A gangster film that doesn’t look or feel like one, but like life itself. At least, life in the lawless border area between Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. A lively trade in drugs, young girls and other illegal things. With plenty of dreams and few winners.
Midi Z is one of the most promising talents in Asian cinema. A year ago, he presented Return to Burma, a tragicomic film about a poverty-stricken country where everything revolves around money.
Poor Folk embroiders forth on this theme. The sister of protagonist A-Hong falls into the hands of human traffickers. He travels to Bangkok and starts life as a hustler. With other illegal Burmese, he rips off Chinese tourists and sells raw materials for amphetamines to heavily-armed gangsters. Once he earns enough money to buy his sister free, the trail leading to the traffickers has gone cold. Then he comes into contact with San Mei, a prostitute who mediates for the crooks in exchange for a promised residence permit.
Poor Folk has all the ingredients for a crime film, but is primarily about uprooting and alienation. In the lengthy wide-angle shots, sadness and unexpected humour always simmer under the surface.
Programmer Note by Gertjan Zuilhof:
The films by Midi Z are realistic. They are set in a documentary space, populated with real people. People with experiences and stories. A farmer is not just any farmer, but comes from a specific village and speaks the relevant dialect. Even if he has later become a smuggler or a trader in drugs or people, he still speaks the language. Rooted in the soil where he comes from. Midi Z bases his film stories on real stories. On things he has been through or has heard from friends. The girl traded in the film is a real girl. The filmmaker heard her story from her brother and told it as truly as he could.
When Midi Z told me about his financial problems with completing his film, I was slightly surprised. The greatest obstacle turned out to be the costs for a scene with a crashed plane for which the SFX (special effects) costs were fairly high. SFX in a hyperrealistic film? This filmmaker is apparently not dogmatically realistic. I suggested he could leave the smoking aeroplane off-screen, but for him it was really necessary. You saw his eyes begin to glisten the way the eyes of the maker of a major action film would.
The aircraft is in the film. The trailer even opens with it.
Midi Z makes small, very realistic films, but I think if he gets the chance he will also try a different genre. This guy is a real filmmaker.