The Road to Mandalay
Burmese director Midi Z's vivid new film follows a pair of illegal immigrants in Bangkok
Returning to narrative features after his last two documentaries, Taiwan-based Burmese filmmaker Midi Z directs his attention towards a pair of illegal Burmese immigrants navigating a new life in Bangkok, and the results are devastating.
Despite the title, the eponymous city of Mandalay – with its exotic imagery and reputation – plays no part in Z’s film. Instead what is portrayed is the quiet desperation of those fleeing poverty and conflict for a fresh start in a foreign land. The sole part of Burma we see is the borderlands with Thailand, where strangers Guo and Lianqing – Wu in a steely performance – are packed into a van bound for Bangkok. With sparse dialogue and clinical imagery, Z paints a vivid picture of those fleeing poverty and conflict for the chance of opportunity and a brighter future.
Tracing the paths of Guo and Lianqing through their new lives and relationship in Bangkok before building to a sudden and violent climax, The Road to Mandalay powerfully portrays two people being torn apart by all the promises and illusions of the immigrant experience. [Michael Jaconelli]