The Road to Mandalay, the latest film by award-winning Taiwan based Burmese director Midi Z comes to cinemas in the UK and Ireland on 29 September....
In The Road to Mandalay, Midi Z’s fourth feature, he continues his preoccupation with exiles from Myanmar’s ethnic Chinese minority. This is a love story which follows two illegal immigrants as they resort to human traffickers to help them cross the Mekong river and over the border into a less than welcoming Thailand. As they reach Bangkok, Lianqing soon finds herself drifting from one worthless job to another, and she gets closer to fellow illegal immigrant Guo who she met on the journey. With her unwavering determination to obtain identity papers, she soon realises that her hopes for the future are from his, and ultimately their love is doomed. The Road to Mandalay is a powerful portrait of the trials and tribulations of those seeking to escape conflict and poverty in Myanmar in search of a better life.
An eerie soundscape alongside dreamlike, and almost surreal sequences, amplify the disillusionment, displacement and alienation felt by the characters, while Midi Z’s regular actress Wu Ke-xi gives a striking performance, alongside Taiwanese star Kai Ko. The Road to Mandalay firmly places Midi Z among the top contemporary social realist filmmakers working in Asia today.
Midi Z says of the film, “The situation faced by migrant workers in 2016 is the same as it was thirty years ago. There’s no end to these incredible, heart-breaking stories, despite Burma’s transition towards greater democracy. Young Burmese who feel imprisoned in their own country still regard Thailand and other countries as places where they would be ‘free’ and enjoy a brighter future. They have no idea that they will be ‘imprisoned’ again – and this time in a bigger prison. I’m fortunate. If I hadn’t moved to Taiwan to study, I could well have ended up like one of the characters in this film.
“I spent some three years doing field research in Thailand and Burma. I interviewed more than a hundred Burmese migrants in Thailand, and came up with several storylines set in different periods with different endings. I eventually settled on the story closest to my own experience and turned that story into this film as best I could.”
Midi Z was born in Myanmar in 1982, and is of Chinese descent. At the age of 16, Midi moved to Taiwan having won a scholarship, and went on to study art. His thesis film Paloma Blanca was screened at various international film festivals. In 2009, he was selected as the leading screenwriter and leading director for the Taipei Golden Horse Film Academy organised by Hou Hsiao-hsien. In 2011, he made his first feature film Return to Burma, which was selected for Busan International Film Festival 2011 and had its European premiere in the prestigious Tiger Awards Competition section of International Film Festival Rotterdam 2012. His third feature Ice Poison won the Best International Film Award at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014 and was Taiwan’s official entry for the Oscar® for Best Foreign Language Film. He subsequently made his first documentary, Jade Miners, which was selected for the Taipei International Film Festival and International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2015, followed by another documentary, City of Jade, which was selected for the Forum section of Berlinale in 2016. In the same year, he received the award for Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker at the Golden Horse Awards, in recognition of his excellence as a director of both feature films and documentaries, and for his contribution to Taiwanese cinema.
Since the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival independent strand Venice Days in 2016, winning the FEDEORA Award for Best Film, The Road to Mandalay has since been selected at numerous major international film festivals, including Toronto International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, Taipei Golden Horse International Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival and International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film had its UK premiere at Glasgow Film Festival and London premiere as the Closing Gala at Chinese Visual Festival at the BFI.