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Burmese former political prisoners to speak at Squeaky Wheel

Buffalo doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a hot spot for Burmese culture. But maybe it should.

The city’s growing Burmese population, which now stands at some 10,000, has made significant cultural contributions to region. These range from new restaurants serving Burmese cuisine to visual art and photography by Burmese Buffalonians beginning to trickle into our galleries and other art spaces.

To fuel Buffalo’s increasing interest in nascent Burmese Rust Belt culture, media arts center Squeaky Wheel, which recently moved into the ground floor of the Market Arcade Building (617 Main St.), will screen “Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country” at 1 p.m. Saturday in its new cinema space. The screening is a teaser to the main event: A discussion featuring Burmese former political prisoners Zaw Wen and U Pyinya Zawta.

Zaw Wen, who came to Buffalo in 2005 through a United Nations resettlement program after having been imprisoned for five years as a result of organizing anti-government protests in Burma, has been involved with PUSH Buffalo and the WASH Project. U Pyinya Zawta, a founding member and executive director of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance who served 10 years in prison for pro-democracy activism, is a central presence in “Burma VJ,” which explores the chaotic 2007 uprising in Myanmar.

Tickets are $7 or free for Squeaky Wheel members. Call 884-7172 or

– Colin Dabkowski

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