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MOVIE REVIEW Beyond Rangoon

Director: John Boorman
Rating ***

This violent and bloody film is based on the true story of the atrocities committed during the 1998 military crackdown in Burma. It is a cautionary tale of political repression and personal redemption told through the eyes of Laura Bowman, (portrayed by Patricia Arquette) a young American doctor caught up in the maelstrom.

The story might not have been told if a photographer hadn't managed to get a roll of film that recorded the events out of the country, and if Dr. Bowman hadn't lived to tell the tale.

The thought-provoking 1995 drama recounts the resistance to human rights violations that brought Nobel Prize-winning dissident Aung San Suu Kyi (played here by Adelle Lutz) to international attention. Dr. Bowman had come to the Far East with her sister Andy (Frances McDormand) to seek solace after the savage murders of her husband and son, killed in a robbery. She asks her guide, U Aung Ko (played by himself), to show her the Burma outside of Rangoon, and gets more than she bargained for. U Aung Ko turns out to be one of the leaders of the students fighting for democracy, and the two of them get caught in the crossfire. Hopes for a non-violent end to the strife are dashed when Aung San Suu Kyi, after seeming to conquer the military in a peaceful march, is eventually captured and many of her supporters massacred. The real-life conflicts continue to this day.

Fleeing from Rangoon on an escape route into Thailand, Laura and U Aung Ko hide in dense thickets, half-drown in muddy rivers, dodge bullets and run through war-torn villages. The mountains, meadows and forests, dotted with Buddhist shrines, are placid backdrops for the blood, gore, mud and dirt created by the war and the weather. The very emotional musical score is a melancholy reminder of how fragile life can be.

Laura's personal journey is a source of inspiration. Her tribulations in Burma help her to work through her grief and give her life new purpose and meaning.

Beyond Rangoon is available on video in the GreatestEscapes.com store: www.greatestescapesstore.com/videos_1.html.