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Homecoming Myanmar: A Midi Z Retrospective (Film Series)

Emerging Director's First U.S. Survey
L to R: "Poor Folk," "Return to Burma," and "Ice Poison."
by Asia Society
2 February 2015

Homecoming Myanmar: A Midi Z Retrospective
March 6-13, 2015

A rising talent in international cinema, Myanmar-born and Taiwan-based Midi Z has developed a signature style for his intimate and authentic portraits of people struggling with displacement and poverty on the margins of Myanmar society. Hailing from an ethnic Chinese family in Lashio, a small town in the eastern Shan state, Z draws inspiration from the people he is familiar with in this remote region with a porous border next door to China, Laos, and Thailand. Driven by social and economic hardship, they make ends meet drifting in-between worlds where smuggling and human and drug trafficking are rampant. Compassion and a documentary impulse guide Z’s camera as it quietly observes his characters’ actions and choices in a nonjudgmental manner. Mostly shot guerrilla-style in Myanmar, without official permission, the films also demonstrate formal rigor through meticulously crafted narrative structure and camerawork. This first U.S. survey of Z's work includes all of the director's fiction features plus a short.

Born and raised in Myanmar, Z (b. 1982) received a scholarship at the age of 16 to attend high school in Taiwan. He later earned a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Commercial Design at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. In order to cover all his expenses, Z worked as a construction worker, chef, graphic designer, photographer, and commercial director. His college graduation short Paloma Blanca (2006) was selected and presented by acclaimed film festivals including Pusan International Film Festival and Copenhagen Film Festival. In 2009, he was selected to participate in the Taipei Golden Horse Film Academy under the tutelage of auteur Hou Hsiou-Hsien. Z’s debut feature Return to Burma (2011) was nominated for awards at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and Pusan International Film Festival. He went on to receive a Hubert Bals Fund to make his second feature, Poor Folk (2012).

If these two early features had called attention to Z as an emerging director to watch, his third feature, Ice Poison (2014), established him as a mature cinematic voice with a unique vision. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, won the Best Film award at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and earned Z the Best Director Award at the Taipei Film Festival. The film is lauded in Taiwan as one of the finest films made in recent years.

Screenings at:

Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at 70 Street)
New York, NY 10021

Click on individual films below for more information. 

Read Asia Society's exclusive interview with Midi Z

Read Asia Society's exclusive interview with actress Wu Ke-Xi

Support for this series is provided in part by Taipei Cultural Center of TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) in New York.


 

Friday, March 6, 2015, 6:30 pm

Ice Poison
Midi Z. 2014. Taiwan/Myanmar. 95 min. DCP. English subtitled.
Cast: Wang Shin-Hong, Wu Ke-Xi

Xing-hong, a young farmer, can barely scrape by tending to the land with his father. Together, they visit one relative after another to borrow money to buy a moped so that Xing-hong can work driving passengers. One of his first customers is Sanmei, a woman who has returned home from China to Lashio, in northern Myanmar, to bury her grandfather. She hopes to earn enough money in order to bring her son in China to join her. In this part of Myanmar, few are untouched by the lucrative and menacing drug trade. When Sanmei and Xing-hong meet, a business deal is struck.

Post-screening Q&A with director Midi Z and actress Wu Ke-Xi, moderated by La Frances Hui, Asia Society Film Curator. Followed by a reception.
A video recording of the Q&A is available here.

 

Saturday, March 7, 2015, 5:00 pm

Return to Burma
Midi Z. 2011. Taiwan/Myanmar. 84 min. DCP. English subtitled.
Cast: Wang Shin-Hong, Lu Jiun

Myanmar holds its first parliamentary election in two decades. Many Myanmar natives living overseas return home in anticipation of peace and prosperity. Xing-hong, who has worked as a construction worker in Taiwan, arrives home to find his brother getting ready to go to work as a laborer in Malaysia. As he looks without much luck for business opportunities in his hometown, a sense of disillusionment and alienation pervades. It seems as though nothing much, after all, has changed. Midi Z’s directorial debut feature, Return to Burma, symbolizes the filmmaker’s personal homecoming in 2008, ten years after he moved to Taiwan to pursue an education and career.

Preceded by short film
The Palace on the Sea
Midi Z. 2014. Taiwan/Myanmar. 15 min. DCP. English subtitled.
Cast: Wu Ke-Xi, Wang Shin-Hong

“The Palace on the Sea” was once a luxurious floating restaurant in Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan. Now it’s an abandoned vessel sadly chained to the dock without a purpose. A woman in a Myanmar traditional dress makes a ghostly entrance and dances with the past. This experimental short makes an interesting counterpart to director Midi Z’s feature films, which adhere strictly to reality.

Post-screening Q&A with director Midi Z and actress Wu Ke-Xi, moderated by La Frances Hui, Asia Society Film Curator.
A video recording of the Q&A is available here.

 

Friday, March 13, 2015, 6:30 pm

Poor Folk
Midi Z. 2012. Taiwan/Myanmar. 105 min. DCP. English subtitled.
Cast: Wu Ke-Xi, Wang Shin-Hong

A-hong and San-mei, both from Myanmar, live a parallel existence crisscrossing the metropolis of Bangkok and the remote border town Dagudi. To earn enough money to free his younger sister who has been sold to human traffickers, A-hong tries his hand at the drug trade. To earn the ID required to settle in Taiwan, San-mei works for a gang boss who promises to open doors. Inspired by a true story the filmmaker heard while traveling through the Myanmar/Thai border several years ago, Poor Folk vividly portrays a harrowing world filled with displaced migrants, human traffickers, drug dealers, and prostitutes all struggling to survive.

 

This film series is curated by La Frances Hui.

Intern: Huei-Yin Chen

Special thanks: Flash Forward Entertainment (Patrick Mao, Yuyu Yang) and Taipei Cultural Center (Susan Yu, Amber Wu)

Support for this series is provided in part by Taipei Cultural Center of TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) in New York.

This film series is part of Myanmar's Moment, a season of programming on Myanmar at Asia Society New York.