At the moment, Myanmar (Burma) seems to be opening up slightly. Just before it did so, the young filmmaker Midi Z returned to his country of origin to shoot a small but remarkable film. In poor countries it’s all about money – to the point of being tragicomical.
Wang Xing-hong has been a Burmese guest-worker in Taiwan, but now there have been elections in his country, he decides it’s time to return. During the journey from Rangoon to his birthplace, we hear propaganda songs on the radio about the blessings of democracy. When he sees his mother again after 12 years, she asks: ‘Have you eaten?’
With those same words, the mother of filmmaker Midi Z welcomed her son when he returned in 2008 after an absence of 10 years. In early 2011, soon after the elections, Midi Z went back again. This time he brought his camera, to shoot Return to Burma.
Xing-hong has the sad duty of returning the ashes of a friend who had a fatal accident in Taiwan. But there’s also the joy of seeing friends and family. Young people still gather together to sing romantic songs and dream of working in China or even America. Xing-hong’s younger brother is about to leave for Malaysia. Xing-hong himself would prefer to stay and goes to markets and smuggling centres to see if there are any opportunities for him.
Return to Burma reflects a poor yet hopeful society in images that follow the countryside and the people’s movements and often have a documentary approach. A rare Tiger too, because we don’t see many films from Burma at all. –IFFR