Beginning with the procedural of illegal border crossing into Thailand and jumping straight into the precarious living conditions of a garment factory, director Midi Z’s new feature film takes on a frantic tone of constant anxiety that plagues the working community of illegal Burmese migrants striving to carve a space for themselves in a foreign land.
Headstrong and hardworking Lianqing (played by Wu Ke-Xi, a regular in Midi Z’s films) strongly believes that life abroad promises a bright future. She relentlessly works to save up her earnings for a working permit, a process that takes her and others through a Kafkaesque labyrinth of provincial bureaucracy existing within the shadows. Guo (in a breakthrough role by Kai Ko, known for his roles in You Are the Apple of My Eye and Tiny Times) on the other hand plans to work in Thailand temporarily to bring his earnings back for a better life back in Myanmar.
An unrequited love blossoms between Lianqing and Guo when they meet sharing the same transport into Thailand. While both share similar circumstances abroad, the difference between their aspirations thwarts the development of their relationship. Guo’s attempts to get closer to Liangqing is met with her total conviction to channel all her energy and entire being to get the papers she needs so desperately. In a world where there is no time for love, repressed desires find its monstrous outlet.
In The Road to Mandalay, Midi Z continues to explore the psyche and living conditions of the working class diaspora which he has touched on in his fiction and documentary features. He reveals the exploitative conditions of migrant workers and the commodification of their lives, harrowing in its depictions but threaded with a strong sense of humanism for his characters.
Tightly woven and unfolding in a pace that expertly escalates the narrative, effectively interspersed with brief tender moments and unforeseen encounters that seeps into surrealistic terror, the film is a confidently mounted masterpiece that positions Midi Z as one of the most important filmmakers in Asia.
- Midi Z was born in Myanmar in 1982, before he moved to Taiwan at the age of sixteen. His debut feature, Return to Burma (2011), was nominated for the Busan New Currents Competition and Rotterdam Tiger Competition. His third film, Ice Poison (2014) won Best International Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival and represented Taiwan at Foreign Language Oscars.
- Patrick Mao Huang, Midi Z
- Midi Z
- Kai Ko, Wu Ke-Xi
- Urban Distribution International (Patrick Mao Huang) - firstname.lastname@example.org