Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Out of Darkness

Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images
Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest in Myanmar for more than a decade before being released in 2010. A new film by Robert Lieberman, who is a physics professor, novelist and filmmaker, explores the south Asian nation.

Yet changes continue in Myanmar. In May, the administration of President Barack Obama eased some investment sanctions in response to political reforms the government had agreed to. In August, the government of Myanmar announced  that it would cease pre-publication censorship of the country's media. 

But there is a long way to go, as Suu Kyi has made clear in her comments in recent months, and which she will likely allude to that on Wednesday.

What's in a Name?

Even the name of the country is contentious. 

"Since 1989 the military authorities in Burma have promoted the name Myanmar as a conventional name for their state; the US Government did not adopt the name, which is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw," according to the CIA World Factbook.

"That's why I called the film 'They Call it Myanmar,' which always gets a laugh out of the Burmese," Lieberman said. "It was a unilateral action by the military government. The people had nothing to do with it."

Even respected media outlets are split. Associated Press style is Myanmar, as it is for the New York Times. The Washington Post and the BBC, however, go with Burma.

"Suu Kyi wants to call it Burma. It's a political issue," Lieberman said.

The long-standing controversy even made it into the classic television sitcom that proudly proclaimed it was about nothing, "Seinfeld."

After J. Peterman, played by John O'Hurley, tells Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Elaine over the phone that he is fleeing his clothing catalog company, she protests. But he tells her, "I'm in Burma. ... You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me."

For those interested in catching a look at the country before Suu Kyi's Gold Medal ceremony, "They Call it Myanmar" will be showing at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring, Md., for one week, starting on Friday. 

Lieberman will be on hand for this weekend's shows to answer questions.

As for what's next for Lieberman, he feels like he's ready to tackle another tough subject as a filmmaker. 

"I'm interested in doing a film on North Korea," he said. "I did the second-most isolated country. Why not the first?"

comments powered by Disqus




Want Roll Call on your doorstep?