Nina Wu comes at a perfect moment, hot on the heels of the #MeToo movement which finally challenged longstanding abusive practices in the film industry. Its tale of power, control, and the male gaze is a provocative critique of how we got to this point.
Nina (co-writer Ke-Xi Wu) is a webcam model, who like so many actresses is forced to compromise her morals and sell her body on screen in a different way in order to land her first big film role. The male gaze has long dominated cinema and its prevalence is clear throughout, with sequences of a silent Nina being frozen again and again in the grip of a man’s camera lens.
Her tyrannical director fits the profile of every “difficult” male genius in the canon, chiding and snapping and even strangling Nina to get the results he wants. The blunt and depressing implication is that cinema has historically been a way for men to enact their desires – both on and off screen. It’s hard to argue otherwise.
Wu is great in the lead role, bringing real depth to the character despite her frequent silence and submission to the men around her. She fights back quietly, realistically, in the face of every indignity that is thrown at her. The most depressing thing is she is not even mistreated out of malice but simply because the men around her can get away with with it.
Florian Zinke’s photography is rich and glossy, and when the plot begins to take some sharp turns he collaborates well with director Midi Z to send the viewer through a nightmare journey of hallucinations and flashbacks.
Traumatic memory is a powerful thing and Midi Z’s slippery plot digs out its roots, with this bold and tragic take on consent and abuse.
CAST: Ke-Xi Wu, Vivian Sung, Kimi Hsia, Ming-Shuai Shi, Li-Ang Chang, Shang-Ho Huang
DIRECTOR: Midi Z
WRITERS: Midi Z, Ke-Xi Wu
SYNOPSIS: Nina Wu is a girl who leaves a small theatre company in the country for the big city in pursuit of her acting dream. After struggling her way through gender and sexuality inequality, can Nina, like many other individuals, fight against the odds in life and stand undefeated?