The Road to Mandalay
Gateway | Dragons & Tigers
Pioneering Burmese independent director Midi Z is a festival favourite. Educated and based in Taipei, he originally hails from a Chinese minority community in Myanmar. His sixth and newest feature film tells the story of a young undocumented Burmese migrant, looking for work in Thailand. It shows how far he’s come from his rough but powerful Return to Burma, which we featured back at VIFF 11.
Lianqing (Wu Ke-xi) has no papers, but she has unlimited determination. She pays to be snuck across the Burmese Thai border and then takes up in Bangkok with friends who are probably working in the sex trade. Lianqing seeks sales work, but as an undocumented immigrant she can only earn money in the underground economy—first as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant, then in an illegal textile factory job in the sticks. She always manages to stay a few steps ahead of the corrupt police as she hustles to earn cash to send back to her impoverished family in Myanmar. Above all, she struggles to upgrade her status through a fascinating, expensive and probably illegal series of transactions with the rural Thai bureaucracy. Handsome, hard-to-read Guo (Kai Ko) keeps turning up, offering occasional support and insisting on something more than friendship. As she becomes more and more intimately involved with him, Lianqing’s life takes an unexpected and frightening turn.
— Shelly Kraicer