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"Total Denial" - Film Screening

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“Total Denial” is the story of a historic lawsuit: Fifteen villagers from the jungles of Burma bringing suit against a giant oil corporation for human-rights abuses, in U.S. courts. After ten years of fierce legal battles, the impossible victory.

For five years producer/director Milena Kaneva, has been documenting abuses of Burmese villagers caused by the Yadana pipeline. Her guide during this journey was Ka Hsaw Wa, introduced by Kerry Kennedy in her book “Speak Truth to Power” as ”...A man of such incredible courage and commitment and with the firm belief that one man can make a difference.”

Ethnic Karen, Ka Hsaw Wa is one of the leaders of the student movement for democracy in Burma in 1988. He has been hiding in the jungle for more than seven years. Wanted by the police both in Burma and Thailand , Ka Hsaw Wa has gathered the evidence of thousands of victims of human rights and environmental abuses.

In 1995, along with the co-founder of Earth Rights International, Katie Redford, Ka Hsaw Wa brought this precedent-setting lawsuit to the U.S. courts.

In 1992, two Western oil companies – French TOTAL and UNOCAL , then based in California embark on a joint venture with the Burmese military regime, to build a gas pipeline. The Burmese army, hired by the companies to provide security for the project, forces many in the local population into slave labor. Burned villages, raped women, tortured and killed porters, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children hiding in the jungle is the picture of a silent genocide. Total Denial was shot in Burma, Thailand, Europe, and the U.S. courts between 2000-2005.

The identity of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and in the film are protected under the California state law. Their faces and voices are distorted for their security. The images shot in the US court rooms are exclusive.

As a freelance producer and journalist, Milena Kaneva has reported from many of the world’s hot spots. She has been worked in Africa, Asia, and South America, reporting for World Wide Television News( WTN , later APTN ), for RAI , PBS and National Geographic Television, among others. Her reports with HH the Dalai Lama during the Kalachakra Iniatiation in India, and her interview with the Nobel Prize laureate for Peace, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, kept under house arrest by the Burmese military junta for the last fifteen years were broadcast around the world. This Kaneva’s experience in Burma marked her interest into the destiny of of this beleaguered country forever.

“Total Denial” has been awarded the special prize for Human Rights by former Czech President Vaclav Havel during the One World Festival in Prague(March 2006). The film has been selected for the Toronto Hot Docs festival ( April 28-May 7 2006).

This talk is part of the Cambridge University International Development (CUID) series.

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