The first film ever shot in Burma and presented at film festivals internationally, this was a must on my list of films to see. I’d read a lot about Burma from various sources such as Pascal Khoo Thwe’s ‘From the land of Green Ghosts’; The Stone of Heaven: Unearthing the Secret History of Imperial Green Jade by Adrian Levy, Cathy Scott-Clark; Golden Earth: Travels in Burma by Norman Lewis and some others that focused on the drug trade and the current regime.
‘Return to Burma’ is another directorial debut being shown at the Terracotta Festival and tells the story of a construction worker who returns home to Burma from a ten year spell working in Taipei to return the ashes of a friend who has died. Invited to participate in the Busan and Vancouver international film festivals, it also showed at the 36th Hong kong film festival. The Myanmar born, ethnic Chinese director Midi-Z also wrote and co-produced the film and, as he himself left Myanmar when he was 16, the transition between two countries is a very personal experience he has shared.
A small crew and equipment was sneaked into the country to avoid the restrictive regulations and 90% of the film was shot on location there. Whilst it is a fictional story, the truths are shown clearly of a country still standing still and unchanged, the work hard to come by, the struggle between wanting to stay at home with family against earning better money in places such as Taiwan and Malaysia.
The film has a very strong feel of being an observational documentary rather than a fiction, without music and just ambient noise,song and sound, it follows Wang Shin-hong as he talks to various countrymen about jobs and money, rying to make a decision as to whether he will return to Taipei after New Year. Long shots focuing on one element or converstaion slow the pace of the film to perhaps what he pace of life is like in Burma. Sadly it was not a pace i was able to stay awake for and I lost the thread a few times as I dozed off and it was a relief when the film ended, still undecided on his part.
I don’t think its a bad film, its just a little too slow for me and in retrospect i should have skipped this one and done the ‘UFO in her Eyes’ and the Guo Xioalu Q&A as her mastercalss in the morning (as I shall write up later) was very good and full of thoughtful observations and revelations. Ah well, we live and learn…