Hollywood’s attempts to support progressive causes in movies continue with Rambo 4, starring Sylvester Stallone.
In the fourth and latest installment of the violent adventures of John Rambo, the Vietnam veteran takes on the Burmese junta who have held the Southeast Asian country in its crushing, ruthless grip since 1962.
“In his latest caper, a bored-looking Rambo ekes out a living catching cobras in the jungles of Mae Sot in Thailand, near the border with Burma. But the arrival of a group of Christian missionaries, whose idealism and naivete literally led them to a slaughterhouse, changes Rambo’s zombie-like existence and brings back the days of gore and bloodbath.
“The film is unapologetic in its use of cliches. It’s the same tired story: Everything is black and white, good and evil, with lots of do-or-die moments thrown in for good measure.
“‘Rambo IV’ – which started showing in Asian cinemas in January and is due to open in mid-March in Thailand — is replete with stereotypes, especially when it comes to pointing out differences between the east and the west, symbolically played out in the kindness, idealism and determination of the Caucasian missionaries and the uncouth, barbaric bad guys in the form of the Burmese pirates and military.”
She says that while reports of the cruelty of the Burmese junta have been well-documented, the depiction of these stereotypes glosses over much more complex issues too deep to dig up in a 90-minute action movie.
Her article quotes freelance Burmese journalist Phyo Win Latt as saying: “The Burmese army in the movie is different from real-life. The film is filled with exaggeration and inaccuracies. Army officers, for example, don’t wear sunglasses while engaged in battle and although there are rape cases in remote ethnic villages, I’ve never heard of such things like ethnic women being forced to dance in front of the soldiers.”
Exiled Burmese appear to have given it some positive feedback. According to a report by the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), about 600 Burmese who watched the film in Singapore became very emotional, chanted slogans and distributed political leaflets at the screening.
The crowd “clapped non-stop for 80 seconds to show respect to the movie audience gathered there and to show unity” in their fight for democracy, DVB reported.
I’ll just take Lynette’s word for all this, because I’m not going to see this film – I can’t take a killing every few seconds.
Watch Rambo 4 official trailer on YouTube:
Caution: Extreme violence – but then, what else do you expect in Rambo?
Rambo may have discovered Burma’s long-drawn suffering only recently, but activist film-makers have been using moving images for many years to sustain international attention on Burma’s human rights and humanitarian issues.
Almost five years ago, in May 2003, TVE Asia Pacific website ran a feature titled ‘Documentaries keep Burma issues alive‘. It was written by Indian film-maker and journalist Teena Amrit Gill, who at that time was based in Chiang Mai, Thailand — where many Burma activists are concentrated.
“Long drawn internal conflicts are often overlooked or completely ignored by the global media that often chase the latest stories as they unfold. It often takes a few dedicated activists and committed film-makers to sustain focus on conflicts that no longer grab headlines – but continue to affect hundreds of thousands of people.
“As Burma and the struggle of its people, especially its ethnic minorities, against four decades of military dictatorship begin to fade from international attention, a number of new television documentaries are attempting to keep the issue alive.
“Some have been made by television professionals for international broadcast. Others have used amateur or activist footage and aim at mobilising public concern and supporting campaigns to maintain pressure on the regime.”
Teena reviewed three new films that had been produced in 2001-2002 about the plight of minority groups like the Karen, Shan and Karenni who live along Burma’s borders with Thailand, China and Laos. These minorities are the target of repressive policies of the ruling military junta in Rangoon.
Another point of view: Entertainment the Burmese military way, by Ye Thu on DVB website