×

Midi Z on Cannes Title ‘Nina Wu’: ‘I’m Aiming for a New Cinematic Language’

Taiwan-based director Midi Z has become a star of the art-house scene in Asia. The appearance of his film “Nina Wu” in Un Certain Regard in Cannes – already getting strong buzz ahead of its screening Tuesday – is the highest-profile festival berth for the helmer and for lead actress Wu Ke-xi, who recently signed up with CAA.

The film is a departure from Z’s usual register of ultra-low budget, self-penned, Myanmar-set dramas and documentaries. For a start, it’s the ethnic Burmese director’s first film set in Taiwan. It’s also his first with a professional-level budget (of $2 million) and his first from a third-party scriptwriter.

Wu, Z’s lead actress in most of his fiction titles, told him back in 2016 that she was working on a script for him, and then surprised Z by actually delivering. “So many people say they are working on something for me, but then never come through. She simply sent me a full script by email,” said Z, whose real name is Zhao Deyin.

“She was not professionally trained as a writer,” Zhao added. “Instead, she wrote from her heart, from her imagination and without self-control. Had we shot every detail with all the secondary characters and extras, it would have been quite a lot more expensive.”

The film features an actress who is humiliated as she achieves her breakthrough role, and then flees to the countryside to escape bullying that could be real or imagined.

While the film has been touted as part of the #MeToo movement and as a response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Z insists that all the characters are fictional or composites. “It is not about real people who are going to feel uncomfortable. But it is timely. The position of female filmmakers in Asia, Japan and Korea is still so troublesome.”

Z has no trouble explaining why a man should have directed this tale. “If a woman had directed, it would have weighed more heavily to the female point of view,” he said. “The character of the woman from the countryside, working in the big city, is like my own situation as an outsider, a Burmese in Taiwan.”

While promising to revert to the stripped-down style of his previous films “Ice Poison,” “Return to Burma” and “Poor Folk,” which Z calls “direct cinema,” he clearly had fun making a genre movie.

“I’m aiming for a new cinematic language. We actually did shoot with lots of coverage, dollies and cranes. But I cut out a lot of that in the editing room,” Z said. “There is an eight-minute take, but it is not simply visually long. Every frame has drama. I promise this is not just a boring art-house movie.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

    Film Review: 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon'

    No asteroids are hurtling toward Earth in “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” though a flying frozen pizza does softly slice the top off an elderly shopper’s hairdo: That’s roughly the level of quirky peril we’re talking about in the latest outing from Aardman Animations, and as usual, the British stop-motion masters cheerfully prove that [...]

  • Slam

    Film Review: ‘Slam’

    The disappearance of a fearless female Palestinian-Australian slam poet triggers suspense and powerful social and political commentary in “Slam,” an outstanding slow-burn thriller by expat Indian filmmaker Partho Sen-Gupta (“Sunrise”). Starring Palestinian actor Adam Bakri (“Omar,” “Official Secrets”) as the missing woman’s conflicted brother, and leading Aussie performer Rachael Blake as a troubled cop, Opening [...]

  • Igo Kantor

    Igo Kantor, Producer and Post-Production Executive, Dies at 89

    Igo Kantor, whose Hollywood career took him from Howard Hughes’ projection room to supervising post-production on “Easy Rider” and producing B-movies like “Kingdom of the Spiders” and “Mutant,” died Oct. 15. He was 89. Kantor, who was born in Vienna and raised in Lisbon, met “Dillinger” director Max Nosseck on the ship to New York. [...]

  • The Lion King

    Average Movie Ticket Price Falls 4% in Third Quarter of 2019

    Average ticket prices for the third quarter have dropped 4% to $8.93, down from Q2’s $9.26, the National Association of Theatre Owners announced today. However, compared with the third quarter of 2018, ticket price has risen 1.1% from $8.83. The summer box office is down 2.13% from 2018, though the third quarter box office is [...]

  • Tilda Swinton to Preside Over The

    Tilda Swinton to Preside Over Marrakech Film Festival

    Tilda Swinton, the iconoclastic British actress and producer, is set to preside over the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, succeeding to American director James Gray. Swinton, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA award for best supporting actress for “Michael Clayton,” has been leading an eclectic acting career. She has collaborated with [...]

  • The King Netflix

    Middleburg Film Festival Brings Hollywood to Virginia

    For the last seven years, audiences have flocked to the Middleburg Film Festival. Running October 17th – 21st, and situated in the wine-country hills of historic Middleburg, Virg., the festival usually highlights some of the year’s buzziest titles, and 2019 is no exception. “We’re a smaller festival with fewer overall screenings than other events, so we [...]

  • Kelly McCormick and David Leitch'Fast &

    'Wheelman' Director to Helm 'Versus' From David Leitch, Kelly McCormick (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Wheelman” director Jeremy Rush is in negotiations to helm the action movie “Versus,” with Kelly McCormick and David Leitch producing. Rush will direct the Universal movie from a script penned by “Three Musketeers” scribe Alex Litvak and “American Assassin” writer Mike Finch. Plot details are being kept under wraps, though it will follow the genre [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content