Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pe Arak says Good Morning Luang Prabang for second part of a planned trilogy

A sequel to the Laotian-Thai romance Sabaidee Luang Prabang (Good Morning Luang Prabang) is to start shooting next month in Laos, with up-and-coming leading man "Pe" Arak Amornsupasiri stepping into the male lead role held by Ananda Everingham in the first film.

Pe points out that he's not replacing Ananda. "I wouldn't dare," he's quoted as saying by Dirtii Laundry. He plays a different character than Ananda's Lao-Australian photographer. But the actress is the same -- Lao beauty queen Khamly Philavong.

"It's about a Thai man spending his life in Laos," the actor and rock musician is quoted as saying in an item in today's Daily Xpress.

In a TV interview, Pe said there will be three Sabaidee Luang Prabang films, and that Khamly will be in all of them, and she’ll have a different leading man in each one.

When Pe eventually does face Khamly on the location, he might have some explaining to do after statements he made in the Thai press that "Thai girls are much more beautiful."

The gaffe came after reporters asked Pe how his girlfriend, Rak/Sam/Sao co-star Koy Ratchawin, felt about his going away to work in Laos.

Read the comments at Dirtii Laundry to get a sense of the reaction.

Update: Koy tried to apologize for her boyfriend's remarks, according to Dirtii Laundry.

Wongkamlao gives over to Harry

Mum Jokmok's comedy Wongkamlao held the top spot at the Thai box office for two weeks before surrendering to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the weekend of July 16-19, according to the latest Box Office Mojo chart. Even then, Mum's high-society satire held on at No. 2, continuing to top the likes of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nang Mai (Nymph) was in 12th place, falling from sixth the week before. It was playing in one cinema in Bangkok -- House on RCA. And today it's gone -- out of the way to make room for Bruno, which opens at House and a couple downtown multiplexes. Bruno, which has been censored for Thai audiences (too bad the ratings weren't in effect) is among seven new releases in Bangkok this week, which also includes The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and The Hangover.

The new Thai film this week is the horror 6:66 ตายไม่ได้ตาย, or 6:66 dtaai mai dai dtaai, literally 6:66 Die Not Die. The English title is Death Happens. It's from Work Point Entertainment and Sahamongkol.

I've heard that last week's Thai release, the GTH travel romance Dear Galileo is doing well, but I'll have to wait for the figures to be updated to see how it stacked up against Public Enemies and Potter. I have actually seen Dear Galileo but haven't found the time and words to say more about it. More on that soon.

Wisit Sasanatieng and Eric Khoo give us Hans

A distribution tie-up between Thailand's Five Star Production and Singapore's new horror-genre imprint Gorylah has apparently resulted in a co-production effort between the two companies, with Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo producing a new project by Wisit Sasanatieng.

It's a science-fiction film called Hans and Twitch has more details. Here is the synopsis:

Hans is a tribute film to Hans Christian Andersen. Borrowing characters from his books such as the Steadfast Tin Solider, the Ugly Duckling and the Little Match Girl, the film is set in the not too distant future. It traces the adventures of android Hans (meaning brave in Thai). Built with a defective leg, Hans is sold off to a Bangkok mafia boss to be his bodyguard. In the dark and crime-ridden streets of Patpong, he befriends a little girl droid who sells matches and it is also there in one of his boss’ a-go-go bars that he chances on and falls in love with a beautiful but mute dancer android who once was a mermaid. Hans sets out to discover out more about the girl of his dreams and her sad past. Along the way, he has to fight off other androids that his boss sends to kill him.


Twitch's Todd Brown says Hans is in pre-production already and will follow closely after Wisit's current project Red Eagle with Ananda Everingham wraps. Add to that Kongkiat Khomsiri's Slice, which Wisit co-wrote, and it's turning out to be a busy time for the director of Tears of the Black Tiger, Citizen Dog and The Unseeable.

During the Cannes Film Festival, it was announced that Five Star had picked up the distribution rights to Gorylah's Macabre by the Mo Brothers. Macabre recently won a best-actress prize in Puchon. Wonder when Macabre will be shown in Thailand?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

English subtitled teaser for Phobia 2

The teaser trailer for GTH's five-segment horror omnibus Phobia 2 (5 แพร่ง, Haa Prang) is playing ahead of the GTH travel romance Dear Galileo, which opened in Thai cinemas last week. I wondered how long it would be before the teaser turned up online.

And here it is at YouTube. With subtitles even. I've embedded it below.

All the segments look great, but the one that's got me kind of excited is Banjong Pisanthankun's People on Set with -- wait for it -- Marsha Wattanapanich looking all kinds of crazy.

There's also killer Charlie Trairat in Songyos Sugmakanan's Backpackers, Nicole Theriault in Parkpoom Wongpoom's Used Car, "Gao" Jirayu Laoonmanee playing a monk in Paween Purikijpanya's Thorny Palm Tree and singer Dan Worrawech in Shared Room by Visute Poolvorlaks.

Phobia 2 is due in Thai cinemas on September 9.

(Via GTH News and @gthchannel)

Movie-ratings symbols released, set to go into effect in mid-August

The much-delayed Thai motion-picture ratings system is now set to go into effect in the middle of August, with the Cabinet approving a set of regulations put forward by the Culture Ministry covering films, Internet gaming cafes and karaoke parlors.

The Nation/Daily Xpress has the story
. Here's the part about the movie ratings:

[Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch] said there were seven categories: educational films people are encouraged to see; films suitable for the general audience; films suitable for those over 13; films suitable for those over 15; films suitable for those over 18; films restricted for persons under 20, and films banned from being screened in the Kingdom.

Teera also said that the ministry has finished making the six rating symbols and would submit them to the National Committee on Film and Video in mid-August before they are implemented.

The symbols are: “Sor” (from the Thai word song serm that means “promote”) for educational films people are encouraged to see; “Thor” (from thua pai meaning “general”) for films suitable for the general audience; “Nor 13+” (Nor is from naenam meaning “advisory”) for films suitable for those over 13; “Nor 15+”; “Nor 18+”, and “Chor 20+” (Chor is from chapor that means “specific”) for films restricted for persons under 20.

The motion-picture ratings chart has only six categories. The hidden seventh category is for films that are banned entirely. If they are banned, they don't need a symbol, because they will never be shown. To anyone. Ever.

The age ratings from 13+ to 18+ are "advisory" in nature -- just a caution or guideline for viewers and are not binding. Which means it's entirely possibly you'll find giggling 15-year-old schoolboys and girls snickering at -- or being completely bored by -- films meant for viewers 18 and over. Or you'll have parents bringing their babies to loud action movies or gorey horror movies, and there will be kids crying because they are scared.

But the 20+ rating with the red box is a restricted rating, and ID checks will be mandatory. I wonder if 20+ films will ever be released in the Kingdom?

If the ratings were in effect now, how would Bruno or The Hangover -- being released in Thailand this week -- be rated? 15+, 18+ or 20+?

Update: Bruno is censored in Thailand. It's screening with cuts in a limited run at House, Paragon and SF World. I have to wonder if it would still be cut even if it were rated 18+ or 20+.

Update 2: Kong Rithdee posts in his blog, saying that it's believed the first Thai film to be deliberated by the ratings board is Du Suay Dua (Raging Phoenix), the Jija Yanin action film set for release on August 12.

Update 3: I originally uploaded the wrong image to go with this post. The previous chart is one already in use for television.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Review: Colors of Our Hearts

  • Directed by Supamok Silarak
  • Written and co-produced by Th’blay Paw
  • Premiered on June 20, 2009, World Refugee Day as closing film in the Fly Beyond the Barbwire Fence II festival
  • Rating: 5/5

Friends Without Borders, the Chiang Mai-based NGO that deals in human rights, broke into filmmaking in 2007, producing The Songs of Eh Doh Shi, a docudrama look at the lives of migrant workers and minorities in Thailand.

Director Supamok Silarak and producer-writer Th’blay Paw have followed that up with Colors of Our Hearts, another moving, documentary-style drama that tells four more stories of Thailand’s migrant workers and minorities.

Colors is actually an expansion of 2008’s Hongsa’s Schoolbag, which won the short-film award at last year’s World Film Festival of Bangkok.

These are quiet, unassuming little films, but beautifully handmade and sumptuously scored.

Here, Hongsa’s Schoolbag has added power as the first of four closely interwoven segments, which dovetail with shared scenes and characters.

All the vignettes are based on actual experiences. They expose the soul-crushing unfairness that migrant workers and minorities face in Thailand, where – because of xenophobia, corruption, paranoia and bungled bureaucracy – they are treated as subhuman, because they’re “not Thai”.

This is despite many of the workers actually being born in Thailand, and identifying themselves as Thai people.

The film shows them cowering in jungle groves so thick with thorns that the authorities and traffickers won’t chase them there. It describes how the migrants and minorities are denied freedom of movement – they are restricted to the provinces where they work, cannot meet in groups and cannot own motorcycles or cellphones.

In Hongsa’s Schoolbag, a sweet little boy goes off to school. His migrant-worker mother warns him not to play with the Thai children or to even speak too much, because his accent will call attention to him.

All the migrant-worker kids are taken to school in a specially arranged pickup truck – the parents themselves cannot bring their children to school because they risk being nabbed by the authorities or gangs posing as authorities.

Hongsa is immediately singled out by the other children because he can’t sing along to a hymn that extols the virtues of His Majesty the King, nor does he know the words to the militaristic national anthem.

Nonetheless, a few classmates become friendly with Hongsa – the children don’t know yet that good Thais don’t consort with “foreigners”. And Hongsa gains confidence.

But the danger Hongsa faces is illustrated when he goes for an after-school visit to his mother’s workplace at a shrimp-packing plant. Mum tells him to go home, saying he can’t be there.

But on the way home the boy is stopped by a man on a motorcycle who claims he’s a policeman. He’s not wearing a uniform and shows no badge. The man takes the Bt50 the boy’s mother had given him to put toward a schoolbag.

Such fake cops are a real threat in migrant-worker communities, where vast portions of the population are foreign laborers who are deliberately kept undocumented as a means of oppression by colluding business owners and corrupt officials.

On the way to school another day, Hongsa asks the pickup-truck driver if he knows how to speak the royal Thai language – Hongsa wants to learn it so he can make a direct appeal to the King. His Majesty is the only one Hongsa sees as having the moral authority to deal with the injustice he and his family are facing.

The next segment, Soe’s Hat, expands on a character introduced at the end of Hongsa’s story: Soe, a Mon man who starts teaching a class to the migrant-worker children. He gives his lessons in Mon, Lisu and Burmese because, he says, “you need to learn all the languages”.

But the long-haired Soe isn’t just a teacher. He’s also a migrant-worker activist. When one schoolgirl doesn’t appear in class, Soe tracks her down and finds she’s been put to work peeling shrimp.

Soe then reveals he’s done more than teach school – he’s peeled his share of shrimp, painted houses, worked on fishing boats – he’s a migrant worker too.

He convinces the girl’s parents to let her return to school, and to let her join his traditional dance class.

What Soe is saving the girl from is covered in the final two segments, Mee’s Bird and Ying’s Bird, both about women trafficked into prostitution. As one group escapes a karaoke brothel – only to end up peeling shrimp under brutal, hand-cramping conditions – another pair of girls turn up, sold into the sex trade by an “aunt-in-law”.

Colors of Our Hearts premiered in Chiang Mai on June 20, World Refugee Day. It was the culmination of the Friends Without Borders’ weeklong arts festival Fly Beyond the Barbwire Fence Episode II: Ten Years Old.

The film ends on an upbeat note, with a sense of lost innocence being reclaimed, symbolized by a peacock dancer, who performs over the end credits.

As the lights in the auditorium came up, the audience was instructed to head out to the lobby, where another peacock dancer awaited. The crowd then followed the bird-like young woman and her band of traditional musicians to a nearby encampment, cordoned off by barbed wire.

But instead of the primitive living quarters that migrant workers might have, there was merriment, plenty of food and an evening of music – another message of hope, behind that barbed-wire fence.

And hopefully, there will be more screenings of Colors of Our Hearts in the coming months. In the meantime, both The Songs of Eh Doh Shi and Hongsa’s Schoolbag are available on DVD from

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bitter/Sweet in Hollywood's Feel Good Film Festival

The Hollywood-Thai romance Bitter/Sweet was to have made its Asian premiere at the aborted Phuket Film Festival, and while a Thailand screening has yet to occur, there's still something to feel good about.

Bitter/Sweet will screen in the 60-film line-up of the Feel Good Film Festival from August 7 to 9 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

An award winner at Houston's Worldfest, Bitter/Sweet was shot in Thailand last year. Produced by Urs T. Bruner and directed by John Karas, the romance stars Kip Pardue as an American coffee buyer who locks horns with a fiesty Thai woman (Art of the Devil's Mamee Nakprasit) on a coffee plantation in southern Thailand's Krabi province. James Brolin, Spencer Garrett and Akara Amartyakul are among the mixed cast of Hollywood and Thai players.

(Via Film Venture Capital and Film Festival Ticker)

Ong-Bak 2 has a U.K. release date

Ong-Bak 2 will be called Ong-Bak: The Beginning in the United Kingdom, where it will be released on October 16, according to Launching Movies. The distributor is Revolver Entertainment.

(Via Eastern Kicks)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Trailer, posters for Buppha Rahtree 3.2: Rahtree's Revenge

Yuthlert Sippapak is being incremental in his installments for his Buppha Rahtree franchise, with fourth film in the series following closely on the third that was released earlier this year.

Buppha Rahtree 3.2: Rahtree's Revenge (บุปผาราตรี 3.2) opens in Thai cinemas on August 20, and a full-length trailer has been posted at YouTube. It's embedded below. Deknang has its customary page of posters up. There's also a shorter teaser trailer, if you're into the whole brevity thing.

So there's more of that creepy little girl from Buppha Rahtree 3.1: Rahtree Reborn while Buppha herself (Chermarn Boonyasak) is getting dicey with a straight razor. Mario Maurer is back, and he's all bloody. The comedians, the mean landlady and the gamblers are still there. A welcome return is the comical pair of policemen from the first two Buppha Rahtree installments, plus a familiar monk and references to another Thai film.

Meanwhile, Buppha Rahtree 3.1: Rahtree Reborn has opened in Taiwan. There it's being called 609猛鬼附身.

Update: The trailer's now subtitled!

Filmmaker turns valedictory speech into protest

Singaporean filmmaker Loo Zihan turned his valedictory address into a protest speech at the first graduation ceremony of the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University.

The Pleasure Factory actor had been asked to change the poster of his thesis short film, Threshold, which depicts a man, stripped naked from waist up, standing in front of a bathroom mirror, with another man's hands touching him, and the reflection of the other man (Zihan) can be seen in the mirror.

AsiaOne has the story. Here's an excerpt:

Valedictorian Loo Zihan said he had wanted to talk about "integrity" and "breaking new boundaries" in his original speech but changed his mind due to a recent incident.

Last Friday, he received a note to change the poster for his thesis film as it was deemed "inappropriate" for display during the convocation ceremony. He said:

"My first thought was to make the changes to the poster as required - but subsequently, as I was practicing for this speech, I realized that I could not say the words I drafted originally with conviction and authority by subjecting my work to censorship which I did not understand. I felt a sense of responsibility to my fellow graduates, who have voted me in as Valedictorian to speak up on their behalf."

The entire address and a video of his speech are at Zihan's blog.

Zihan's films were featured earlier this year in a retrospective in Bangkok, including a rough cut of Threshold, which is about an undercover policeman coming to terms with his sexuality.

In director Ekkachai Uekrongtham's Pleasure Factory, Zihan portrays a young soldier who's taken to Singapore's Geyleng brothels to lose his virginity. His films also include the feature Solos, the shorts Autopsy and Untitled and the two-channel video-art installation Sophia Raffles.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shan at the Dawn at Durban

South Africa's Durban International Film Festival started yesterday and has one Thai film in the program. It's the remarkable 30-minute short, Shan at the Dawn. An award-winner from last year's Thai Short Film & Video Festival, Nattachai Jaitita's film is playing in Durban's "Shorts 4: Broken Borders" package.

Here's the festival synopsis:

An action packed tale about a Shan doctor who is kidnapped by the Burmese army in the jungle. Shot on location at the Thai-Burmese border with real soldiers (and real machine guns), this is a complex story of political boundaries and human emotion.

I've seen Shan, and in his 30-minute, low-budget DV production, Nattachai manages to pack in all the power of some of my favorite war movies. I'm thinking Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and The Killing Fields. And it's about real issues that are happening now.

The Durban festival runs until August 2.

Chocolate chunks European Fantastic Film Festival Asian Award at PiFAN

Awards were handed out at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFAN), with Prachya Pinkaew's Chocolate picking up the European Fantastic Film Festival Asian Award.'s Darcy Paquet had a few things to say about Chocolate star Jija in one of the festival's daily press releases, with "Yanin Vismitananda (Remember her name)":

Many martial arts films have to establish their hulking, muscled heroes as underdogs in order to make their exploits look more dramatic and impressive. The star of Chocolate, however, needs no such handicap. Thin and pretty, she looks more like a ballerina than a bone-crunching enforcer. As it turns out, shes a little bit of both.

Vast hordes of snarling men wielding sharp objects are silenced by Yanins lightning-quick feet, knees and elbows in Chocolate, and as viewers there's little else you can do but cheer her on and marvel at the spectacle. One hopes that her career will progress a bit more smoothly than Thailand's best known martial arts hero Tony Jaa, who has faltered after his magical debut in Ong-Bak. We'll find out soon, because the trailer for her highly anticipated new film Raging Phoenix is already online. And if you find her real name difficult, shes now being re-branded as [Jija] Yanin.

Another Thai film was in the PiFAN program -- Meat Grinder. Wonder what anyone thought of it?

It was the Indonesians who really cleaned up. Joko Anwar's The Forbidden Door took the top Best of Puchon prize, while actress Shareefa Daanish won best actress for her work in the Mo Brothers' Macabre. Screen Daily writer Stephen Cremin has more about Indonesian cinema in a festival press release.

The PiFAN website has the complete list of awards, and Variety has a wrap-up.

(Via Variety)

Jakarta's Q! Film Festival opening with A Moment in June

Indonesia's John Badalu, a fellow juror from the 2007 Bangkok International Film Festival and a familiar figure on the festival and industry scene in Southeast Asia, has organized the Q! Film Festival in Jakarta.

It opens today with the time-shifting Thai indie drama A Moment in June, about a gay playwright (Shahkrit Yamnarm) whose ties to play he's staging are slowly revealed in a cascade of bright colors and nostalgic music.

Badalu's gay film fest also has Me ... Myself, starring Ananda Everingham as an amnesiac who forgets his sexuality. That's directed by Pongpat Wachirabunjong, who's been doing quite a bit of cross-dressing himself for the Thai TV drama Rainbow Moon.

There's also Indonesian director Edwin's Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly, which is probably a better fit for the Q! fest than it was for Bangkok's World Comedy Film Festival.

As of Thursday night, the Q! festival website wasn't yet updated, so the whole schedule wasn't there. Popcornmag says Thunska Pansittivorakul's documentary This Area Is Under Quarantine is also playing.

This year's Q! fest actually started in May in Yogyakarta. It's heading to Bali next month.

The Jakarta Globe (cache) has more about the festival.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dear Galileo at the center of the universe

Dear Galileo (Nee Tam Galileo, หนีตามกาลิเลโอ) opened in Thai cinemas today. The GTH comedy-drama is directed by Nithiwat Tharathorn, who follows two young Thai women as they head for Europe in a bid to escape their problems at home. One's flunked out of university and the other has been dumped by her boyfriend. The girls have all kinds of adventures, and take odd jobs, working in restaurants to earn money along the way.

It stars Chutima Teepanat and Jarinporn Junkiat, as well as Ray MacDonald, who plays a Thai guy the girls meet during their journey.

This is the second solo feature for Nithiwat, who made his debut as one of the six directors of Fan Chan and then made the teen comedy-romance Seasons Change, which also starred Chutima.

The title is a metaphor taken from the concept embraced by 15th century Italian physicist Galileo Galilei that the Earth is not the center of the universe -- by getting out and discovering there's more to the world than Thailand or their own life's troubles, the girls discover that not everything revolves around just them.

The production hit London, Paris, Venice and Pisa. Kong Rithdee's story in last Friday's Bangkok Post detailed the logistics of getting permission to shoot at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in Galileo's hometown, but is on church grounds, which made things tricky because the church considered him to be a heretic. Here's an excerpt:

What, inquired the church, would a Thai movie have anything to do with Galileo?

"We had to send our contact in Italy to explain to them," says Nithiwat. "We assured them that it's not a film about Galileo; it's just a film that quotes Galileo. They heard us and granted us the permission to have the Leaning Tower all to ourselves - but not for long, just for an hour in the morning, before the tourists came."

The article then goes further into the message of Dear Galileo and Nithiwat finding his voice as a director.

In an article in today's Daily Xpress/The Nation, Parinyaporn Pajee talked to Nithiwat and discovers that Dear Galileo is based on the director's own experiences of living and working abroad.

People dream of a happy life in London or Paris with lots of spare time to travel around but it's not like that. When you work in a restaurant, you spend most of your time indoors and you stay in a small space to save money.

"I know many people do eventually settle down overseas and have a happy life but for me, there's no place like home," he says.

I wonder if Nithiwat was wearing ruby slippers and clicked his heels three times as he said that?

I can't believe I've only just now seen the full-length trailer for this. Have a look. It's embedded below.

Shahkrit gets bloody in My Ex trailer

Missed this a few days back. Now there's a trailer for the upcoming RS Film/Avant horror thriller, My Ex (Fan Kao), starring Shahkrit Yamnarm as a guy who takes up with another woman, and just when he's on the phone breaking up with his old girlfriend -- with his current lady friend riding in the sportscar next to him -- a 10-wheel truck slams into the ex-girlfriend's phone booth, leaving her a crumpled heap.

Next thing you know, the ghoulish ghost of that old girlfriend is turning up everywhere -- in the car wash, at the beach where Mr. Wonderful is frolicking with his bikini-babe lady, and in the reflection of the TV set while he sits at home on the sofa.

The effects look cheap, but I don't mean that in a bad way, or maybe I do. What the heck. It has Shahkrit Yamnarm in a bathtub full of blood, and that's worth something. That and Gybzy in a bikini.

My Ex opens in Thai cinemas on August 27.

(Via 24 Frames per Second, Popcornmag)

Jija twirls in Raging Phoenix dance

A video clip has been posted at YouTube of last Thursday's martial arts/dance demonstration by Jija, Kazu and B-Boys for Raging Phoenix.

It's a very well-oiled routine. I think the movie will be grittier. The video is embedded below.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jaa and Jeeja, Nak and Nymph in Melbourne

The Melbourne International Film Festival starts Friday and it has double doses of hard-hitting Thai action and spooky Thai ghosts.

Sahamongkol's two martial-arts extravaganzas -- Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning and Chocolate -- are playing, as are two movies with spectral flair -- Pen-ek Ratanaruang's jungle thriller Nymph and good Thai ghosts battling evil foreign ones in the animated feature Nak.

MIFF runs until August 9.

Five stories means five posters and more for Phobia 2

Following up on last week's announcement of the directors and cast for the new GTH horror omnibus Haa Phraeng (ห้าแพร่ง "five crossroads" or Phobia 2), a new batch of posters has emerged -- one for each tale.

Deknang's Popcornmag forum has them and Bangkok 1080 grabbed them. Lyn's Lakorns offers more photos and lots of details about each segment, who's starring in what and which part is directed by which director.

Backpackers stars Charlie Trairat in what is possibly his darkest turn ever in a story involving "a road trip gone bad, human trafficking, and murder". Lyn thinks it's Charlie doing the killing, and poster, with him shutting the door on a truck jammed full of bodies seems to hint at that too. It's also a pretty dark turn for the director -- Songyos Sugmakanan, who's new to the Phobia franchise. But he's done horror before, directing Charlie in Dorm. Charlie is an old standby for Songyos, who made his debut as one of the six directors of Fan Chan with Charlie, and had Charlie in last year's romance Hormones (Pidtermyai Huajai Wawoon).

Next up is Used Car directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom, half of the Shutter/Alone pair. It stars singer-actress Nicole Theriault (One Night Husband) in a story about a mysterious used car. Perhaps their car has a ghost? Sometimes in Thai culture there is a stigma about buying second-hand cars or old houses, because of the spirits that might be involved. So maybe this story will truck along those lines.

People on Set stars Alone's Marsha Wattanapanich playing a caricature of herself, as a diva singer-actress on a film set where strange things start to happen. I like her look on the poster -- frazzled and worn, and perhaps a bit evil. The segment is directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, the other half of the Shutter/Alone duo.

Thorny Palm Tree is interesting. This is the segment by Body #19 director Paween Purikijpanya and it stars young “Gao” Jirayu Laoonmanee as a novice monk who's on a scary solo pilgrimage. I'm interested to see how Paween's comic-book style will work with this story.

Finally there's Shared Room starring singer “Dan” Worawech Danuwong in a segment by another newcomer to the franchise, Visute Poolvoralaks, a veteran producer who's making his directorial debut. The story I think somewhat recalls Yongyooth Thongkonthun's segment in 4Bia, which had a girl immobilized by a broken leg. Here, Dan has both his legs broken. "Aw. Poor Dan," Lyn says. "Someone is under his bed and he can’t do anything about it."

Phobia 2 is due in Thai cinemas on September 9.

Uncle Boonmee, Phantoms of Nabua at Toronto International Film Festival

While Midnight Madness got all the attention yesterday with Tony Jaa and Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning, the Toronto International Film Festival's Wavelengths avant-garde program has been quietly finalized.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's new short, A Letter to Uncle Boonmee will make its North American premiere as part of Wavelengths 4: Une Catastrophe, playing alongside works by Jean-Luc Godard, David Gatten, Marina Giotti and Jean-Marie Straub.

Meanwhile, a companion piece to Uncle Boonmee -- part of the multi-platform Primitive project -- the online short Phantoms of Nabua is featured as a video-art installation in TIFF's Future Projections.

So that's four Thai films that I know of being featured at the Toronto International Film Festival: A Letter to Uncle Boonme, Phantoms of Nabua, Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning and Pen-ek Ratanruang's Nymph.

That Uncle Boonme is getting around. He'll be at the World Film Festival of Bangkok in November and in residence in Queensland, Australia in October. Where else is he going to turn up?

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 10 to 19.

(Via 1st Thursday and The Auteurs)

Week of Siam finds Way Back into Love

Romance films will be featured in what's now the closing program of the the Week of Siam series at House cinema on Royal City Avenue in Bangkok.

Starting today, six films are featured in the "Way Back Into Love" program:

  • Work and Marriage (Taeng gaap ngaan, แต่งกับงาน), directed by Pairat Kasiwat, 1982
  • The Seagull (Nang nuan, นางนวล), directed by ML Bhanddevanop Devakul, 1987
  • If You Still Love Me (Taa ter yang mee rak, ถ้าเธอยังมีรัก), directed by MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, 1981
  • Plough In (Roi tai,รอยไถ, directed by Amnuay "Khru Neramit" Kalasnimi, 1980
  • Miracle of Love (Mahatjan haeng rak, มหัศจรรย์แห่งรัก), directed by ML Bhanddevanop Devakul, 1995
  • Sunset at Chao Praya 2 (Koo kam 2, คู่กรรม 2, directed by Ajaan Banjong Kosanwat, 1996

And here is the schedule from the House blog:

Thursday, July 23
  • 13.00 - The Seagull
  • 16.00 - Miracle of Love
  • 19.00 - If You Still Love Me (film)

Friday, July 24
  • 13.00 - Song of Chao Phraya 2
  • 16.00 - Work and Marriage
  • 19.00 - Plough In

Saturday, July 25
  • 13.00 - Miracle of Love
  • 16.00 - If You Still Love Me (film)
  • 19.00 - The Seagull

Sunday, July 26
  • 13.00 - Work and Marriage
  • 16.00 - Plough In
  • 19.00 - Song of Chao Phraya 2

Monday, July 27
  • 13.00 - If You Still Love Me (film)
  • 16.00 - The Seagull
  • 19.00 - Miracle of Love

Tuesday, July 28
  • 13.00 - Plough In
  • 16.00 - Song of Chao Phraya 2
  • 16.00 - Work and Marriage

Wednesday, July 29
  • 13.00 - Miracle of Love
  • 16.00 - Plough In
  • 19.00 - If You Still Love Me (film)

None will have English subtitles. The only actual film unspooling will be Chatrichalerm's If You Still Love Me, which has been issued on English-subbed DVD by Mangpong and can probably still found by digging around in the bargain bins or scouring the lower shelves. The other movies being shown at House are on digital media of some form, probably VCD.

House was to have continued the Week of Siam series for one more month, wrapping up at the end of August with "A Tribute to Sinjai Plengpanich", but those plans fell through because of problems with the film distributors. However, House still plans to show The Love of Siam sometime in September.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ong-Bak 2 announced for Midnight Madness at Toronto International Film Festival

Third in a 10-film lineup announced in a flurry on Twitter, the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness program will have Ong-Bak 2, or as it's now being called, Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning.

"Tony Jaa will crack your skull ... see it on the big screen for full effect!" enthused the Mad Tweeter Colin Geddes.

That TIFF would have the latest effort by Tony Jaa is really no surprise. Midnight Madness featured the first Ong-Bak in 2003 as well as the sister street-fighter effort Chocolate last year.

Ong-Bak 2 is the second Thai film announced for this year's program. Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nymph is already there, screening in the Visions section.

It's what I guess is the Canadian premiere for Ong-Bak 2, having already made its North American festival premiere earlier this year at South By Southwest.

And there's been the release in France, which I haven't paid much attention to because I haven't been able to determine the truth about whether it's been cut, how much it's been cut or whether it's been rescored by Luc Besson's Europa Corp., which picked Ong-Bak 2 up for distribution.

For the U.S., Ong-Bak 2 is being handled by Magnola Pictures' Magnet label -- not The Weinstein Company. Lot of confusion about that all over the Internet. The Weinsteins did have it at one point, but got cold feet when they saw it was going to be a period movie and wouldn't directly follow the storyline of the first Ong-Bak. Their loss will hopefully be Magnolia's gain.

TIFF's "see it on the BIG SCREEN for full effect" Twitter shouting is possibly an answer to the various DVD releases and torrents, as well as Magnet's release strategy, which has Ong-Bak 2 coming out on video-on-demand on September 25, a month ahead of the theatrical release on October 23.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 10 to 19.

Update: Here's the press release.

World Film Festival of Bangkok has Uncle Boonmee, Quarantine

The World Film Festival of Bangkok has let drop a couple of early titles that have the potential to be controversial. Both are premieres of one sort or another.

One will be the Asian premiere of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's A Letter to Uncle Boonmee. The other will the Bangkok festival premiere of Thunska Pansittivorakul's This Area Is Under Quarantine.

A Letter to Uncle Boonmee is a short film produced as part of Apichatpong's multi-platform Primitive project, in which Apichatpong ventured to the village of Nabua, Nakhon Phanom in northeast Thailand. He reconstructs (and deconstructs?) the history of the village, where violent anti-communist purges were carried out by the Thai government in the 1960s. The short is described at length on the Animate Projects page. Boonmee premiered in February in Munich, where the Primitive video-art installation was staged. It was also shown in Berlin and it won two the grand prize and a jury prize at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen. Before it comes to the World Film Festival of Bangkok, it will be an installation at the Australian Cinematheque at the Gallery of Modern Art in South Bank, Queensland, Australia from October 7 to November 1. Update: It'll also be shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.

More political statements come from maverick director Thunska in his documentary feature This Area Is Under Quarantine, which is a look at the explicit sexual explorations of two young men contrasted with recollections of 2004's Tak Bai incident in which 85 Muslim prisoners suffocated in Thai army trucks and Thunska's views on the 2005 hanging of two Iraqi teenagers. I saw Quarantine in a special preview last year in Bangkok but its official premiere was in Rotterdam and it was in competition at the Torino Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It's also been screened at the 13th Queer Lisboa in Portugal and the Q! Film Festival in Indonesia. Chiang Mai residents will get Quarantine on July 30 as part of the program, Liberalizing and Personalizing of Film: Short films by Thunska Pansittivorakul.

The World Film Festival of Bangkok already has films from around 30 countries and it will continue to accept submissions until August 20 (not October 1 as stated earlier). WFFBKK is set for November 6 to 15.

(Via Daily Xpress)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bangkok IndieFest planned for June 2010

Is there room for another film festival in Bangkok? Well sure, as long as it's competently run and gives the films, the filmmakers and the audience due consideration. And if it's a festival that offers a voice that's unique on the city's scene, that's even better.

Is that what Bangkok IndieFest will give us? We shall see from June 4 to 6.

Produced by Camerado in association with Location Thailand, Bangkok IndieFest promises to be "a cross-cultural cinematic showcase of compelling non-mainstream independent films and videos from Thailand and the rest of the world."

Submissions are being accepted at the festival website.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wongkamlao was so high

Wongkamlao, Mum Jokmok's broad parody of Thai high society and soap operas, debuted at No. 1 when it was released on July 1, according to the latest Box Office Mojo chart for Thailand.

The comedy overcame my doubts that it would top Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which dropped to No. 2 from its opening on top the previous week and the No. 3 release, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which also opened on July 1.

In a distant fourth was Pen-ek Ratanaruang's arthouse jungle thriller Nang Mai (Nymph).

Released by Sahamongkol Film International, Wongkamlao's strength came from opening on 131 screens, compared to Ice Age 3's 88 and Nang Mai's 46, though Transformers: ROTF still had the biggest hold with 188 screens.

Also, according to Thai media reports, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen broke the all-time box-office record in Thailand, earning 215 million baht, torpedoing Titanic which had stayed afloat with 213.3 million baht.

The July 9 release cycle was relatively light, with the French martial-arts action drama Banlieue 13 -- Ultimatum and the family-friendly fantasy The Secret of Moonacre being the wide releases that week. This weekend belongs to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Vying to outcharm Potter this coming week will be the new GTH teen romance Dear Galileo, as well as Johnny Depp and Christian Bale in Michael Mann's grainy Public Enemies.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Jija spins, swings and sizzles in Raging Phoenix demonstration

The name จีจ้า is more properly transliterated as Jeeja, but now it's Jija. Officially. Because that's what's on the T-shirts and movie posters. So without further ado, I reintroduce you to Chocolate star Jija Yanin, who along with her castmates
"Kazu" Patrick Tang and the B-Boys trio gave a martial arts and dance demonstration yesterday for her new movie Raging Phoenix. Lekha Shankar was there and she sent this report.

Story by Lekha J. Shankar

The Chocolate girl will be back as a Raging Phoenix when the film of the same name opens in Thai cinemas on August 12.

At a press conference at Bangkok's Esplanade Cineplex on Thursday, the wispy Jija Yanin looked frail and quiet -- until she gave a demonstration of her martial-arts skills. And then, the tiny 46kg, 168cm-tall girl gained superlative strength as she spun, swung and sizzled across the stage, knocking down all her male opponents.

The only one she spared was her co-star and hero of the film, and that was because he was swinging her around, using her as his "weapon" of attack and defence.

Giving them a close fight was the martial-arts and dance trio B-Boys -- Nui Sanddang, Boonprasert Salangam and Sompong Leartvimolkasame -- who make their energetic debut in the film.

Judging by the demonstration, it looks like Raging Phoenix (Thai title: Du Suay Dua, สุดสวิง, literally "stubborn, beautiful and fierce") could well be a raging success at the box office.

There’s also a chance that the film could do well internationally, after all, its hero is an actor of French origin.

Actor "Kazu" Patrick Tang is a Vietnamese-French martial artist. Dark-haired, bearded and slightly built, Kazu’s dream to play a lead role in a martial-arts film is fulfilled with Raging Phoenix. His story is almost like a film script.

Kazu said he was teaching martial arts in Paris and had done small roles in various films, including Jet Li’s Unleashed.

He was knocked out after seeing Ong-Bak with Tony Jaa and went to the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 with one hope in mind -- to meet Ong-Bak producer-director Prachya Pinkaew.

“I carried a CD of my work, and walked all around the streets, when I suddenly spotted him,” says Kazu, who cannot speak Thai. “I recognized him only by the big badge which mentioned his name.”

The actor handed over his demo reel and before he knew it, Prachya had invited him to Bangkok to train under none other than martial-arts guru Panna Rittikrai.

“I’ve trained four years for this film,” says Kazu, who notes with pride that apart from his martial-arts moves, he also did a series of dances in the film -- salsa, hip-hop and break-dancing.

He could not stop raving about Jija. "She might be small, but have you seen the power with which she hits and kicks?”

Raging Phoenix producer Prachya and director Rashane Limtrakul also stated that Jija was “unique to Thai cinema.”

Prachya said the 60-million-baht budget for Raging Phoenix was double that of Ong-Bak, but he was sure it would pay off.

Rashane said Jija’s “dramatic potential was as good as her physical potential.”

This is the director’s second feature and 14 years have passed since his debut feature, Romantic Blue, which was a romantic drama.

He described Raging Phoenix as an “action-packed romantic drama.”

“Love is the theme of both my films, and this film shows how you have to ‘fight’ for love!” he said.

As for Jija, she first appeared in casual clothes to perform on stage and then changed into "star" attire of a gleaming sequined outfit, accessorized by a chunky necklace and a jacket with severe shoulder pads that made her seem bigger than she actually is. There was no doubt she looked more comfortable in her work-out gear.

The actress confessed she was excited by the film, as she had worked hard for it.

Her brother and manager Jeep said that Jija worked as long as nine hours a day, five days a week.

“After her work-outs, she’s so hungry, that she eats everything!” Jeep says, but said that thanks to her rigorous training, none of those calories go to waste.

The small Thai star seems all set to make a big impact again on the big screen.

See also:
Related posts:
(Photos courtesy of Sahamongkol Film International)

Nymph headed for Poland's Era New Horizons

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nang Mai (Nymph) is already on the tail-end of its theatrical run in Thailand that began on July 1. After a wide release, it's down to just three cinemas in Bangkok as most of the screens in the Kingdom are showing the new Harry Potter movie.

But Pen-ek's art films have generally found a more appreciative reception on the festival circuit. After premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, it heads back out next week, making its Eastern European premiere at the Era New Horizons International Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland. The festival runs from July 23 to August 2.

Nymph is playing in the non-competitive Panorama section. Here is the festival synopsis:

At first we enter a wild, tropical jungle in a distant, though undefined past. A young woman is assaulted by two men. And yet these are their dead bodies to be found in the forest and not hers. The woman is gone. Then, we shift to contemporary times and we observe the relationship of a married couple, May and Nop. Although May has everything one can dream of -- a career, money, and a loving husband -- she is still lacking something. She has an affair with a married man. One day Nop decides to go to the jungle to photograph the mysteries of nature. May decides to accompany him. In the forest, Nop disappears suddenly without a trace. When May is convinced that she has lost him forever, the man returns, but he seems different.

Nymph is a mysterious and melancholic study of loneliness in the relationship of two confused people. Like in his previous films (e.g. the unforgettable Last Life in the Universe), Pen-Ek Ratanaruang managed to create a dense, suffocating atmosphere of the tropical air, marked with almost palpable sadness. In this extraordinarily visually refined film, nature is not only a picturesque background, but it is also a scenery where all human emotions find shelter.

The version of Nymph that's being sent out now by Five Star Production is the so-called "Director's Cut", which clocks in at around 90 minutes, about 15 minutes shorter than the "Cannes Version".

I don't know where else Nymph will be popping up, aside from September's Toronto International Film Festival, which announced Nymph among its early titles. Surely more festivals will be wanting to show it.

In Bangkok, Nymph can still be seen at SFW CentralWorld ("Cannes Version") with the "Director's Cut" playing at Century -- The Movie Plaza and House.

(Via IndieWire)

More Spirited Killer from Panna Rittikrai on DVD

A couple more early efforts by action director Panna Rittikrai are due for release on DVD in the U.S. on August 25 in the Spirited Killer Trilogy on the Mill Creek Entertainment label.

Spirited Killer has been available on DVD for a few years now, having been picked up for release in the U.S. by BCI Eclipse. With the demise of that label, it appears Mill Creek -- "a company that manufactures movie and television DVD compilation box sets at 'value' prices'" -- is taking over the catalog.

Here's what Mill Creek has to say about Spirited Killer:

A group of travelers visiting the exotic forests of Thailand is suddenly attacked by a multi-weapon wielding maniac. Some manage to escape; others perish under his merciless blows.

The maniac is the Spirited Killer, a forest dweller who kills anyone stepping into his jungle. Leading the pack to help stop this madman is Tony Jaa (Ong Bak), making his film debut!

The Killer is played by none other than his mentor, Panna Rittikrai, who was a major action star in Thailand. Together with Jaa and his other stuntmen protégés, Rittikrai gives Jackie Chan and Jet Li a run for their money with blinding action and superb stunts!

This is the start of a group that would later give the world the action epics Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong!

For the first time on DVD in the US, Mill Creek is proud to bring you the second and third installments in this highly sought after and much anticipated trilogy of films!

All of the action and excitement of the first film combined with exciting new stars and martial arts action. This compilation of films is truly a collector’s dream come true as the new films are introduced as one complete anthology!

I have long been confused about these early Panna Rittikrai efforts and am not sure that actually seeing them would help alleviate that confusion. However, in an effort to get straightened out, I looked again at a comment last year by Rikker:

[Spirited Killer]'s Thai title is ปลุกมันขึ้นมาฆ่า (Pluk Man Khuen Ma Kha 4, Awaken it to Kill 4). Three minutes of Google research reveals that part one of this series was released in 1987, part two in 1989, and part three in 1990. All three were directed by ประพนธ์ เพชรอินทร์ Praphan Phet-in (that's my English spelling--I can't find him in IMDb), who in the same period directed the เกิดมาลุย (Kerd ma lui, Born to Fight) series with three installments in 1986, 1987 and 1990.

Panna Rittikrai starred in both of those series, then directed a Born to Fight remake in 2004.

Got that? There are actually four Spirited Killer movies, and the one that was first released in the U.S. is actually Spirited Killer 4 from 1994. So the other two films in this trilogy are from earlier. Like the Mill Creek blurb says, Spirited Killer 2 and Spirited Killer 3. Missing in action for this release is the first Spirited Killer from 1987, which may or may not still survive.

The Spirited Killer Trilogy is up for pre-order from HK Flix and Amazon.

(Thanks Logboy!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Week of Sinjai canceled at House, but Love of Siam screenings planned

Next month's closer of House cinema's monthly Week of Siam series, "A Tribute to Sinjai Plengpanich", has been canceled.

But while none of the leading lady's films from the 1980s will be shown, House is bowing to popular demand by planning two revival screenings of Sinjai's latest feature, 2007's Rak Haeng Siam (รักแห่งสยาม, The Love of Siam). Directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul, the acclaimed family drama touches on the sexuality of two teenage boys. Sinjai portrays the worried mother of one of the boys. She won the best actress award from the Bangkok Critics Assembly for that. Plans are to screen the theatrical version (on film) and the three-hour-long director's cut (on DVD, no subs) once each sometime in September.

According the House blog, the cancellation of the Sinjai retrospective is "because of certain technical problems", but a print-only item in Daily Xpress today says it's due to "problems with the old film companies over copyright issues".

Daily Xpress also states that "less-kind folks" are saying the real reason House has canceled the final month of its classic Thai film series is because audiences have been sparse. "And besides, most of Sinjai’s films, including the 1986 hit Chang Man Chan Mai Care (I Don’t Give a Damn!), have just been shown on TV Thai", the public television station, Daily Xpress says.

Maybe if more of the old films had been subtitled, more foreigners would have made the effort to find their way over to House to see them. But that probably wouldn't have made much difference either. Many of the films that were shown have been broadcast on TV or are available on cheap VCDs, so Thais can watch them anytime they want.

Proceeds from the series was to benefit the National Film Archive, so it's a laudable effort. Too bad it couldn't have been made more compelling to the young Thai clubbers who inhabit the clubs down the street from House on Royal City Avenue.

For the Sinjai retrospective, House was to have shown the following:

  • Nuan Chawee (นวล ฉวี, The Case of Nuan Chawee, 1985)
  • Yha Phro Mee Choo (หย่า เพราะ มีชู้, Divorcee, 1985)
  • Chang Man Chan Mai Care (ช่างมัน ฉัน ไม่ แคร์ , 1986)
  • Nam Soh Sai (น้ำ เซาะ ทราย , Dash Over, 1986)
  • Chan Rak Pua Khao (ฉัน รัก ผัว เขา, I Love Her Husband, 1987)
  • Ubati Hod (อุบัติ โหด, Emergency Bangkok, 1987)
  • The Love of Siam

Makes sense that House would still be able to show The Love of Siam, seeing as how the film was produced and distributed by Sahamongkol Film International, and House is part owned by a member of Sahamongkol's Techaratanaprasert family, is located in the UMG cinema complex owned by Sahamongkol and tends to generally show titles distributed by Mongkol Film.

Of course, none that is stopping House from showing Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nymph, produced by rival Five Star. House loves Pen-ek, and as the big mall multiplexes have already stopped showing Nymph so they can schedule more screenings of the new Harry Potter movie, House still has Nymph. They're showing the "Director's Cut".

Oh, by the way, I noticed recently on Deknang/Popcornmag that The Love of Siam has been playing in Japan.

Well, anyway, this month's Week of Siam series -- now the final round -- is still taking place. "Way Back Into Love" will feature romantic dramas from July 23 to 29.

Raging Phoenix ready to explode

A press confernce with Jeeja Yanin about her new movie Du Suay Dua (สุดสวิง, English title: Raging Phoenix) took place in Bangkok today. It was at 6pm in the Grand Hall at the Esplanade Cineplex. I wasn't able to be there. Most of those functions tend to resemble a three-ring circus or rugby scrum more than a press conference.

Nonetheless, with the release of more posters and Jeeja looking mean as hell, I'm getting pretty stoked about Raging Phoenix. I'm ready for a solid helping of decent Thai action and I like what I've seen so far. Hip-hop and martial arts (or rock drumming) might actually be cool.

Aside from picking up my jaw up off the floor, just from watching Jeeja in that backbreaking balletic handstand at the beginning of the teaser, I'm flat-out amazed Raging Phoenix is coming out so fast. It wasn't that long ago that the production was announced, and I guess I'm used to films of this nature taking the better part of a year to come out. But Jeeja and director Rashane Limtrakul are striking while the iron is hot.

Update: The full trailer is unveiled (via AHT and Popcornmag, embedded below). You can see more how the B-boy breakdancing moves are incorporated. I think Jeeja's ballet training is coming into play here too. I'm down with it.

Du Suay Dua opens in Thai cinemas on August 12.

(Via Deknang/Popcornmag)