Film Series Featuring Sino-Burmese Director at Cornell Cinema

April 15, 2018

Films by Midi Z (Chao Te-yin), a Myanmar-born Taiwanese director, will be featured in a series at Cornell Cinema in April. “Midi Z Retrospective: Homecoming Trilogy” will screen Midi Z’s Homecoming Trilogy: "Return to Burma" (2011), "Poor Folk" (2012), and "Ice Poison" (2014), together with an experimental short, "Palace on the Sea" (2014), showing on April 16, 23, and 30, respectively. 

The series will include a public lecture, “Undocumented Migration and Pirated Ethnicity: Midi Z's Siamophone Films” on April 23, at 4:30 pm, April 23, by invited speaker Brian Bernards, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. The talk will be in the Guerlac Room, A.D. White House. A workshop on documentaries as a genre and its possible intervention in humanitarian crisis in Myanmar will be held at noon, April 23, in the Kahin Center.

Currently based in Taiwan, and possibly Myanmar’s most prominent director on the international stage, Midi Z is a protégé of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, one of the most important filmmakers in the Taiwanese New Wave and in the history of world cinema. Midi Z’s films tell stories not only about the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia, but also about the Burmese diaspora in Taiwan. The subjects of Midi Z's films are often social issues such as poverty and economic displacement that plague Myanmar, his home country, issues which are connected to socio-economic relations with neighboring countries such as Laos and Thailand. 

At the heart of Midi Z’s films are concerns for the rights and living/working conditions of migrant laborers and minority groups who risk their lives undertaking illicit work which includes smuggling and drug trafficking, according to organizer Shu-mei Lin, a graduate student in the field of comparative literature. “Compassion and documentary style urge Midi Z to film with a distant and nonjudgmental manner. Facing local government censorship for filmmaking, Midi Z has no choice but need to shot in a guerilla but meticulous style which endorses the film with the intimacy of harsh and whimsical reality,” says Lin.

Bernards’ public lecture will look at Thailand as a critical jumping-off point for Midi Z in his depiction of Sino-Burmese “subjectivities,” in particular the “Siamophone conditions” in Thailand -- the undocumented migration, illicit labor, and human and drug trafficking that have what Bernards sees as a mutually parasitic relationship with Thailand’s economic and cultural politics.

All events are open to the public. For the workshop, RSVP to Shu-mei Lin by April 20.

The film series is sponsored by Comparative Cultures and Literature Forum, East Asian Program Graduate Student Graduate Steering Committee, and Southeast Asia Program.

 In an image from a Midi Z film, a woman offers a man a light for his cigarette

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