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Midi Z brings Myanmar's conflicts to the movies

Catherine Vinay/Cinemas du Monde

Politics is behind the themes which have led 30-year-old Midi Z (for Midi Zhao... midi meaning small in his Burmese language, “therefore unnoticed!” he chuckles) into making films.

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What moves Midi Z, he says, is actually the question of “movement”.

“People always move when there is conflict," he notes.

Cannes 2012

So he looks at what changes, if anything, in behaviour patterns when this happens.

His first film focuses on young people who had quit the country and a tough regime in Myanmar to find work and a life elsewhere, but who return at the time of the elections in 2011, hoping to find their home changed. Like him.

He started off studying graphic design in Taiwan. After making a short film, he was picked up by film directors Ang Lee and Hou Hsiao-hsien. The relationship has lasted and Midi Z has been involved at Hou’s production company in getting underway the acclaimed director’s film project Nie Yin Niang.

Midi Z’s second film is not made yet. But we do know is title: Liang Qing, a Burmese girl. It’s about a refugee who leaves Myanmar because of the war situation in her home region.

At the Cannes Film Festival in May 2012, Midi Z was constantly on the hop: in meetings with journalists interested in this south-east Asian whose country had made positive news headlines in the preceding months.

But, as well as publicity, he needed funding for his second feature film.

Luckily Midi Z was one of the 10 or so film makers from outside the European Union with a first or second fiction feature film in the pipeline, selected for promotion at Cannes by the Institut de France’s Cinémas du Monde.

The projects have a more or less prepared script, and have teams more or less ready to shoot, but lack that without which, unless you’re talking rock-bottom new-tech film techniques and a benevolent family cast, your film will not be made: money.

Hopefully Midi Z managed to spark more during his relentless stream of rendevous in Cannes than just curiosity, to raise the 650,000 euros he estimates necessary to make his film.

Movement is obviously more than a subject of contemplation for Midi Z, it’s his way of life.

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