National cinema release September 14
Reviewed by Richard Horsey Director John Boorman's latest film, Beyond Rangoon, is a powerful drama set in Burma during the 1988 uprising.
A young US doctor, Laura Bowman (played by Patricia Arquette), whose husband and young son have been murdered by burglars, decides to take a holiday with her elder sister in an effort to pick up the pieces of what remains of her life. While she is in Burma her passport is stolen, and when her tour-group departs, Laura is left behind to obtain new travel documents.
On the way out of Rangoon's US Embassy she encounters Aung Ko, a tour guide (played by an exiled Burmese activist of the same name). The tour guide, a physics professor who was imprisoned and who later lost his job for aiding some student demonstrators, promises to show Laura the sights beyond Rangoon.
The remainder of the plot is played out against a backdrop of the events of 1988. The country is in chaos as demonstrations against the brutal military government gain momentum. International flights are suspended, and thousands are gunned down in the streets.
One evening when she is out alone, Laura sets her eyes on Aung San Suu Kyi (Adelle Lutz), who, followed by a noisy crowd, is going to address a rally. Suddenly, troops move in to obstruct her path. Weapons at the ready, their commander orders her to halt.
She turns to her aide, who tries to restrain her and motions the escorting party to remain back. She moves slowly towards the soldiers, who, seeing this beautiful frail woman, tremble. They disobey their commander; they do not shoot. She ascends the podium amidst deafening applause.
The rest of the story is a suspenseful one, as Laura tries to flee Burma. In the end, following a long journey, she makes it to Thailand. Her life is resurrected after witnessing Aung San Suu Kyi's courage; she is inspired by the Buddhism that has permeated Burmese life, and by her guide's own phoenix-like history.
Beyond Rangoon is outstanding, not only as cinema, but in its moving and highly accurate portrayal of the Burmese tragedy. While the plot is fictional, the events taking place in Rangoon are not — this was, and still is, the frightening reality for 43 million Burmese. The saddest thing is that despite the recent release of Aung San Suu Kyi, nothing has changed.
The killing and the oppression continue.
The last word must go to Professor Kyaw Win, a leading Burmese activist and the movie's special adviser: "Give Beyond Rangoon a rousing ovation. It is dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Laureate 1991, a truly courageous person, an inspiration. When the tears dry, speak out against the tyranny in Burma."
Burmese tragedy &&