Dr. Robert Lieberman

Fulbright Scholar Specialist Program Participant Dr. Robert Lieberman

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In 2008, novelist, filmmaker and physics lecturer at Cornell University, Dr. Robert Lieberman, traveled to Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) for a year to teach film and create public-service ads through the Fulbright Specialist Program, a component of the Fulbright Scholar Program. Early on, the filmmaker was instructed not to film in the country, outside of the public service ads he was creating. At the time, the government of Myanmar did not allow western journalists to visit the country and journalists were occasionally deported. However, according to Dr. Lieberman, during that time the real challenge in Myanmar facing journalists was not deportation, it was self-censorship.

A self-proclaimed adrenalin junkie, Dr. Lieberman used every moment he could to clandestinely film his surroundings, despite heavy government scrutiny. During his Fulbright Fellowship and over the course of the next two years, he managed to record 120 hours of footage documenting life in Myanmar, just as political change was starting to stir.

As Steven Lee Myers writes in a profile of Dr. Lieberman in the New York Times, “The result, edited to 88 minutes, is “They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain,” a documentary produced by Deborah C. Hoard and edited by David Kossack. Mr. Lieberman completed the film last year, just as Myanmar’s new government — elected in a vote universally denounced as undemocratic — began to open up, making it a timely exposition of a little-known country now in the headlines.”

According to Lee,” The film, made with a Sony camcorder (all the better to tuck away when necessary), unfolds as an episodic travelogue, interspersed with historic footage and explanatory narration (on subjects like why the country is known both as Myanmar and the old colonial name, Burma).”

With Dr. Lieberman as the narrator, “They Call it Myanmar” provides a never before seen look into the social and economic conditions of a country that had been isolated from broader audiences for decades.

Read Steven Lee Myers profile of Dr. Lieberman and his film in the New York Times

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