Over the past decade, I have written about 400 reviews and have never reviewed a “Christian film”, until now. I’m defining “Christian film” as those films aimed at the evangelistic community, usually shown as “special events”, “one night only” in theaters, or shown at churches. Free Burma Rangers definitely fits here, but it transcends the limitations of the genre and deserves to be seen by a wider audience.
The film documents the efforts of former Special Forces soldier David Eubank and his family to help people in war zones, initially in Burma, but now in many places around the globe.
A Local Connection
I became aware of the film due to a controversy over whether Eubank was eligible to be a member of a veterans’ group where I live. The debate piqued my curiosity about the film, and I’m glad it did. Free Burma Rangers is amazing in its humanity and graphic honesty.
The film illuminates areas of the human experience in which I considered myself something of an expert. I came away realizing there were tremendous gaps in my knowledge. The first part of the film deals with twenty years of the history of the civil war in Burma and how Eubank became involved. The second shows the Free Burma Rangers helping in the war-torn Iraqi city of Mosul.
Burma Civil War?
Not heard of it? Neither had I, and I’m a news junkie and, thanks to the Army, have spent time in Japan, Korea, and, right next door to Burma, in Thailand. Eubank, after completing ten years in the U.S. Army, received a call from his father, a missionary in Burma, telling him that people there could use his help. He decided to go, and thought if he could help a few people, he would be done and have fulfilled a good purpose.
He was so shocked by what was happening there, twenty years later he is still helping and the small medical team he created has evolved into a humanitarian movement which trains, supplies and coordinates multipurpose relief teams. In recent years, the Free Burma Rangers have expanded operations to Iraq, Syria and Sudan.
From the very beginning of his involvement, Eubank thought it was important to get the word out about what was going on. He sent messages to the Associated Press but realized that they couldn’t convey the seriousness of what he was seeing. He trained one of the volunteers from Burma to record video. That video makes up critical parts of the film and allows us to see the early years of the organization’s work, and Eubank’s family.
The story of his wife, son, and two daughters, living and growing up in war zones is reason enough to see this film.
Over the years, Eubank organized and trained over 70 relief teams to help people in Burma. Then, he got a call from a larger international relief organization.
Iraq and Mosul
The relief organization told Eubank that they had food and supplies they wanted to get to people in Iraq. Their charter, however, prevented them from sending people into war zones. They wanted to know if the Free Burma Rangers could get this help into the people in Mosul, Iraq.
The film documents the help that Eubank’s team provided in Iraq. The combat photography, much of it focused on rescues of Iraqis under attack by ISIS forces, is some of the most graphic and heart rendering footage I have ever seen. Nothing is reenacted. Nothing is blurred out or pixelated. You see the toll war can take on civilians.
You see the decisions that must be made, and situations soldiers find themselves in. “There is a little girl clinging to her dead mother against that wall. Do I run across this open space under enemy fire to save her?” This dilemma is recorded, and the question answered in the film.
The Film and More
The film took five years to produce and as of this writing is still in post-production. It is scheduled to be completed and shown in theaters on February 24 and 25, 2020. You can order tickets and find screenings online.