Nina Wu as seen by Midi Z

Picture of the movie Nina Wu © DR

Following The Road to Mandalay, the Burmese director’s latest film was inspired by the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo movement. In the psychological thriller Nina Wu, an aspiring actress who arrives in Taiwan to follow her dreams is confronted with the sudden disappearance of a rival.

What did you set out to achieve with this film?

I wanted to make something that wasn’t really my style and shoot some thriller and suspense-type scenes. I had never a film of this kind before and Nina Wu is a very dramatic psychological thriller. When I read the script by Wu Kexi, also the main actress, I was impressed by how original it was. I grew up in a family of strong women and have an insight into the female psyche, but I've never had the opportunity to make such a powerful film about women up until now.

How do you like to work on set?

I’m very hands-on. Sometimes I'll adjust the lighting or test all the equipment and props. But I also have a routine which includes shaving my head before each shoot. Shaving my beard is a tradition I reserve for when it’s a wrap.

Why did you choose to become a director?

When I was 16, I went to Taiwan to study. A friend, who had stayed in Burma, gave me some money to buy him a digital camcorder so he could film his wedding ceremony. But the shipment was returned to me a week later as Burma imposed strict controls on imports of all media products. So this digital camcorder followed me everywhere for years afterwards and I made a living working as a wedding photographer. After entering a few short-film competitions, I was asked to make commercials and I began to watch a lot of films as background research which ultimately led to a passion for this art form.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

From the feelings that my native country, Burma, elicits in me, and in firmly rooted childhood memories. I am also influenced by a lot of writers, including Zweig, Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Faulkner, Kafka and Balzac.

What are the differences between the film industry in your native country and your adopted land?

Taiwanese directors are in a tough position. They aspire to be great filmmakers, but don't know what kind of movie is expected of them. Money is tight which is one of the main difficulties of the Taiwanese market.

In Burma, local low-quality films that are shot on a shoestring dominate. Shooting has to be done quickly. Arthouse cinema is finding its feet, but filmmaking is subject to many restrictions due to censorship.

What’s your next film project?

I would like to adapt George Orwell's very first novel Burmese Days – a dystopic, anti-imperialist love story set in the tropical forests of the Irrawaddy River Basin in 1920. I hope to be able to make this film, which will bring me back to the Burmese forests of my childhood.