You are here: Home / Projects / Trailer of the Week / Zarganar Released From Prison

Zarganar Released From Prison

Cinema for Peace and Aung San Suu Kyi pleaded for his release

Zarganar_AP.jpg

The famous Burmese comedian Zarganar was released from prison this morning, October 12, 2011.

Thus, he was among the first 120 prisoners who benefited from the state amnesty that the Burmese government will grant to more than 6000 prisoners as the state controlled media announced only yesterday.

After the cyclone Nargis in late 2008, a Ragoon court sentenced the prominent comedian, actor and director to 59 years in jail – a sentence later reduced to 35 years – for disbursing relief aid and talking to the international media about the Government’s failure to assist victims of Cyclone Nargis.

In 2010 Cinema for Peace initiated the documentary film “This Prison Where I Live” by Rex Bloomstein and the comedian Michael Mittermeier.

The documentary follows Rex Bloomstein visiting and interviewing Zarganar in 2007 before his imprisonment and already depicts the oppressive atmosphere under the Burmese military junta. Two years later, Bloomstein and Michael Mittermeier travelled secretly to Burma to make a film about this courageous man, who describes himself as the "loudspeaker" for the Burmese people, and to investigate humour under dictatorship.

AungSanSuuKyi1.jpgIn 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi sent out a video message on the occasion of the 10th Cinema for Peace Gala. In her speech she says:

In Burma artists are not free. Many of you have heard of our famous comedian Zarganar who is in prison for having engaged in humanitarian activities. This might seem very strange to many people. Why should anybody be penalized for engaging in humanitarian activities? […]We depend on artists, actors, producers, directors, people who are connected with the cinema to reach out to all the people to whom we are not in the position to reach out by making the world not only a bigger place but at the same time a closer community you will be able to help all those of us who have been deprived of their basic human rights.”

Following Aung San Suu Kyi’s request, Cinema for Peace started a petition to call for the release of Zarganar. More than 12.000 people have signed the petition and thus contributed to raise awareness on his case and on the injustice in Burma.

Though the news of the release of Zarganar and 6000 more political prisoners is a joyful and uplifting message one might still be critical. Thus, experts expect that there will only be 300 political prisoners among those who receive amnesty. Also Zarganar’s comment on his release includes a serious tone.

Zarganar said according to the Associated Press "I am not happy at all, as none of my 14 so-called political prisoner friends from Myitkyina Prison are among those freed today. I will be happy, and I will thank the government only when all of my friends are freed.”

Cinema for Peace will keep on its support and hope that Burma is going to continue on its path to democracy, allowing freedom of expression and freedom of creative arts.

To highlight the special occasion in Burma’s change of politics, we would like to recommend you to watch This Prison Where I Live (2009) by Rex Bloomstein and Michael Mittermeier.