Free Burma Rangers
Director: Brent Gudgel, Chris Sinclair
Runtime: 105 minutes
At some point during Free Burma Rangers, you realize you’re not watching a typical documentary.
Maybe it’s when you see a little girl holding up a snake’s skin after eating a cooked python. Perhaps it’s when you watch an American family, with a baby in a sling, running through a Burmese jungle and praying they don’t get shot. Then again, maybe it’s when you see a group of brave men and women dodging bullets and putting their lives on the line in Mosul, Iraq, hoping to rescue a young child who is sitting amidst dozens of lifeless bodies — all gunned down by ISIS.
Free Burma Rangers isn’t a typical documentary, even if it is among the more inspiring and nail-biting ones you’ll ever experience.
It follows the story of missionaries Dave and Karen Eubank, who formed a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement in 1997 to assist anyone fleeing the Burmese Army, which was killing and raping citizens as it marched through the jungles. More than 100,000 people were displaced.
The Eubanks dubbed their organization the “Free Burma Rangers,” although these Rangers didn’t fire guns and toss grenades. Instead, they carried medicine, food and other much-needed assistance to help anyone in need — all in the name of Christ.
They also documented the abuses they witnessed with photographs, video footage and written reports. That way — Dave reasoned — no one could deny the atrocities took place. This “citizen journalism” worked, and pretty soon, these reports from the frontlines were quoted by the Associated Press and spreading around the globe, appearing in the BBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post. (Much of this footage forms the core of the documentary.)
Eubank’s humanitarian Ranger unit was so successful that Dave started training other units. It was so successful, in fact, that the Free Burma Rangers received requests for assistance from other places, too, including from Mosel, Iraq, where ISIS was indiscriminately killing children and women — and where citizens were fleeing by the thousands.
Despite the dangers, and despite the possibility (or is it probability?) that he could die by ISIS gunfire, Eubank went to Mosel. He traveled there, not only because the people were in need of medical help and food, they were also in dire need of love. The documentary includes real-life intense footage of Eubank and his team hunkered down and hiding from gunfire — praying for a miracle from above. And guess what? He survived.
He didn’t travel with a satchel full weapons. Instead, he offered something far more valuable to the frightened citizens: hope.
Free Burma Rangers is a documentary that challenges every notion of our First-World lives: Our sense of importance, our lack of compassion, our shortage of contentment. It encourages us to think differently about our neighbors and our world. It urges us to practice hospitality and humility — and to always consider others more important than ourselves.
Since 1997, the Rangers have assisted 1.5 million displaced people. They’ve gone where few others would go, and they’ve done it with a sense of mission.
“If I had to pick one lesson from the last 24 years,” Eubank says, it’s that “the antidote to evil is love.”
It’s a lesson we all could learn.
Free Burma Rangers premieres in theaters for two nights only on February 24 and 25, 2020.
Written by Michael Foust