Tomorrow Never Flies… into Burma

What do Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep and Katie Holmes have in common? They’ve all recently played politicians and none, so far as I am aware, has been blacklisted as a result.If they’ve upset anyone it will have been fans of the women they portray rather their opponents.

Michelle Yeoh, on the other hand, was denied entry to Burma and blacklisted for playing Aung San Suu Kyi. And not because she played her badly; no one has seen the film yet so who knows what the actor, well-known for performing her own stunts, has brought to the role?

In reality, this seems to be more about the fact that Michelle Yeoh met the pro-democracy leader on a previous visit rather than the film itself, which for all we know might show the military junta to be a very nice bunch of chaps who’ve been horribly misunderstood. But I doubt it.

It’s certainly striking how unshaken and stirred the Burmese authorities are about confirming their blacklisting of a former Bond girl.

Before all this broke, I was at last night’s recording of Aung San Suu Kyi’s second Reith Lecture for the BBC during which she answered questions on a mobile phone as the quality of connection wavered and we all waited for the authorities to cut off the call. They do that with international calls, apparently, so don’t blame your phone operator when it happens to you.

I didn’t get to ask Daw Suu Kyi who she thought should play her in a film of her life but there were many questions. Simon Tisdall at the Guardian asked whether she was disappointed that countries like South Africa, Brazil and India hadn’t shown more support. She was. Glenys Kinnock asked whether she wanted the EU to back calls for a Commission of Inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity. She did.

I liked Daw Suu Kyi’s answer to a question about how to create a compelling narrative to gain more international support for democracy in Burma. It wasn’t just about democracy in Burma, she said firmly, but about fairness and justice in the whole world.  

I also liked her response to some closing small talk from presenter Sue Lawley about the quality of the phone line.  Daw Suu Kyi, who’d stayed up beyond midnight for this, said that it had improved as we’d gone on, and she hoped the same could be said of her movement.

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