When filmmakers Hugh Piper and Helen Barrow began shooting a documentary about The Myanmar Times newspaper last year, the last thing they expected was to be caught up in the headlines themselves.
But shortly after arriving in Myanmar, in the lead-up to the country’s first election in 20 years, Ross Dunkley, the co-founder of The Myanmar Times and publisher of The Phnom Penh Post, was arrested and the future of the newspaper was plunged into uncertainty.
Hugh and Helen were deported soon after, but not before capturing enough footage for Dancing With Dictators, which has its world premiere today at the Brisbane International Film Festival.
“The film turned out pretty well,” said Hugh. “It takes you inside the newspaper against the background of the election and the censorship process. Of course once we had been deported and Ross’s court case commenced then it was quite frustrating as we had to do everything at arms length – but we had some great people helping us who believed in the value of the project.”
The film was ready to debut earlier this year at the Sydney Film Festival, but Hugh and Helen ended up pulling it, worried that the release would complicate the ongoing court case, during which Dunkley was jailed. But the pair are happy with the end result.
“When the story changes dramatically and takes on its own dynamics that can only be a good thing,” said Hugh.
“If I am frustrated by the film, it is because the story is still twisting and turning as what seem to be profound changes continue to take place.”