A 2010 documentary explores the courage of a man silenced by a dictatorship for taking it on with his satire and humour
If you ever needed to feel thankful for living in a democracy, This Prison Where I Live, a 90-minute documentary might help. The story is about two comedians, Maung Thura, better known as Zarganar (often called Myanmar's greatest living comic), and Michael Mittermeier, one of Germany's leading stand up comedians,
Zarganar, known to be fearlessly anti-establishment, was once invited to perform in front of then PM, with a warning to steer clear of politics.
He got up on stage with tape stuck over his mouth. In 2007, he was interviewed by British documentary filmmaker Rex Bloomstein, despite being banned from artistic activity and talking to foreign media.
Victimised by the Burmese military, Zarganar was sentenced to 35 years in jail in 2008 after speaking out against the government's response to cyclone Nargis. Bloomstein's footage remained unseen until, two years later, on hearing about Zarganar's sentence, he teamed up with Mittermeier to travel secretly to Burma to make a film about this courageous man, who describes himself as the "loudspeaker" for the Burmese people, to investigate humour under dictatorship.
Footage includes the cinemas that are prevented from screening his films, the bookstalls that cannot sell his plays or poetry, and the makeshift television studio where his fellow comedians rehearse on a stage that he himself is forbidden to tread.
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