City of Jade
TAIWAN, MYANMAR / 2016 / Burmese, Chinese (Yunnan dialect) / Color / Blu-ray / 99 min
Director: Midi Z
Script: Midi Z, Wu Pei-Chi
Photography: Midi Z, Wang Fu-Ang
Editors: Midi Z, Lin Sheng-Wen
Executive Producer: Jessie Shih
Producers: Wang Shin-Hong, Midi Z, Isabella Ho, Lin Sheng-Wen
Production Company, Source: Seashore Image Productions (Isabella Ho)
The director narrates the history of his own family while filming his brother and fellow jade miners as they work in Kachin, Myanmar. His mother and grandfather were arrested for drug use, and his brother also spent time in jail for drugs. Reuniting with his brother after sixteen years, the director joins him as he goes to the mine. Filming took pace in the middle of the intermittent warring between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army. Through episodes such as the confiscation of machines and scooters, the film tells the story of the current social conditions of Myanmar, alongside the director’s heavyhearted rendering of his ambivalent feelings towards his brother.
For years, a photo has hung in our living room; facing the camera, my father was smoking while my mother was cooking noodles behind him. In the background was a muddy street in a market. My mother told me that the photo was taken by a mad photographer in Jade City in 1990.
Later I followed my eldest brother to Jade City to make a documentary. When people saw me with a camera, they always asked me to take photos of them.
When shooting City of Jade, so often I could not see through the viewfinder since it did not seem to have existed at the time. Moreover, neither ideas of “frame” and “composition” nor concepts analyzed in cinema studies such as “aesthetics,” “poetic feel” and “image” existed. Back then, they meant nothing, let alone help me explain what was happening before my eyes.
Born in Myanmar in 1982, Midi Z arrived in Taiwan at the age of sixteen. He studied design and art before obtaining a master’s degree from the National Taiwan University of Technology and Science. In 2006, his graduation film, Paloma Blanca, was invited to several festivals such as the Busan International Film Festival and the Gothenburg Film Festival. From 2011 to 2014, Midi made three features, including Return to Burma, Poor Folk and Ice Poison; all were shot in under ten days with a budget of less than 10,000 US dollars. In 2011, Return to Burma was nominated for the Busan New Currents Competition and the Rotterdam Tiger Competition. In 2014, Ice Poison won Best International Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival, Best Director at the Love and Peace Film Festival in Sweden, Best Director and Press Award at the Taipei Film Festival and was nominated for Best Director at the Taipei Golden Horse Awards. Moreover, it represented Taiwan as the nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards the following year. In 2015, his script for The Road to Mandalay won the biggest prize at L’Atelier at Cannes and the Prix ARTE International. Midi has proven himself to be a prolific director, working in Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand, and China.