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DANCING WITH DICTATORS

SYNOPSIS:
During Burma's November 2010 elections, the first in 20 years, Ross Dunkley, Australian born publisher of Burma's leading paper, The Myanmar Times, is facing danger. Originally, influential liberals supported Dunkley's newspaper because they wanted reform but four years later a hardline crackdown saw his colleagues jailed and Dunkley hanging on by his finger nails. The film-makers' presence during the election does not go unnoticed and four days after the vote they are deported, focussing attention on Dunkley. Shortly afterwards the hardliners strike again and Dunkley is arrested and charged with immigration offences linked to an alleged assault on a woman. He spends seven weeks in Burma's notorious Insein prison before being granted bail and appears in court over 20 times. Once free, he remains committed to regaining control of the newspaper and continuing the fight for freedom of speech in a country he has grown to love.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Perfectly timed for cinema release in Australia with the Government's media enquiry echoing in our ears, Dancing With Dictators is essential viewing for anyone interested in the interface of politics and the media. No, of course Australia is not a dictatorship, and the film's relevance to us pivots on the fact the subject, Ross Dunkley, is an Australian citizen who is the only foreign media owner in Myanmar, with a 49% stake in The Myanmar Times. The other 51% is now owned by a political candidate ...

The film is made without any fuss and concentrates on its story: how Myanmar's first elections in 20 years provided a special pressure point on the freedom of the press. The relevance of the film beyond documenting the political harassment endured by Dunkley's paper is that it highlights the value of a free press. We see in minute detail how censorship turns truth into lies as stories are vetted and changed prior to publication.

The filmmakers deserve a medal for their courage in documenting Myanmar's obviously rigged elections while making a valuable and fascinating doco about a man whose buccaneer style reeks of the Aussie can-do characteristic - and who can laugh in the face of disaster.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

DANCING WITH DICTATORS (PG)
(Aust, 2011)

CAST: Documentary featuring Ross Dunkley

PRODUCER: Helen Barrow

DIRECTOR: Hugh Piper

SCRIPT: Hugh Piper

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Helen Barrow

EDITOR: John Pleffer

MUSIC: Guy Gross

RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Ronin Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 8, 2011 (Sydney: Chauvel; Manuka, ACT: Event)

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Ronin Films

DVD RELEASE: TBA 2012







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