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Nowhere Man

Ma Zhandong

Release year: 2021

Run time: 286 minutes

Film type: Documentary


Drugs or politics?

The last season of opium cultivation in the Golden Triangle of Myanmar and the living conditions of local users in the post-opium era.

Deng’e Township is located in the second special zone of the Wa State of Myanmar. During land reform and the Cultural Revolution in China, many people fled here, forming the largest concentration of ethnic Chinese in the region. This film focuses on the lives of Li Simei and Granny Chen during the three-year buffer period after drug prohibition. Day-to-day life does not change; grown-up children seem to retread the paths of their parents. A China that they cannot go back to, a status that is not formally recognised: here is a geopolitically marginalized “enclave” with no identity. The generational cycle of “drugs”, general hardship, struggle, and survival are people’s only reasons for existence here. Behind this century’s promise of drug controls there is a lack of humanitarianism, and the concept of “nation” is just a fiction. Amidst this game of politics, history, and drugs, individuals in the “Golden Triangle” must tragically fend for themselves. The lives of Li and Chen, far from their hometowns, dissipate along a course set by history in the mountainous lands of northern Myanmar that were once full of poppies.


Director biography

Ma Zhandong is an independent documentary producer who has filmed and produced tens of documentary films, long and short. His works have been screened at film festivals in Germany, the Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark, France, Japan and Hong Kong. He has also made short art films and videos. He was interviewed by ARTE in 2009. He served as a final film juror for the 14th Beijing Independent Film Exhibition in China and as a shortlisting juror for the 12th FIRST Youth Film Exhibition.

His work One Day in May won the best documentary award in 2011 at the Chinese Documentary Festival in Hong Kong. Lao Zhao won the Documentary Humanitarian Award at the 12th China Independent Film Festival. Everybody is Nobody won the 33th ATP Award for Excellence in Tokyo).

Now he lives and works in Chengdu, China.