s been a small opening and it’s better than before, but it’s still not free. You still have to be very careful so the environment is not comfortable.”
In recent months a number of foreign reporters have been granted journalist visas, but these are limited to five days and heavy restrictions dictate their movement.
The five-day Art of Freedom Festival hosted by Aung San Suu Kyi and comedian Zarganar, opened on 31 December last year and showcased both short films and documentaries. Former DVB staff member Min Thike won the Best Short Film award for ‘The String’, described by Zarganar as “very touching”. Fifty-four films in total were nominated for awards.