Nina Wu is my favorite film to come out of Cannes 2019. Hiding amongst the juggernauts in competition, by the likes of Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite) and Pedro Almodóvar (Dolor y gloria), the Taiwanese auteur Midi Z co-writes and directs a thrilling mind-fuck taking on the #MeToo movement. Co-written by and starring Ke-Xi Wu, the narrative takes your hand and walks you through a minefield of dreams, movies within a movie and harsh reality.
Nina Wu tells the tale of an actress who achieves success, but at a price so high her mind may crumble as a result.
When Honeysuckle caught up with Midi Z and Ke-Xi Wu, I opened with the obvious comparison to Satoshi Kon’s 1997 anime film Perfect Blue. “I have been told [that] yesterday many, many times from some of my friends. I haven’t see[n] the film,” said Midi Z. For fans of the anime, the OG of the rising-starlet-losing-her-mind-trope, that will come as a bit of a surprise.
However, a bigger surprise was in store for moviegoers when Quentin Tarantino entered the theatre during Nina Wu’s opening screening, settling in as a god among the mere mortals to watch the premiere. When asked about Tarantino’s attendance, “It was a big surprise to have his support. I am very honored,” said Ke-Xi Wu.
“I respect him a lot,” said Midi Z. “I’m his films’ fan. We were happy. I hope he enjoyed the film or maybe this film reminds him of his former producer.”
Z points out what viewers will pick up immediately about Nina Wu in 2019’s political climate: The influence of #MeToo. Viewers can see that the sexual assault crisis does not know borders; it infiltrates every industry and every country. Yet Z himself has no outward desire to get political: “People for sure will relate it to #MeToo or the Harvey Weinstein scandal. For me it’s just general thriller story.”
For Ke-Xi Wu, however, the film’s politics are personal. She’s lived this script. The heart of the piece comes authentically from a woman who has become a star in an industry full of people like the producers in the film, in real life – men desiring to use their positions of power for sexual gratification.
In the swirling world of rape and PTSD in Nina Wu, Ke-Xi Wu gives a world-class performance. But although she wrote the original script, she wasn’t a shoo-in for the lead role. Z told Honeysuckle that they actually went into casting before they discovered that no other actor could get inside the performance like Ms. Wu. “Ke-Xi… has been training for this role for more than thirty years, “said Z.
Now that the film is on its way to wider release, we asked Ke-Xi Wu if she had anything to say to the younger women in the industry about how to make their way. “Just do it.” And when anything gets in the way, like producers or glass ceilings, “Find another twisted way to achieve your dream.”
And make sure to catch this twisted dream of a gem, Nina Wu, when it comes to theaters or streaming near you!
Samuel Clemens Long is not Mark Twain, in this incarnation. He is a photographer, filmmaker, writer, director, and mischief lover. Visit samclong.com for more information or follow him on Instagram at @samuelclemenslong.