More 4 Burma Season 2010

MOVING TO MARS: A MILLION MILES FROM BURMA will be screening on More 4 on TUESDAY FEBRUARY 2ND 2010 as part of the channel’s  BURMA SEASON.

From the More 4 press team…

“More4’s Burma season is the first of three specials in which the Channel will shine a spotlight on troubled nations currently in the news: Burma (tx Jan/Feb), Afghanistan (tx April) and Zimbabwe (tx May, including the TV premiere of the acclaimed True Stories film Mugabe and the White African).

The Burma season will look at the consequences for those living under a repressive regime, and includes Mat Whitecross’ Moving to Mars, award-winning Burma VJ, and a repeat screening of Orphan’s of Burma’s Cyclone – a cameraman from which has since been arrested and imprisoned by the Burmese authorities.  With elections scheduled to take place in Burma this year – the legitimacy of which has been questioned by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – More4’s mini Burma season is a timely expose of the consequences of the country’s military rule.

Headlining the season is True Stories: Moving to Mars (2nd Feb, 10pm) from one-to-watch director Mat Whitecross (co-directed The Shock Doctrine and The Road to Guantanamo, whose latest film Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is currently making headlines).   Moving to Mars follows two refugee families from Burma over the course of a year that will change their lives completely.  Forced from their homeland by the repressive military junta, they have lived in a Thai refugee camp for almost twenty years.  A UN relocation scheme offers them the chance of a new life, but their new home, in the British city of Sheffield, will be different to everything they’ve ever known.   With intimate access, this new feature-length documentary depicts their moving and sometimes humorous struggles with 21st century Britain.

The season will also see the TV premiere of award-winning festival favourite Burma VJ (26th Jan, 10pm).  Going beyond the occasional news clip from Burma, filmmaker Anders Østergaard’s documentary captures the bravery of the video journalists who deliver the footage. Though risking torture and life in jail, courageous young citizens of Burma live the essence of journalism as they keep up the flow of news from their closed country. Armed with small handycams, the Burma VJs stop at nothing to make their reportages; their material is smuggled out of the country and broadcast back into Burma via satellite and offered as free usage for international media.  The whole world has witnessed single event clips made by the VJs, but for the very first time, their individual images have been put together with Østergaard’s sparingly-used reconstruction to tell a riveting story which offers a unique insight into high-risk journalism and dissidence in a police state, while at the same time providing a thorough documentation of the historical and dramatic days of September 2007, when the Buddhist monks started marching.  Co-produced for More4’s True Stories, Burma VJ is shortlisted for an Oscar-nomination.

The season will also include a repeat screening of the remarkable Orphans of Burma’s Cyclone (26th Jan, 11:55pm), originally screened as part of C4’s Dispatches strand in June 2009.  Six months after filming completed, one of the cameraman – known only as ‘T’ – was arrested in Rangoon and charged and imprisoned for the offence of filming without government permission, which carries a minimum jail sentence of 10 years.  It is believed he was arrested because of his work as a cameraman.  The sentence is pending.

The film follows the lives of eight Burmese orphans as they struggle to survive the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. The film also exposes the official intransigence of one of the world’s most brutal and secretive regimes. With unparalleled access inside the country from just after the cyclone struck, Orphans of Burma’s Cyclone was shot covertly over the course of a year by two Burmese cameramen who risked an instant 30 year prison sentence if caught making the film.  Orphans of Burma’s Cyclone reveals what day to day life is like for the ordinary people of Burma.”

We are thrilled to be screening in association with these two great films, and we’re especially excited that Burma VJ is finally screening on UK TV.  Be sure to watch them all!


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London screenings at the ICA

We are very pleased to announce that Moving to Mars will be showing at London’s ICA cinema, giving all you Londoners a chance to see the film on the big screen.

We’re screening between Friday 22nd Jan and Wednesday 3rd Feb, with an exclusive Q+A session with director Mat Whitecross and producer Karen Katz on the opening night.  You can book tickets on the ICA website, and there’s a special offer on the two Monday screenings where all tickets are on sale for £5 each.

Please come down and support the film, and bring as many friends/relatives/strangers as you can – this is a great chance for us, and we’d like to fill as many seats as possible!

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Live Online Debate – Is it Time to Lift Sanctions Against Burma?

We’ve just heard about a very interesting debate about the situation in Burma that’s going to be streamed live on the web tonight at 6.45PM GMT. The debate, discussing the idea that ‘it is time to lift sanctions against Burma’, features a great panel and promises to be an extremely insightful and provocative look at the issues which form the background to Moving to Mars. More details are below:

“Our first live-streaming debate on the weekend was such a success – Intelligence Squared became the seventh most discussed topic on Twitter, with over 10,000 online viewers – that we are delighted to announce our next two debates will also be available to watch live on the internet.

Intelligence Squared is excited to announce that the debate “It is time to lift sanctions against Burma”, will be live-streamed to the world for free at 6:45PM GMT on December 2, 2009 at

The panelists will be debating the success of economic sanctions against the Burmese military junta. The detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD (National League for Democracy) are said to be in favour of maintaining international sanctions, although many argue the existing ones have had no effect on the government’s anti-democratic stance, and have merely inflicted more unnecessary suffering on the Burmese people.

The highly distinguished panel includes Thant Myint-U (Former head of policy planning in the UN’s Department of Political Affairs), Mark Farmaner (Director of Burma Campaign), Derek Tonkin (Former British ambassador to both Vietnam and Thailand, and current chairman of Network Myanmar) and Brad Adams (Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division).”

Thanks to Intelligence Squared for letting us know about this event – we’re looking forward to watching it unfold, looks like it could be fascinating.  A must-watch for anyone interested in the current situation in Burma and how the international community should address it.

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City of Sanctuary – The Film

Check out this short film about City of Sanctuary – a great UK movement trying to inspire a culture of hospitality and welcome for those seeking sanctuary in our cities.

We talk about City of Sanctuary a lot – anyone at Sheffield Doc/Fest might have noticed how much we kept name-dropping them – because their work gels very nicely with the issues raised in Moving to Mars.  COS is a UK wide movement encouraging groups of all kinds, from churches to football teams, to not only pledge their support for refugees and asylum seekers but also to demonstrate ways that they’re acting on this pledge.  The film showcases a few of the ways that Sheffield’s own City of Sanctuary movement have made life better for their refugee community, including running a conversation club to help people practicing their English and a gardening club to help refugees integrate with the local community.

Moving to Mars itself shows how much a supportive community and opportunities to get involved can have a positive impact on people seeking sanctuary. We really support COS and their work, and we’re hoping to work with them more in the near future.  There are currently COS groups in Sheffield, Bradford, Bristol, Chester, Coventry, Huddersfield, Leicester, London, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford and Swansea.  If you, your organisation or your business could support them, please visit their website.  In the meantime, enjoy the film and let them know what you think!

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Moving to Mars on the BBC World Service

Last week, our producer Karen Katz and Tu Wah – one of the Karen refugees whose story is followed by the film – were interviewed by the BBC World Service.  You can listen to the feature online here.

Anyone who’s seen the film already might have noticed that one of its opening shots is of Thaw Htoo (Tu Wah’s father and a Karen refugee in Mae La camp) tuning his radio into the BBC World Service in Burmese… so it seemed especially appropriate for them to do a feature on the film, although we’re not sure if it will ever be broadcast on the Burmese service!

We’re not sure which countries the clip was broadcast to, but this morning we received a message from someone in Boston, USA who’d heard it and wanted to know more about the film.  If anyone else has heard it outside the UK, please let us know!

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Moving to Mars World Premiere @ Sheffield Doc/Fest

After a great five days at Sheffield Doc/Fest (and a no-so-great week of illness immediately after them) we’re back in the office and back on the blog.

Last Wednesday saw the official world premiere of Moving to Mars at the festival.  The event included a performance of traditional Karen dancing by children from the city’s Karen community:

Karen Dancing

… and singing by a Karen Youth Choir (which included Seh Seh Lu and La Say Wah, who both appear in the documentary, and Mimi and Charnu, two of our translators).

Karen Youth Choir

Romola Garai, the actress who recently starred as Emma in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, kindly came along to introduce the screening for us.  Romola has visited refugee camps in Syria with the UNHCR, and gave a very moving speech about how this work had made her think very personally about the sort of issues raised by the film.

Romola Garai

After the screening, the entire crew (in attendance) were brought up on stage for a lively Q+A, along with Jo Kae’s family, Tu Wah and La Say Wah.  Tu Wah gave a great and entertaining speech to the audience, telling them about his studies in Sheffield and helpfully pointing out once and for all that the Karen people aren’t ‘Burmese’ – and neither are they Korean.  He also gave a shout out to his refugee caseworker Tesfam, who appears in the film and who we can confirm is every bit as nice as Tu Wah told the audience!

Tu Wah at the Q+A

On Friday November 6th, another screening of the film took place at the Sheffield Showroom cinema, kindly introduced by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg.  Afterwards, the filmmakers and the Karen community headed to the festival’s BRITDOC Bar, run by the multi-talented ladies from The Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation, to enjoy an evening of Karen music and delicious food prepared by Jo Kae’s family.

© Jacqui Bellamy 2009 Pixelwitch Pictures

We were very pleased that so many of the Karen families who came to watch the film stayed for the party, especially when Seh Seh Lu, Ei Ei, Di Di and friends took over the stage microphones and treated us to twenty minutes of Karen kareoke.  We learnt that Karen food is really good; that six year old Di Di can do a mean rendition of ‘We Are the World’ by Michael Jackson; and that our translator is a fantastic pianist, all in one evening.  It wasn’t really your average film festival party.

The Karen community in the Showroom

We had a really great time up in Sheffield and now can’t wait for future screenings of the film, even those that won’t be involving any kareoke.  Massive massive thank yous are due to the Doc/Fest team – your staff and volunteers are probably the nicest and most helpful people on the face of the earth (I lost count of the number of times I wandered into the volunteers’ room asking for things during the fest, and they never failed to help us out).  We can’t wait to come back next year.

Tu Wah and Crew!

We’d also like to thank the Karen Community Association, the Karen Youth Organisation and the Karen community of Sheffield in general for all their help and support at these screenings, and especially for the great performances on the opening night.  We’d especially like to thank Jo Kae, Daisi and their family, Tu Wah and Lah Say Wah, Win Cho Toe and Mimi Hsarsay.  Finally, extra special thanks are due to Htoo Ku Hsarsay, Judith and Bwa Bwa Phan, without whom there wouldn’t have a been a Karen print of the film at all.

Families, Director Mat, Producer Karen and fest director Heather

You can see more photos from our screenings at Doc/Fest here – taken by our friend Adam Gray.

And now – to IDFA!

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Official Selection – IDFA 2009

Coded Pictures are very pleased to announce that Moving to Mars – now known as ‘Moving to Mars: A Million Miles from Burma’ – has been selected for the official programme at IDFA, the largest European documentary festival, taking place in Amsterdam between the 19th and 29th of November.

The film’s festival screening date hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s also been selected for the Volkskrant programme, a special selection made by one of the most popular newspaper in the Netherlands.  As part of this selection, it will screen in  Tuschinski 1 and 2 on November 28.

For more information and ticket details, please see the IDFA website.

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