I gave a conference talk at ACLA’s Annual Conference at UCLA this past weekend (3/30/2018-4/1/2018). I was in a seminar titled, “Southeast Asian Literature and
Cultural Politics in the Diaspora.”
My paper was on Midi Z’s film, Jade Miners. Abstract below:
Sinophone Burmese Documentary: Examining Aesthetic Intersections
in Midi Z’s Jade Miners
Myanmar (formerly Burma) began undergoing a set of democratizing reforms in 2010 that opened the previously closed-off country. At the same time, Burmese officials also started to loosen the reigns on censorship and called for more creativity in cultural productions. Previous documentaries on the international circuit, such as Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country (2008) or They Call it Myanmar – Lifting the Curtain (2012), about Myanmar were largely made by American or European filmmakers that emphasized the country’s particularity. In 2015, Midi Z, a Burmese-born Taiwan-based director, released the documentary film, Jade Miners that focuses on the lives of jade miners in Myanmar. The film showed the miners going about their daily lives, living and eating together, and mining for jade in precarious conditions. I argue that Midi Z’s film shifts the narrative of documentaries about Myanmar towards regional connections with Taiwan and other Sinophone sites. Myanmar is no longer depicted as the exotic and mysterious, and the representation of life in Myanmar is rooted in its connection to the Sinophone through the documentary’s aesthetics. In other words, Midi Z’s documentary aesthetics reconfigures the networks of representation to one that is deeply embedded in the Sinophone and more broadly in Asia. Ultimately, this paper works to bring together and closely examine the intersections of documentary film, aesthetics in Southeast Asia, and Sinophone networks of production and circulation.