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Film/Video

Deafening Silence

2012  |  video  |  color  |  sound  |  118 min
Holly Fisher
Studio Peter Lindbergh
Holly Fisher
Mun Awng (Dennis Dawes) - others
Zarni, Naw May Oo, Saw Mg Hla, Moethee Zun, Min Zin, Dr. Vum Son Suantak, Vicki Armour-Hileman, others from Burmese, Chin, Karen, Mon, Shan, Rohingya ethnic communities

Scenes from Fisher’s first film concerning Burma, Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing, co-produced by Holly Fisher and Katherine Pieratos, served as template for this new work – and so is credited here.

Deafening Silence is a fascinating amalgam of print and image, facts and daily life. I can’t tell you enough how filled with admiration I am at your gumption to take on such a project and artistry in carrying it off.

– Yvonne Rainer, choreographer & filmmaker

…this doc deserves to go places. Big places. Using footage from two trips she took to Burma (one as a legitimate tourist and one covertly and illegally), news reports, YouTube videos, interviews, and more, she crafts a nonfiction tone poem that feels more like Apocalypse Now than any doc I can think of…There are frequent moments of joy and grace, both small and large, captured in Deafening Silence. It’s those small heartbeats, the candle in the wind of love against hate, right against might, that holds the truly unshakeable hope for the future.

– Dan Schindel, film critic, blogger, www.daysofdocs.com

Holly Fisher’s valuable and inspiring Deafening Silence uses the art of film (sensitive camera work, unerring editing) to tell the story of Burma, a large multi-ethnic Asian nation finding ways to survive and overcome decades of severe oppression. Interviews revealing some of the brightest minds of a generation in resistance are interspersed with found footage and quirky, memorable images from streets, temples and shops, on a journey that winds through urban and jungle landscapes. Her film contains indications of the current changes – and current setbacks – in Burma (aka Myanmar) and a universal message of hope overcoming fear.

– Edith Mirante

Fisher’s compelling vision of Burma is essential viewing for anyone interested in this fast-changing Southeast Asian country.  The military has softened its decades of strict dictatorship, but glimmers of democratic space may prove limited and even ephemeral… freedom of expression remains tenuous, and the army continues offensives against minority peoples whose human rights have been particularly abused for decades.  Deafening Silence offers images of and witness to life in Burma that daily news reports, and even traditional documentaries, cannot. The film is reportage of another order that not only illustrates harsh contrasts, but also illuminates its subjects in a manner that allows us to connect with them beyond the archetypal media panoply of victims and heroes…

– Thomas R. Lansner, former correspondent for the Guardian, London Observer, and others in Africa and Asia, has taught for over 20 years at Columbia University, Sciences-Po Paris, and elsewhere, and leads workshops on media and accountability for civil society groups worldwide

…what an interesting and successful combination of experimental art film and political activist film Deafening Silence is…you have created a memorable film that challenges the audience, and does not let them become complacent.  Each time that you start people down a cinematic path, just as we, as the viewer, are getting comfortable and relaxing into a scene you switch it up on us, exactly like in the turmoil of real life.

But what keeps us ultimately tied to the phantasmagorical deluge of imagery is your deep humanity, your compassion for the people and place, and your outrage against the murderous regime…now you have to begin to penetrate the art world with this piece. You are in a unique position to light a fire under a lot of people who will come to this film as a brilliant personal artistic statement, and walk away with an increased desire to do something…Deafening Silence is not your typical agitprop piece (Thank god!) but there-in lies its strength.

– Peter Kinoy, filmmaker, Skylight Pictures

…an amazing accomplishment…hard for me to even imagine mustering the fortitude to go back to that material and spend the time and effort to make this new – and for me at least – truer film with it…thoroughly interwoven, slow to reveal its development and structure, insistently visual first, deeply complex in its political and moral questions and responses, and ultimately very satisfying…It will be hard as hell to get to an audience.

– Bill Brand, filmmaker

World Peace and Understanding Remi Award, WorldFest-Houston (2015)
Featured Guest, Athens International Film and Video Festival (2013)


WorldFest-Houston, Houston, TX (2015)
Athens International Film and Video Festival, Athens, GA (2013)
The Environmental Film Festival, Washington, D.C. (2013)
Mass College of Art and Design, Boston, MA (January, 2013)
UnionDocs, Brooklyn, NY (April, 2013)



“Deafening Silence is a fusion of beauty and terror, observation and anger, roving visuals and intimate stories that are funny, contemplative, or horrific – a subjective, layered depiction of Burma under brutal military dictatorship. My first trip was legal, shooting video as a fake tour guide doing research. The next was on foot, under-cover with ethnic Karen guerrillas, to film internal exiles surviving in a free-fire jungle war zone.

Colonial archival imagery and clips from YouTube are woven within this tapestry of fragments, often in ironic counterpoint, and always to pierce the chokehold of censorship. This is a living history of a country arrested in time, a hybrid documentary focusing on ethnic genocide but with constant poetic resonance and a rich multiplicity of references to history and popular culture.”

– Hank Heifetz and Holly Fisher