City of Jade (Courtesy of Seashore Image Productions)

Six Films by Midi Z

March 26–April 27

The films of Taiwanese director Midi Z slide effortlessly yet purposefully between fiction and nonfiction, the experienced and the observed. A protégé of the great Hou Hsiao-hsien, the Myanmar-born Midi Z is similarly adept at mixing lived reality with cinematic magic. His compassionate and artistically rigorous films often explore the lives of displaced people on the margins trying to navigate societal oppression and earn a decent living. His most recent film, the self-reflexive psychological thriller Nina Wu, screened in the 2019 Cannes Un Certain Regard competition, and marked a major step forward in terms of budget and scope while maintaining a crucial intimacy with the land and culture of his previous work. This online retrospective of Midi Z’s films from the past decade includes six of the director’s most acclaimed features. View series trailer.

Presented in collaboration with the Taipei Cultural Center in New York, Ministry of Culture of Taiwan (R.O.C.).

Available Now. Tickets: Tickets for Nina Wu are $10 ($8 MoMI members), with earlier features set at $5 per rental. A series pass is available for $30 ($25 MoMI members).

The Museum's presentation includes two new video discussions, one featuring critic Jessica Kiang in conversation with Midi Z and Wu Ke-Xi about Nina Wu, and a career-focused conversation between Midi Z and Jeff Reichert, co-editor of Reverse Shot and Oscar-winning producer. Both will be available as part of the series and also on the Museum's channels.

Nina Wu
Dir. Midi Z. Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar. 2019, 103 mins. In Mandarin with English subtitles. With Wu Ke-Xi, Sung Yu-Hua, Hsia Yu-Chiao, Shih Ming-Shuai. After eight years toiling in bit parts, aspiring actress Nina Wu finally lands a leading role in a spy thriller set in the 1960s. The shoot is challenging—explicit sex scenes; an impatient and insenstitive director—but the film proves to be a professional and critical breakthrough. Nevertheless, Nina’s psychological resolve begins to crack. In light of two family crises, she rushes back to her family home, where she dreams of rekindling a close relationship with her childhood friend Kiki, while suffering from visions of a mysterious woman stalking and attacking her. As Nina clings to memories of happier times, she seems to be repressing one crucial memory. A Film Movement release.

14 Apples 
Dir. Midi Z. Taiwan, Myanmar. 2018, 84 mins. In Myanmar, an insomniac is advised by a fortune teller that he should become a monk, live in a temple, and eat an apple a day for 14 days. In this moving and personal documentary, Midi Z films the man’s process, an experience that allows him to return to the poverty he experienced during childhood and the religion that deeply influenced his life.

The Road to Mandalay 
Dir. Midi Z. Taiwan, Myanmar, France, Germany. 2016, 108 mins. In Burmese with English subtitles. Described in Variety as “a low-key, high-impact love story about two illegal immigrants with very different ideas about making money and starting a new life in Bangkok,” The Road to Mandalay follows two strangers who are thrown together as they flee conflict and poverty and try to find work. With its assured visual style and compelling, eerie soundtrack, The Road to Mandalay marked a major step forward in Midi Z’s evolution as a filmmaker.

City of Jade (Fei cui zhi cheng
Dir. Midi Z. Taiwan, Myanmar. 2016, 99 mins. Midi Z was only five when his 16-year-old brother abandoned the family. There were rumors that he had found riches in the mythical City of Jade. The family only saw him again at the father's funeral in 1997, poor and addicted to opium. Years later, after Midi Z had moved to Taiwan and become a film director, the brother is released from the Mandalay prison. In search of wealth in the form of a jade gemstone, he sets off for the mines, just like countless others in Myanmar's war-torn Chinese border state of Kachin. Midi Z accompanied him with his camera, following him on his motorbike through the jungle, pushing ever further into dangerous territory. City of Jade powerfully documents a cinematic attempt to bring together two very different brothers.

Ice Poison (Bing du
Dir. Midi Z. Taiwan, Myanmar. 2014, 95 mins. With Wu Ke-xi, Wang Shin-hong. With crop prices weak, a Burmese farmer pawns his cow for an old motorcycle so his son can make extra money driving passengers to town. The new business doesn’t take off until the son meets a young woman who is involved with the risky but lucrative business of transporting crystal meth. This meticulously executed and mesmerizing story captures the changes occurring in Myanmar under capitalism. The film was Taiwan’s official entry to the 2015 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

Return to Burma (Gui lái dí rén
Dir. Midi Z. Taiwan, Myanmar. 2011, 85 mins. In Mandarin, Yunnan dialect, with English subtitles. In anticipation of Myanmar’s first democratic presidential election, Xing-hong, a Burmese construction worker in Taiwan, returns home hoping that change will come to his country. Return to Burma was the first feature shot in Myanmar, where the first presidential election had just taken place. Yet democracy was far from thriving, and the government only allowed limited foreign press into the country. As a result, Midi Z had to shoot this semi-autobiographical homecoming story without official permission, and only minimal equipment and crew.

Nina Wu (Film Movement)

14 Apples (Seashore Image Productions)

The Road to Mandalay (Film Movement)

Ice Poison (Seashore Image Productions)

Return to Burma (Seashore Image Productions)

Nina Wu Reverse Shot interview with Midi Z Video: Midi Z, Wu Ke-Xi, and Jessica Kia… Video: Midi Z and Jeff Reichert