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They Call It Myanmar: Lifting The Curtain (2012)

They Call It Myanmar: Lifting The Curtain


Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 13
Fresh: 13
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 7
Fresh: 7
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 204


Movie Info

Shot clandestinely over a 2-year period by best-selling novelist and filmmaker, Robert H. Lieberman, this film provides a rare look at the second-most isolated country on the planet. It lifts the curtain to expose the everyday life in a country that has been held in the iron grip of a brutal military regime for 48 years. This unique feature length documentary, culled from over 120 hours of striking images, is an impressionistic journey. Interviews and interactions with more than 100 people … More

Documentary , Special Interest
Directed By:
In Theaters:
Nov 13, 2012

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Critic Reviews for They Call It Myanmar: Lifting The Curtain

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (13) | Rotten (0)

Eye-opening and insightful.

Full Review… | September 20, 2012
New York Times
Top Critic

It still works, so buoyed is the film by its open and honest take on a subject that would have been all too easy to turn into another marketable tragedy.

Full Review… | September 18, 2012
Village Voice
Top Critic

A solid and subtly moving portrait of the people of Burma by filmmaker Robert H. Lieberman.

Full Review… | September 14, 2012
Washington Post
Top Critic

The film provides one of the ultimate functions of a documentary, taking us into the life and culture of a people most of us would never know.

Full Review… | April 5, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

While "They Call It Myanmar" is certainly more encouraging than previous films on this long-repressed country, fears of persecution continue to loom large.

Full Review… | April 5, 2012
Seattle Times
Top Critic

I've never seen a documentary with more smiling faces.

Full Review… | April 2, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

An incredible, clandestinely shot portrait of underclass life and love [that] also illustrates the gap between populace and regime, which is a dignified goal and achievement.

Full Review… | February 10, 2013

Lieberman captures the singular human story playing out in the former British colony of Burma/Myanmar where brutality and Karma have been the principle features.

Full Review… | October 4, 2012
Cinema Signals

Although owing a bit too much to a Travel Channel episode, this is a valuable look at a country undergoing important and necessary changes.

Full Review… | September 22, 2012

Above its other admirable attributes, this unique documentary presents a wide scope of the culture and very human side of the unknown land 'quite unlike any you will ever know.'

Full Review… | September 20, 2012
ReelTalk Movie Reviews

The images and interviews Robert H. Lieberman and his crew have managed to capture are eye-opening enough to justify the dangerous effort.

Full Review… | September 18, 2012
Slant Magazine

No Myanmar Spring here.

Full Review… | August 15, 2012

Audience Reviews for They Call It Myanmar: Lifting The Curtain

We are given a gentle, touching narrative of the Myanmar people, largely a Buddhist nation which had an authoritarian government and lacks severely in education and human rights. Many children who were asked said they only had 1 or 2 years of school. No one can afford it. Child labor and the trafficking of young girls is heavy. And as in other countries in the area, there are hundreds of cultures and many different languages. It is hard to bring a country together that has so many different ethnicities, cultures, and potentially values. We get an informative glimpse at the past 80 years of Myanmar's history, environmental challenges, living conditions, and citizen's perspectives. My main complaint with this documentary may be an unjust one, but it felt a bit limited in the same way that a person's vacation footage only narrowly covers the country they explored. But since cameras were forbidden during the time of this production, the limitation is understandable, and Director Lieberman does provide a nice interview with an admirable and hopeful voice of democracy - only this politician, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, had been under house arrest for 15 years at the time of the film's production. Since then, some promising governmental moves have taken place and she has been released and elected into parliament. Her party, National League for Democracy, won 43 of the 45 seats available during the 2012 by-elections, after being unbanned just the year before.

Matthew Slaven
Matthew Slaven

Super Reviewer


Robert Lieberman, a physics professor at Cornell University, is given a grant from the State Department and various NGO's to go to Burma to train people in technical matters. While there, and at no small risk to himself, he uses a video camera to film. With his footage and commentary from people who are very familiar with the country, he compiles a documentary, "They Call It Myanmar," which is insightful, yet occasionally repetitive, going beyond just a simple travelogue of the tourist sights to talk to ordinary people in what has been termed the second most reclusive country on the planet.(One would have to guess that North Korea is #1.) This is due to a military government that has ruled over the country for about the past fifty years, without the usual cult of personality, causing Burma to stagnate into a state of decay where the infrastructure crumbles and social institutions including health care and education, as children usually complete about a year of education before going off to support their families, have become too expensive for the common person to utilize.(Even in times of greatest need like a cyclone a few years ago that killed over 100,000 people, they have kept the country isolated, not accepting outside aide, in order to maintain their power in the 'kleptocracy.') As a result, the more educated people leave the country, while others do so but not of their own choosing.

Lieberman also spends a good deal of time exploring religion in this devoutly Buddhist country and uses it to explain the reaction to the monks being attacked by government troops a few years ago. At the same time, he uses the people's supposedly fatalistic attitudes in explaining why they have not risen up to rebel. In reality, most societies, even those repressive like Burma's, exist firmly rooted in a status quo until a spark sets them off. At least there are signs that things are starting to turn around politically since Lieberman is able to talk to Aung San Suu Kyi who was under house arrest for decades.

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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