Return to Burma dir. Midi ZReturn to Burma dir. Midi Z
NH Tit-Bits
21 June 2012
Bitter Relations Upon Returning to Burma

Things are still on edge in Burma. News agencies have been reporting on religious riots in June in the western state of Arakan, where a state of emergency is under way. According to official Burmese media, at least 80 people have died so far in acts of violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities. Following decades of being closed offer under a military regime, Burma, which is still not widely known, is slowly opening up to the world. Festival audiences will have a chance to see into the heart of this country, minus the usual censorship. In the section "Panorama", the 12th T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival will show Return to Burma (2012), the feature-length debut of the young independent Burmese director Midi Z.

Midi Z, who included autobiographical elements in his movie, was born in a small Burmese village to a family with Chinese roots. Just like many other young Burmese, he left the country at the age of 16 to look for work, which he found on construction sites in Taiwan, while studying filmmaking at the same time. His 2006 short film Paloma Blanca, which was his final submission for his diploma, was shown at a number of international festivals. In 2009, he was accepted into the prestigious Taipei Golden Horse Film Academy, founded by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. In 2008, after 10 years abroad, Midi Z returned to his childhood village with his camera and a three-person team, also making two similar trips later. The footage for his first feature-length film was recorded in secret.

The hero of Return to Burma is Wang Xing-hong, a construction worker who returns to his country after spending 12 years in Taiwan. In his backpack, he is carrying an urn with the ashes of his friend, who had a fatal accident at a construction site. The new year is coming, and propagandistic songs praising Burma's emerging democracy can be heard on the radio. Xing-hong is pleased that he returned and happy to see his family and friends. He would also like to stay in the country for good, and so he is constantly making calculations: though he did not manage to save a lot while living abroad, he believes that he can plan his future there. The country is poor, and people are constantly talking about money. Xing-hong's younger brother is getting ready to leave for Malaysia. His friends sit around by candlelight in homes without electricity singing romantic songs accompanied by the guitar and dream about working in China or America.

In Midi Z's semi-documentary film, which is full of bitter humor, simplicity, and authenticity, we can also see the influence of Taiwan's New Wave: the director uses a static camera and long, carefully composed shots to show his country at a critical moment in its history, while avoiding spectacular places and events. This story about Burma takes place with a slow, everyday rhythm, with its own sensitivity to the locals, touching the essence of Burmese existence.

Filmography: Paloma Blanca (2006, kr.m.), Motorcycle Driver (2008, kr.m.), Hua-Xing Incident (2009, kr.m.), Powrót do Birmy (Gui lai de ren/Return to Burma, 2011)


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