Matter of life
The sense of verisimilitude in Midi Z’s work partially comes from a cast that mostly consists of non-professional actors who are friends and relatives. They don’t perform; they live life and are sometimes caught staring directly at the camera. It feels like they are real people telling us their real-life stories.
To the self-taught director, what sets him apart from professionally trained filmmakers is his wealth of life experiences.
“It is difficult for many people to find topics to make a film about. For me, it’s easy. One night of my life can make a good story. I have seen it, lived through it and know how to make a movie out of it,” Midi Z says.
Inspired by the real life stories of his friends, the director’s second feature, Poor Folk, takes a hard look at the drug trade and human trafficking. It was partially shot in northern Thailand’s remote border town of Dagudi, which is populated by Chinese refugees and illegal immigrants. An independent army controls the Burmese side.
The everyday predicament faced by locals became menacingly apparent when, during a day of shooting in the jungle, Wang suddenly disappeared into the booby-trapped jungle along the border. Afraid that he might be shot on sight by soldiers on the other side, the crew frantically searched for their missing lead actor. Fortunately, Wang re-appeared 20 minutes later, thorns all over his body but none the worse for wear.
The director speaks of the making of Return to Burma and Poor Folk as a learning process and says he has yet to become a “real director.” His future projects include Lian Qing, a Burmese Girl (蓮青), a love story that will be very different from his first two docu-dramas.
“Cinema is all about doing. No matter what happens in the world, as long as we live, you will see the projects I have talked about made into films. It has nothing to do with money. You can make it for NT$100,000 or NT$10,000,” Midi Z says. “It is more like a revolution: intense, passionate and somewhat irrational. It has to break rules, challenge and make things happen.”
Return to Burma and Poor Folk are currently playing at SPOT — Taipei Film House (台北光點), 18, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市中山北路二段18號), and run until May 17.