Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Purple and orange clash in Color's Love

The colors may be different, but the message is clear in Color's Love (สมาน ฉัน คัลเลอร์เลิฟ, Saman Chan), a romantic-comedy-drama that opens in Thai cinemas this week.

Instead of the red and yellow of Thailand's political factions, the colors are purple and orange.

Tachapol Chumduang and Pokchut Tiemchai are a young couple from opposite sides of the "color" factions who somehow meet, fall in love, marry and have a kid. But the pressure is too much, and so they decide to divorce on Valentine’s Day, but before signing the paper, their little son has an accident and the only way he'll survive is if they stay together.

Chawana Mahittichatkul-Pawakanon directs.

The movie looks to be cashing in on the national reconciliation propaganda efforts following the government's May 19 crackdown on the red-shirt anti-government protests. The message I suppose is that people of different affiliations or "colors" can only overcome adversity if they are united.

The trailer shows there is comedy as well, despite the melodramatic premise.

Ray MacDonald goes head over heels for Laos in Sabaidee 2

I lost track of the production news on the sequel of the Thai-Lao romance Sabaidee Luang Prabang.

Last I heard, "Pe" Arak Amornsupasiri had been chosen for the leading man role that had starred Ananda Everingham the first time around. Pe was then replaced after the rocker-actor had made a disparaging remark about the physical attractiveness of Lao women.

Seeing how was to act opposite Laotian beauty queen Khamly Philavong, reprising her role from the first film as a charming tour guide, that would have made things awkward.

Well, it turns out Ray MacDonald took over the role.

Directed by Sakchai Deenan, the Thai director who co-helmed the first movie with Laotian filmmaker Anousone Sirisackda, it's called Sabaidee 2: From Pakse With Love (สะบายดี 2 ไม่มีคำตอบจากปากเซ , Sabaidee 2: Mai Me Kamtob Jak Pakse).

Ray plays a struggling filmmaker named Por who agrees to take a job shooting a wedding video in Pakse, a major city along the Mekong River in scenic southern Laos. There, he meets the comely tour guide played by Khamly.

It's actually a prequel, according to The Nation's Parinyaporn Pajee. She attended the movie's August 22-23 premiere in Pakse, which is one of only three cities in Laos that has a multiplex.

Here's more about Ray's character:

"I can understand how my character feels. I was out of work for a while and people treated me differently. "I'm amazed at Por's resilience. He has a tough life but he has never given up on making his beloved movie. And he doesn't blame anyone for his troubles," says Ray, who is tackling comedy for the first time.

"I usually play complex characters, so complex that even my mother and brother often ask me why I can't choose a project that they'll have less trouble understanding. So this film is for my family," he says.

"We always see Ray in a serious role, but I think his real personality is cheerful and relaxed. In this role, he is more than that. He's like a mixture of Stephen Chow and Jim Carrey," says Sakchai.

Read on for Sakchai's plans to work more in Laos and help build up that country's industry.

Sabaidee 2: From Pakse With Love is in Thai cinemas on Thursday.

The trailer is at YouTube on the Sabaidee 2 channel. It's embedded below.

Poster via NangDee.com)

Monday, August 30, 2010

14th TSF&VF: The Digital Forum

The Digital Forum started in 2007 as a separate sidebar event of the Thai Short Film and Video Festival in recognition of the expanding role of digital filmmaking.

It's the place for features and medium-length works that are too long to fit in the short-film competitions, which aside from the Duke Award documentary category, are limited to films of 30 minutes or less.

Indeed, the first year of the Digital Forum, which was held in good old cinema 3 of the Grand EGV Siam Discovery (it's closed now, to make way for a wax museum), one of the featured films was Lav Diaz' Heremias: Book One, a butt-numbing 9-hour mind-blower about a man seeking justice after his ox is stolen.

Other films featured that first year were Pimpaka Towira's 3-hour political documentary, The Truth Be Told: The Cases Against Supinya Klangnarong and Tanwarin Sukhapisit's Phone Mood.

The Digital Forum was folded into the Thai Short Film and Video Festival when the event moved into its new home at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center in 2008.

This year the Digital Forum includes Jakrawal Nilthamrong's Unreal Forest, which premiered on Friday and the musical documentary Baby Arabia, which screens on Wednesday.

On Tuesday at 6.30 is I'm Here, You're Far (ฉันอยู่นี่ เธออยู่ไกล, a 90-minute documentary by Pattana Jirawong about two boys – one terminally ill with cancer and the other a survivor of the tsunami – who become friends via video link.

On Sunday night, I caught a pair of medium-length films that were a study in contrasts but both highly spiritual in their own way.

This Is Love Story (เรื่องนี้เกี่ยวกับความรัก) by Eakalek Maleetipawan was a gentle and sweet 51-minute romantic drama about a young man who works in his father's custom guitar shop. He's depressed over being dumped by a young lady axe-slinger and decides to live at the Buddhist temple. The film is enlivened by it's non-linear storytelling, with the narrative and scenes shuffled around. If it had been told straight, it wouldn't have been as good.

Then came the wild and crazy Misbehavers (หลงใหล), a 45-minute drama that plays out in the confines of a kitchen in a New York City apartment. Nattawut Poonpiriya directs this story of three young Thai hipsters buying marijuana off a visitor who turns out to be the drug dealer from hell, only his name isn't Satan. The three Thais are a tattooed dude, his petite short-haired girlfriend and spectacles-wearing neighbor girl with a mop of black hair and blond highlights. The dealer is the obnoxious buzz-killing motor-mouthed sort you wish would just sell you your dope and get out. And just when any hope of character development for the three Thais is lost, the movie redeems itself with an evil, violence-filled twist that even includes the sound effects used in stupid Thai sitcoms. Poohvis Thanathammakoon, Chompoonuch Junjajoongrit, Wanrapa Soontornpadungsin and an unrecognizable David Asavanont (Tom Yum Goong, Croc) star.

Festival notes

  • My struggles with the festival's flat-floored fourth-floor screening room ended on Sunday when I finally graduated myself up to the more suitable fifth-floor auditorium, but not until after the S-express Indonesia session (highlight: Children of the Mud) that had me sitting behind a tall fellow who came in late and planted himself in the middle of the front row next to his much-shorter girlfriend. From my fourth-row vantage point, the gentleman's head only covered up a corner of the screen, so I didn't raise a fuss and cause any disruption. He wouldn't have blocked any screen real estate if he'd moved off to the side, which I think he did in later sessions after I moved back up to the front row for the In the Realm of Conflict session (highlight: the Georgian-Soviet riot-squad drama Aprilis Suskhi).
  • Another quibble with the fourth-floor screening room is there's a speaker in the ceiling for the building's public-address system that can't be switched off. Right at the end of Saturday night's Each Film ... An Island? came the looping announcement that the Bangkok Art and Culture Center was closing in 15 minutes and blah blah blah blabbity blah. Everyone just laughed as it seemed to be a fitting and absurd end to a wonderful movie.
  • Ah heck. I will probably be back down in the fourth-floor head-blocking hell next Sunday for the Dedicated to Payut Ngaokrachang Animation Showcase and the Beyond Yangon shorts.
  • I hate to complain about the facilities. I suppose it's pretty trivial. I'm not bitching about the festival, its organizers or its fine programming. It's obvious that the Thai Short Film & Video Festival is continuing to grow, with two screening rooms packed out for most sessions. They need space, and this year's festival proves it. After just three years, it appears the festival has outgrown its new home at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center – a practically brand new facility that is already showing it's inadequate for the needs of the city's arts community. Trouble is, there is no other suitable downtown venue that I know of, except for perhaps one of the commercial multiplexes, and those places are an uncomfortable match for a film festival of this type. Also, if the festival were held in the multiplexes, it probably won't be free like it is now.
  • Each year for the Thai Short Film and Video Festival a short egg-themed clip precedes each program. This year's intro is by prominent indie-industry figure Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, who tries to shove a whole egg down a guy's throat and then breaks an egg on pair of men's tighty-whitey underwear briefs.

14th TSF&VF: Baby Arabia to premiere on Wednesday

Baby Arabia makes its world premiere at 6.30 on Wednesday, September 1, as part of the 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival. The screening will be preceded by a mini-concert by the band, starting around 5.30, at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

It's the third documentary examining Islam in Thailand from the trio of filmmakers, Panu Aree, Kaweenipon Ketprasit and Kong Rithdee.

They previously did the 40-minute In Between in 2006, documenting the lives of four “moderate” Muslims in Bangkok. Next was 2008's feature The Convert, about a young Bangkok woman's conversion from Buddhism to Islam for marriage.

An 80-minute musical documentary, Baby Arabia examines how the band's infectiously rhythmic blend of Malay and Arab music is reconciled with the Muslim faith. The band's sprawling lineup includes accordion, guitars, keyboards, several singers and a battery of drums and percussion.

Here's more about the band in the synopsis:

The singer, a Thai woman robed in a sequined Malay dress, croons an Arabic number she’s heard as a child and learnt to sing by heart. Behind her, an accordionist pumps out haunting Middle-Eastern melodies to the tribal beat of the congas while a guitarist gently sends his instrument weeping.

The concert takes place at a rural mosque not so far from Bangkok, and the audience is made up of veiled women and stern-faced imams, Islamic devouts who allow themselves to be carried away by the tuneful waves and the humanising power of music.

Baby Arabia follows one of the oldest Thai-Muslim bands specialising in the subcultural genre of Arab-Malay music – the bouncy ethnic cross-pollination of Arabian melodies, Malay throbs, Thai luk-thung kicks, and a bit of Latin tempo.

We meet Geh, founder of the band who taught himself to play the accordion 35 year ago. Geh is joined by Umar, a former Koran teacher and now a guitarist with a knack for Egyptian numbers. Fronting their band is Jamilah, a husky-voiced, humble diva who teaches the Koran during the day and sings Arabic songs at night while wondering if the world of melody can be both faith-bound and joyously secular.

Baby Arabia plays cover versions of classical and contemporary Arab and Malay music (though the band members do not speak those languages) and they've been touring mosque fairs, circumcision rites and weddings at Muslim communities around Bangkok and the Central Region for three decades. Though some Islamic scholars question their brand of worldly merry-making, claiming that it's against the law of the religion, the humanising power of music and irresistible exuberance of their songs provide a definitive counter-argument.

You can watch a short clip of Jamilah posted by Panu on YouTube, and it's embedded below.

The documentary has been supported by the Pusan International Film Festival's Asian Cinema Fund and the Asian Network of Documentary, as well as the Culture Ministry's Strong Thailand fund.

The filmmakers say it's been selected for the upcoming Vancouver International Film Festival.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ong-Bak 3 to make North American premiere at Fantastic Fest

Tony Jaa's tortured but heartfelt closer to his martial-arts trilogy Ong-Bak 3 will make its North American premiere at Fantastic Fest.

Ong-Bak 3 is among the second wave of titles announced for Austin's annual fantasy-and-genre spectacular.

Fantastic Fest runs from September 23 to 30.

Pen-ek's Headshot, Ekachai's Dessert Queen in Tokyo Project Gathering 2010

Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Ekachai Uekrongtham will present their projects at the Tokyo Project Gather as part of the Tokyo International Film Festival's Tiffcom market.

Pen-ek is presenting Headshot, being produced by Pawas Sawatchaiyamet and Raymond Phathanavirangoon. I don't know if this is the same project as Fon Tok Kuen Fah (ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า, or roughly "rain falling up to the sky", also "rain in blue"), which is adapted from Win Lyovarin's "film noir novel" about a hitman, but I suspect it is.

Ekachai is producing his Dessert Queen, and this is the first I'm learning of it. At previous project markets, the Beautiful Boxer director has been pitching the film adaptation of his Chang & Eng stage show about the original Siamese twins and Enemies, a thriller about Thailand's Thaksin-era war on drugs. Dessert Queen sounds different from either of those.

Also good to see is Monk on Fire, Vietnamese superstar Dustin Nguyen's long-in-development action followup to The Rebel. Casey Silver is producing. There's also projects from Malaysians Edmund Yeo and Woo Ming-jin (The Book Keeper), Indonesia's Nia Dinata and producer Constantin Papadimitriou (Trans Sumatra) and Vietnam's Minh Nguyen-Vo with a France-Canada co-production Dance of the Executioner.

The Tokyo Project Gathering runs from from October 25 to 28.

(Via Screen Daily, Film Business Asia)

14th TSF&VF review: Each Film ... An Island?

Each Film ... An Island? is a compilation of shorts and documentaries by the Philippines' Kidlat Tahimik, director of the 1977 cult indie film The Perfumed Nightmare.

Kidlat offered Each Film to the 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival when programmers went to him seeking something they could show as a tribute to the late film experts, Alexis Tioseco, the Canadian-Filipino writer, teacher and critic who programmed the festival's annual S-Express Philippines package and founded the Criticine website, and Slovenian festival programmer Nika Bohinc. They were slain last September 1 in their home in the Philippines.

As Kidlat explains in the festival catalog, Each Film is a cathartic and philosophical effort made after a 2004 house fire in which he lost the VHS masters of his films. A subsequent inquiry with the Tokyo Video Festival unsurfaced a treasure trove of digital copies of many of his and his sons' films, and memories he thought were lost in a pile of melted plastic came flooding back. The result is an "unfinished" feature that is as fun and rewarding is it is rambling and repetitive.

A heartfelt celebration of cinema, filmmaking and culture, as well as an observation on the impermanence of life, Each Film ... An Island? proved to be a fitting tribute to Alexis and Nika.

Like the The Perfumed Nightmare, which gave voice to Kidlat's fantasies of the first Filipino in space and the first Filipino to fly supersonic, one segment of Each Film, likely from around the same time as Perfumed Nightmare, deals with the first Filipino to circumnavigate the globe – Enrique, the slave of Ferdinand Magellan. Kidlat portrays Enrique. He charms a sad autistic Spanish princess into laughing for the first time and is by Magellan's side when the Portuguese-Spanish explorer is killed with a spear in the Battle of Mactan.

Another major theme is indigenous culture, which the filmmaker born Eric de Guia takes great pride in promoting. For much of the film, Kidlat is clad in the Filipino loincloth, the bahag. It's a revealing garment, but as is pointed out, members of the tribe could often tell each other apart from the shape of their buttocks.

A hilarious segment is "tales of excess baggage", which chronicles the series of cultural-exchange trips Kidlat and his sons made to Japan in 1988, 1992 and 1994, each time taking an unwieldy, large and weighty item of Pinoy culture with them. One time, they brought an entire bamboo hut, broken down into pre-fabricated sections for reassembly. Next, they brought a dug-out canoe. And finally, they brought a 100-kg church bell that had been fashioned from the business end of an unexploded World War II bomb fished out of a river.

On one of their trips, the Kidlat clan visited a rice-growing region of Japan, which led him to wax philosophically on the Unesco World Heritage Banaue Rice Terraces of the Philippines and the important role of rice farmers. His thoughts are intermingled with footage from The Seven Samurai, in which he pleads in an open letter to the director, "please Mr. Kurowsawa ..." think again about how you view the rice farmers in your film.

I teared up a bit when the elderly Japanese farmer Kidlat met revealed he had cancer, and the crop they were looking at would probably be his last.

Other footage comes from Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor, and it's intermingled with the Magellan-Enrique scenes to great effect, as comment I suppose on Western colonialism.

It's also a chance for Kidlat to show off his yo-yo tricks.

To see this film is a gift and a blessing. Fleeting images that were thought to have been lost are found again. But were they ever lost to begin with? I suppose that's the idea of Kidlat's bamboo camera. Turn on the bamboo camera of your own mind and let your ideas run wild.

Kidlat talks more about his film in an interview for the Yamagita International Documentary Film Festival. (5/5)

Festival notes

  • For the first time since moving into its new home at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, the Thai Short Film & Video Festival has two screens – the fifth-floor auditorium and an additional space on weekends in the fourth-floor activity room. This new space is not particularly well-suited for watching films. It's more casual, and the drifting in-and-out of audiences tends to be more noticeable. The floor is flat and heads get in the way. But most of the chairs are of the wheeled, swiveling office variety, and if you're sitting in the back, you can adjust the height for what's perhaps a better view. It's free, so I can't really complain. So far, all the films I've seen have been in this space. I feel like I'm sitting at the kiddie table on Thanksgiving and have yet to get to the "adult table" back up on the fifth floor.
  • Indeed, the first program I watched yesterday was Shorts for Kids, and I don't recall there being any kids there. Among the selection of mostly animated, dialogue-free films was a Thai live-action film, Kerp (เกิบ) by Nattapong Pimchan (ณัฐพงศ์ พิมพ์จันทร์). It's about a little boy who wants new shoes to play soccer.
  • I nodded off while watching the S-Express Singapore package. Sorry! I caught the first film, Nelson Yeo's Nobody's Home, which shows that all you need to make an existential western is cowboy hats. The backdrop of Singapore's government housing blocks stands in for John Ford's Monument Valley and the setting is surprisingly quite apt.
  • I stayed awake for the S-Express Malaysia program. Among them was You and Me Put the 'You' and 'Me' in 'You and Me' by Chi Too. It's a three-part work, consisting of two photo montage segments and then experimental video footage taken in Bangkok of passengers boarding the Chao Phraya River Express tourist boat. There was also the hilarious 007 parody Petra Bond by Chin Yew and The Colour of Ideas by Low Weiyan, which was a stop-motion animation of colored candies. Blue and red (and sometimes yellow) candies clash. The action was commenting on violent rallies in Kuala Lumpur, but the colors had resonance to the Thai situation. Focal Point by Alireza Khatami and Ali Seiffouri is an Iranian co-production about a photographer who has a magical camera in his studio. The boys' boarding school hazing tale Kiamu! was shown twice, the second time in the Each Film ... An Island? session because on the first run-through the English subtitles hadn't been selected.
  • The Best of Clermont-Ferrand shorts are uniformly polished with high production values. Some have marquee names. The British animated short Lost and Found by Philip Hunt, about a boy who befriend a penguin, is narrated by Jim Broadbent. There's also the Australian live-action comedy Glenn Owen Dodds by Frazer Bailey, and starring David Wenham in a comic turn that surprised me. Previously, I'd only seen Wenham in a dramatic role in the Lord of the Rings. There's also the slick animated short Pigeon: Impossible. Today's Clermont-Ferrand program has Logorama, which won this year's Oscar for best animated short.
  • The Thai films in competition this weekend are the White Elephant student shorts and the documentaries up for the Duke Award. Only a handful have English subtitles. I think it's awkward and disruptive to try and enter and leave the screening sessions just to catch the ones with subtitles, and it's probably mostly pointless for me to try and watch the ones without subtitles. But more subtitles will be on offer next weekend in the films by the "general individual" filmmakers who are up for the R.D. Pestonji Award, so maybe next weekend I'll graduate to the adult table.

Friday, August 27, 2010

14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival: Unreal Forest premieres today

Unreal Forest, Jakrawal Nilthamrong's experimental documentary made as part of the International Film Festival Rotterdam's Forget Africa program makes its Thai premiere at 6.30 tonight as part of the Digital Forum of the 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

And Jakrawal expands on his concepts with the Unreal Forest video installation, photos and drawings from September 8 to 29 at the Numthong Gallery on the fourth floor of the BACC.

Here's the synopsis for the feature film:

Deep in the middle of an African forest, Tamaya, a shaman who can connect to the dark side, is paddling on a canoe across a big river, heading towards an unknown land. His body is covered in white powder – the one used in holy rites. At the shore, Lunggeaw, a 60-year-old man is waiting for him. They head towards a small village where Lunggeaw’s son was lying sick from a mysterious illness.

Tamaya promises the old man to find a way to cure his son. He covers the white magic powder on the sick boy’s body, and takes him into the woods.

A ritual is performed in the middle of the forest to evoke the powerful spirits. But Tamaya finds out his is not able to cure the boy from his fatal illness. He tells Lunggeaw the boy has death awaiting him, but that the spirits in the woods reveals that the boy’s soul belongs to a great waterfall, and so they need to transport him there so his spirit could return to see his father again in a different form.

The above is a story within a documentary-style film, which shows Zambian independent filmmakers working hard to finish a film under severe limitations in terms of filmmaking resources as well as their own cinematic expertise. They have to make this film from the story written by Thai filmmakers – a process set up by Dutch project initiators, looking to discover new cinematic gems from Africa.

Through the process of the filmmaking, the ancient folklores and Zambian filmmakers’ struggle are taking the viewers on a journey, tracing back to the historical roots connecting Africa and Asia in a never-before imagined way.

Produced by Extra Virgin, Unreal Forest has previously played in Rotterdam, Milan and Singapore. A trailer was posted back in March.

Apichatpong-a-rama: Boonmee in Chicago, sold out in Seoul, maverick in Toronto

Already lined up for New York, Toronto and Vancouver, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives will also be heading to the 46th Chicago International Film Festival, running October 7 to 21.

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips unveils the 20 early titles tipped by the Windy City fest. Here's what he says about Uncle Boonmee:

Winner of the top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this visionary yet playful film is an enchanting blend of heady spiritual imagery and tender human drama that confronts the largest of questions—what happens to us after we die? Weerasethakul came through the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and one hopes he'll come back to town for his enchantingly strange picture's local premiere.

In Toronto, where Uncle Boonmee has been added to the Toronto International Film Festival's Masters program and will later have a theatrical run at the Bell Lightbox, Apichatpong has been named among the this year's Mavericks at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Apichatpong joins filmmakers Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kelly Reichardt, Davis Guggenheim, Ken Loach and Paul Laverty, rock star Bruce Springsteen, basketball player Steve Nash, educator Geoffrey Canada, producer Lesley Chilcott, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Moderators include actor Edward Norton, filmmaker Michael Moore and Canada AM co-host Seamus O’Regan.

TIFF explains Joei's involvement:

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is considered a cinematic treasure by art house aficionados. To get over his intimidating Thai name, he encourages westerners to call him Joe. Director of several features and dozens of short films, his film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives (playing at the Festival in the Masters programme and later at TIFF Bell Lightbox as an exclusive engagement) won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year; this playful and innovative film deals with themes of memories, transformation and extinction. In this Mavericks session moderated by film critic Dennis Lim, film clips accompany Weerasethakul’s talk as he takes audiences through his career.

Uncle Boonmee played at the recent Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival, where, according to Teem Chaisri, tickets sold out in 3 minutes.

The movie's also opening across Europe, with a theatrical run beginning in France next week, as well as three other countries.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A new Red Eagle poster and behind-the-scenes clip

Here's a new character poster for Red Eagle (อินทรีเเดง, Insee Daeng), the superhero tale starring Ananda Everingham, directed by Wisit Sasanatieng.

It's a reboot of the Red Eagle franchise of the 1950s to '70s that starred action hero Mitr Chaibancha, about a masked vigilante crimefighter.

There's also the first behind-the-scenes reel, posted by Five Star on YouTube, showing Ananda working with trainers, doing stunts, firing guns and generally kicking butt. It's embedded below.

Also on YouTube is a Pattaya People newsclip, showing Ananda in action during last week's stunt show at Central Festival in Pattaya, in which he used modern safety devices to complete the stunt that killed Mitr 40 years ago during the filming of Golden Eagle.

If you haven't already, join the Red Eagle Facebook page for continued updates, much of it personally handled by master of promotion, Wisit himself. There's lots of great fan art there and even a Red Eagle comic.

Red Eagle hits Thai cinemas on October 7.

(Via NangDee.com)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Watch this: The Film Expo Asia winner, Uruphong Rakasasad's Dad's Picture

Filmmaker Uruphong Rakasasad returned to the rice paddies of his award-winning Agrarian Utopia (สวรรค์บ้านนา, Sawan Baan Na) for Dad's Picture (รูปของพ่อ ), the short film that won the $100,000 grand prize at the recent Film Expo Asia.

If you're wondering when you'll ever get to see the short, just wonder at the movie right now, because you can watch it on YouTube (also embedded above). It's posted on Film Expo Asia's YouTube channel.

The 7:59 short has a young woman (Uruphong's wife Naowares Chaonampad) returning to her home province for a visit with her father on his farm.

He's played by the long-haired, spectacles-wearing Promchoke Boonkhamton, who appeared in Agrarian Utopia as the professorial Earth Father farmer who tried to mentor the two farming families in sustainable, chemical-free agricultural practices.

As always with Uruphong's films, it's beautifully poetic and moving.

It also serves as an appetizer for Bangkok movie-goers because next Thursday, September 2, Agrarian Utopia begins a month-long limited theatrical run at SFX the Emporium as part of the Director's Screen Project.

(Via Film Expo Asia)

Brown Sugar 'erotica' sounds sweet to Prachya Pinkaew

Back in 2008 Ong-Bak and Chocolate director Prachya Pinkaew and Mercury Man director Bandit Thongdee dabbled in romance, directing segments of the love omnibus 4 Romances. Now these men of action have gone a bit further with Namtam Daeng (น้ำตาลแดง, international English title: Brown Sugar), bringing together a collection of six sweet "erotica" shorts from young directors.

The producers insist it's "not pornography."

Aided by the still fairly new movie-picture ratings system that replaced the censorship regime, Prachya says it's the first time a mainstream Thai movie will offer "a real erotic experience".

It's rated 18+.

Part 1, collecting half of those stories, hits Thai cinemas tomorrow.

Zart Tancharoen directs Raktongloon (รักต้องลุ้น) about teenage lovers. It stars Nathakhun Anumatchimpalee and Chittkhon Songchan.

Panumat Deesatta directs Sopeni Bon Tiang (โสบนเตียง) about a pair of adult lovers, played by Prakasit Bosuwan and Patsawipit Son-akkarapa.

And Kittiyaporn Klangsurin directs Prattana (ปรารถนา "desire"), which has a masseuse fantasizing about a guy who works in her building. It stars Warin Yarujnon and Lakkana Wattanawongsiri.

I don't know when Part 2 with the other three shorts in this project will be released.

The trailer is a YouTube and is embedded below.

Update: I forgot to link to the recent Bangkok Post column by Mae Moo, in which Prachya explains the story behind the 10-minute masturbation scene by "Oom" Lakkana in Kittyaporn's segment.

Ong-Bak 3 on DVD in the U.K. in October

So that monkhood thing was pretty serious. Khun Tatchakorn Yeerum (ทัชชกร ยีรัมย์) , formerly Panom Yeerum (พนม ยีรัมย์), hasn't been heard from or seen since. Guess it's going to be awhile before Tony Jaa makes a movie. If ever again.

So what about his latest movie, Ong-Bak 3? I would have thought it'd be obligatory for the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness program. But no.

Maybe they didn't like the torture.

Ong-Bak 3 is out on VCD and DVD in Thailand. They're selling it on the counter at the 7-Eleven as an impulse buy. Which is cool. I've halfway thought of picking it up myself. No subtitles of course. But hey.

Anyway, fans outside Thailand are in luck. It's coming to DVD in the U.K. on October 11. Amazon has it listed. Blu-ray too.

(Thanks Logboy!)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oh Ngao, another horror-shorts anthology

Following the success of GTH's 2008 shorts-anthology Phobia (Si Phrang or "4 intersections") (followed up with Phobia 2, (Ha Phrang, "5 intersections"), Sahamongkol Film International got in on the action with last year's Haunted Universities (Maha'lai Sayong Kwan) and Poj Arnon and Phranakorn offered Tai Hong (a.k.a. Still or more literally Die a Violent Death).

Now comes 96 Film, with a set of bad-karma horror shorts in Ngao (เงา, English title: Shadow). It's a bit confusing I think, because the posters promote three segments, but there are four stories.

Hun Suan (Partners) by Atsawin Thepkanlai is about a youthful prank gone wrong.

Taeng (Abortion) by Theeratorn Chaowanayothin, about the consquences of a college romance, should be self-explanatory.

Dai Daeng (Red Yarn) by Eakasit Sompetch looks into the folly of disbelieving supersititions. Eakasit's the director who two years ago did the fun martial-arts action short Mai Fah the Sabulakui, featured at the 12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival.

And finally there's Mae (Mother), directed by Chanachai, about a lingering evil spirit.

The trailer is at YouTube and embedded below. It opens in cinemas on Thursday.

Apichatpong-a-rama: Joei on the cover of Gentlemen's Magazine, Uncle Boonmee in Vancouver

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives has already been announced for the Vancouver International Film Festival.

This year's Palme d'Or winner is playing in the Best of Cannes section.

There's at least one other Thai film in the fest, the musical documentary Baby Arabia premiering next week at the Thai Short Film & Video Festival, but its scheduling in the Vancouver fest hasn't been officially announced by the festival. Perhaps it'll be in the Dragons & Tigers program for Asian films.

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs from September 30 to October 15.

Row Three has more about VIFF.

Uncle Boonmee is also playing in the New York Film Festival and will have a regular theatrical run at Toronto's Bell Lightbox. It opens this Thursday at the SF cinema on Pattaya Beach.

Apichatpong continues to take the Thai media by storm. He's on the cover of the latest Thai edition of GM (Gentlemen's Magazine) and there's a 10-page interview inside.

Limitless Cinema likes a quote from film expert Sonthaya Subyen:

Guillermo del Toro, the director of Pan's Labyrinth, said, 'There's something intangible in the real world, but our instincts can feel it. The only way we can touch it is by art or religion.' The films of Apichatpong possess the miraculous power of the bliss of gazing. His films enable us to feel something which is beyond the frame of the image, and let us see the purity, the simplicity, and the magic which are integrated into the basic nature. This is because the unique characteristic of cinematic art is not clever dialogues, twisted storytelling, or stylistic show-off by playing with weird images."

6th Singapore Short Film Fest has The Wind and a ton of other Thai shorts

Last year I attended the Singapore Short Film Festival for the first time, and was looking forward to going back this year. However, I think because of the red-shirt protests, this year's Thai Short Film & Video Festival is delayed slightly, and so the two largely complementary events are being held at the same time.

So I'll be heading to the Bangkok Art and Culture Center while at The Substation on Singapore's Armenian Street, the sixth Singapore Short Film Festival opens with Horizons, films transcending the usual borders of space, nature and time. The package includes the world premiere of The Wind (Ror Lom) by Tulapop Saenjaroen, a young filmmaker who's part of Anocha Suwichakornpong's Electric Eel crew.

In fact, there's another Electric Eel production in the fest: the award-winning Four Boys, White Whisky and Grilled Mouse showing as part of the S-Express Thailand program curated by the Thai Film Foundation's Sanchai Cotirosseranee.

Other S-Express Thailand selections are Prisoner by Prachaya Lampongchat; last year's top Payut Ngaokrachang Medal winner at the 13th Thai Short Film & Video Festival Sink [Vi] by Pittaya Werasakwong; Censored by Kong Pahurak (The Wasesda University student's latest film, Ladybird’s Tears premiered at this year's Singapore International Film Festival, with help from Edmund Yeo); Nirvana by Siwadol Rathee, which looks at the prohibition of disabled people from Buddhist ordination and Karaoke: Think Kindly by Scene 22, on whether reconciliation can solve the Thai conflict.

Anocha's Old Heart is part of the Diary program, along with Motionless City by Wassachol Sirichanthanun, Tulapop's The Return and A Tale of Heaven: Cinema Forest by Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, which previously screened at this year's International Short Film Festival Hamburg.

Whimsical Fancies has Fairy Feminine by Arpapun Plungsirisoontorn.

The Kids Aren’t Alright, films that speak of the psyche behind children, adolescents and youths of today, has Nottapon Boonprakob's troubled-boy story Drown, which was shown at the recent Bangkok IndieFest. It's previously been shown at the K3: International Short Film Festival in Austria at this year's Bueu International Short Film Festival in Spain.

Foreign Lands has Phuket by Aditya Assarat, which opens this year's 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival and will be screened in a limited theatrical run in Bangkok as part of the Director's Screen Project.

An animation package has The Value of Tree by Salisa Piencharoen, which won a special mention Payut Ngaokrachang Award at last year's Thai Short Film & Video Festival. Mokhaphon Sanghirun has Destination, which also won a special mention Payut Ngakrachang Award at last year's Thai shorts fest.

There's also the S-Express packages from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Chinese and the Philippines, which are also part of the 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival. The Philippines package is curated by Francis "Oggs" Cruz, Dodo Dayao, Richard Bolisay, who pay tribute to the late Alexis Tioseco, previous S-Express Philippines curator, and his partner Nika Bohinc, who died last year.

The sixth Singapore Short Film Festival runs from August 28 to September 5.

Monday, August 23, 2010

14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival sets schedule, Alexis-Nika memorial tribute and Unreal Forest

The schedule for the 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival is done. There's even a spreadsheet, which will come in handy because there will be movies showing on two screens, in the fifth floor auditorium of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center and in the fourth-floor conference room. In past years, the screenings have been confined to one room.

The programmers give us a lot to look forward to and think about.

Among the special programs this year will be an Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc Memorial Screening, in honor of the film-expert couple who were killed in their home by gunmen on September 1 of last year.

Filmmaker Kidlat Tahamik offers his Each Film ... An Island?, an unfinished new feature. Kidlat explains:

Each Film ... An Island? ... an isolated mass of sedimented sights/sounds?

A cineaste’s filmography ... an archipelago of edited films ... Can island explorers decipher the auteur’s DNA from the celluloid bedrock?

In 2004 my house burned with all the VHS masters of my Video8 shorts. I was resigned – impermanence is a fact of life. How many more islands will submerge with the global warming.

On 2008 on the wild impulse, I e-mailed the Tokyo Video Festival: Were winning award videos archived? Hooray! Even non-winning entries by my son were digitized since 1989(our analog decade)!

My fossilized videos-an uncharted atoll of my filmless films. Let’s go island-hoping! Let’s see of re-incarnated analog Hi-8 images merged with HD open up a whole new road-film diary.

(Director's statement, YIDFF)

Please feel free to screen my unfinished film. Anyway all my films are unfinished is a way – because they might still be included in a future film. It is a compilation of excerpts for my past films and videos. So it is like a short film festival in itself.

I hope this version of the film will be a proper tribute to Alexis if you believe so. I am honored.

That's in addition to the S-Express Philippines program, which Alexis curated up through last year. This year, in tribute to Alexis, Francis "Oggs" Cruz, Dodo Dayao and Richard Bolisay have put together a program of shorts "that represent what the Philippines, as a country that is diverse and multi-faceted, truly is."

There's also S-Express programs from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and "Chinese".

Many other special programs have been detailed earlier. These include the Best of Clermont-Ferrand, from the world's biggest short film festival.

The musical documentary Baby Arabia makes its world premiere on September 1, likely with a mini-concert by the band. Baby Arabia is also tipped for the selection at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival.

There's the Animation Showcase in Tribute to Payut Ngaokrachang, the pioneering Thai animator who died in May. The progam features animated shorts from Japan, the U.K., Norway, Ireland and Spain and is highlighted by Payut's 20-minute short, A New Adventure of Hanuman (หนุมานเผชิญภัย (ครั้งใหม่)). From 1957, it's an anti-communist propaganda film Payut did while working for the U.S. Information Service, which has Hanuman the white monkey god fighting the Red menace.

Queer of Siam features a selection of Thai shorts, Coming of AIDS by Waasuthep Ketpetch, Ter Lae Ter (เธอและเธอ) by Sutthion na Lumphoun, Pre-Attitude by Panu Saeng-Xuto and Play Name by David Snyder. Program Queer: Generation offers an international selection of shorts from Belgium, Argentina, Brazil and Norway.

Another special program, In the Realm of Conflict is in observance of Bangkok's politically charged violence of just a few months ago, and has shorts about all sorts of conflicts from Georgia, Palestine, Iraq, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, South Korea and Indonesia.

Beyond Yangon is a package of short documentaries that offer a rare glimpse inside the borders of military-ruled Myanmar from the Yangon Film School, a non-profit organization founded in 2005 by Anglo-Burmese filmmaker Lindsey

Also special this year is Pridi 110, a selection of six short documentaries on statesman Pridi Banomyong in observance of his 110th birth anniversary.

There's even Shorts for Kids.

Of course, the Thai Short Film & Video Festival isn't all about shorts, and so the Digital Forum program returns this year with feature-length works.

Among them will be the Thailand premiere of Unreal Forest, Jakrawal Nilthamrong's experimental documentary made as part of the International Film Festival Rotterdam's Forget Africa program. It previously played in Singapore and Milan. The screening coincides with a multi-platform art exhibition of Unreal Forest, set for the Numthong Gallery.

But the whole raison d'être of the Thai Short Film & Video Fest is the competitions, and the finalists have been chosen, with categories for student films (White Elephant for college students and Special White Elephant for younger pupils), the general public (the RD Pestoni Award), animation (the Payut Ngaokrachang Medal), documentaries (the Duke Award) and the International Competition.

The festival opens at 5 on Thursday with registration and then the first program at 6, with the premiere of Aditya Assarat's Phuket (set to screen in Bangkok later as part of the Director's Screen Project), the Georgian conflict film Aprilis Suskhi by Tornike Bziava and the Oscar-winning short Logorama from France.

Bangkok IndieFest readies Golden Shirt Awards, seeks shirt designer

Red shirts, yellow shirts and now Golden Shirts.

Bangkok IndieFest, held from August 6 to 8, touted itself as being one of the first international movie events to take place in Bangkok since red-shirt political protests only a little more than two months before.

It's now working on giving its first Golden Shirt Awards, and the festival needs a designer of the Golden Shirt.

For details, e-mail info [at] bangkokfest.com or contact the fest at www.BangkokFest.com.

Winners of the Golden Shirt Awards to be announced online on or before August 31.

You can also read festival director Jason Rosette's post-festival statement.

Rosette calls for more grass-roots, "bottom up"-type arts events to aid in Thailand's recovery after the violence of the political protests. He also points to a lack of venues that would be suitable to held such events.

Here's more:

As our budget was extremely limited, we sought to secure low or no-cost subsidized exhibition venues as a high priority. We discovered that such venues were not readily available here in Bangkok. Most venues here are priced to accommodate the budget of significantly subsidized festival events; this exclusionary barrier does not appear to contribute effectively to the cultivation of a sustainable, lateral, and diverse independent film industry.

Our recommendation would be for the local government in Thailand or other relevant agencies to support – via subsidy or other mechanism – affordable smaller venues or ‘microcinemas’ which are readily accessible, affordable, and most importantly transparently and democratically available to emerging filmmakers and media practitioners alike.

Private sector entrepreneurs may also consider establishing microcinema (60 seats or less) venues to address what appears to be a viable and significant niche, especially for the vital and vibrant ‘indie’ community. A cost-benefit analysis of the viability of any such venue should weigh accessibility by public transportation as an important variable, although the appropriately positioned neighborhood movie house
may also be sustainable.

Our efforts to secure such an arts-friendly, subsidized (i.e., no cost) venue included diligent outreach to the Bangkok Art and Culture Center; however, our numerous calls, emails, faxes and personal visits following the submission of our proposal yielded no definitive, meaningful response from that organization or its staff.

Read on for details of how the festival came together at HOF Art with sponsors that included EPSON, Singha, Apple iStudio, Location Thailand, the US Embassy Ratchada Spa and Resort and others.

You can also look at photos of the fest at Shutterfly.

Production company Camerado, meanwhile, has announced plans to hold the fourth Cambofest from March 1 to 9 at the Royal Theatre in Kampot, highlighted by the official Cambodian premiere – 88 years later – of Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North.

For more on Cambofest, read this gripping account of the festival's struggles.

(Photo via Bangkok IndieFest)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: Boonchu 10

  • Directed by Kiat Kitjaroen
  • Starring Thanachat Tulayachat, Santisuk Promsiri, Jintara Sukapat, Natthaveeranuch Thongmee, Gaewglao Sintaypdon
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 5, 2010; rated 13+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Lost and stolen wallets hold the currency for new friendships in Boonchu 10, the latest episode in the long-running teen comedy series from Five Star Production.

Director Bhandit Rittakol created the series in the late 1980s and was in pre-production for Boonchu 10 when he died last year. The closing credits are a heartfelt tribute to Bhandit. During the film, there's even misty-eyed hearkening back to the olden days.

Long-time Boonchu cast member Kiat Kitjaroen took over the helm for this one (actually the eighth in the series – parts 3 and 4 were skipped back in the '90s in a marketing gimmick).

The result is seamless. Boonchu 10 Yoo Nai Jai Samer Ja (บุญชู จะอยู่ในใจเสมอ, roughly "Boonchu, forever in our hearts") is just as wholesome, earnest, nostalgic and full of laughter as the previous entries.

Production values are high, with the cinematography capturing lush picture-postcard scenery, cool green-screen action involving a tiger licking a guy and surprisingly well-choreographed and framed action scenes. In short, Boonchu 10 is pretty fun.

In the original series, Santisuk Promisiri portrayed Boonchu, the country boy from the central plains ricefields who goes to Bangkok to study agricultural science. There, the talkative hick meets a group of wacky friends and his true love, Moree (Jintara Sukapat), or "Miss Mo" as he sweetly calls her to this day. When the franchise was rebooted in 2008, Boonchu's and Mo's equally motor-mouthed son Boonchoke (Thanachat Tulayachat) was sprung from the Buddhist monkhood, where he'd spent his entire childhood, and sent to school in Bangkok, where he met a group of wacky friends.

Now, as Boonchu 10 opens, Boonchoke is back home in Suphanburi, bidding his parents farewell as he heads off to his new studies in applied Thai traditional medicine at Mae Fah Luang University in Chiang Rai.

After a quick stop through Bangkok and Chester's chicken to bid farewell to his school friends there from Boonchu 9, he heads up to Chiang Rai, where he offers prayers to the statue of the university's namesake, the Princess Mother. If a certain other director had filmed this scene perhaps it would have been cut by censors.

Boonchoke quickly makes a new friend, a wiseacre named Doc. But Boonchoke's heart is already set on a button-cute young woman named Janhom ("Jeen" Gaewglao Sintaypdon). Using advice from his lady's man friend Doc, Boonchoke tries a line on Jamhom that is totally inappropriate.

But then Boonchoke makes up for that by retrieving the girl's lost wallet and then running his motorbike into a lake trying to give it back to her.

Meanwhile, Boonchu and Mo are set on visiting their boy at the university. Boonchu and his Bangkok buddies all come up to Chiang Rai and visit the northern city's night market.

The men take time out for a meal at a northern restaurant and encounter the same irascible restaurateur they traded barbs with back in Bangkok. How'd he get up to Chiang Rai? Who cares? It leads to plenty of wordplay and jokes that don't really translate well to the subtitles but had the audience rolling in the aisles.

In fact, the genius of the jokes in Boonchu is that they are actually smart, full of puns and idiomatic Thai wisdom, which makes Boonchu such a refreshing departure from the usual lowbrow slapstick that's pulling in crowds these days. (Boonchu 10 was third at the box office earning around 7 million baht its opening week compared to Phranakorn's Luangphee Teng 3, which on its opening week was No. 1 with a whopping 24 million baht.)

Boonchu makes a couple of new friends, one a hilltribe man selling wooden frog noisemakers.

Boonchu then has his wallet stolen, which leads to a knock-down, drag-out chase of the thief by all of Boonchu's buddies through the crowded marketplace. To the rescue comes a spirited young woman, who chases down the street hood and dispenses of him with a few well-placed kicks. It's JaJa, and with a name like that she should be an action star.

It's none other than "JaJa" Natthaveeranuch Thongme, best known for her co-starring role as Ananda Everingham's girlfriend in the original Shutter.

Turns out her character's name is Janpah – a fantastic blowgun-wielding Indiana Jones-style heroine environmental activist who always has exactly the helpful herb she needs in her shoulder pouch. Rightly, she's a legend at the university for her herbology course for fourth-year students.

Of course, an incredible string of coincidences puts her in the path of Boonchoke, who has gone into the forest to forage for herbs and natural remedies with his friend Doc. After the boys have a run-in with a trio of hilarious wildlife poachers, Janpah comes to the rescue and sets the animals, including a tiger, free.

And as the action escalates, Boonchu, his buddies and the hilltribe frog salesman find their way into the forest to locate Boonchoke, leading to a climactic fight involving the wildlife-poacher stooges, the high-kicking Janpah, a chainsaw and a gunshot with a gut-wrenching, mournful impact that leads to a big twist.

And Moree has a secret.

I wouldn't be surprised if there were more of the Boonchu series to come.

Related posts:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Anocha in a White Room, seeking funds in Pusan

Mundane History director Anocha Suwichakornpong's new project called The White Room is among 27 titles chosen for the Pusan Promotion Plan of the Asian Film Market at the 15th Pusan International Film Festival.

Film Business Asia has the full rundown of the announcement and a list of titles.

The Pusan Promotion Plan is a project market that gives filmmakers a chance to meet with potential co-producers, financiers and investors. It runs from October 10 to 13.

Here's more from the PPP website:

The highlights of the PPP this year is the improved quality of projects from returnee directors. Anocha Suwichakornpong, Thailand’s female director known for her film Mundane History (2009), which won the Tiger Award at Rotterdam, will also join Al-Daradji at the PPP. Mundane History (2009) was funded by the Asian Cinema Fund (ACF) for post-production. By returning to Pusan with her new project The White Room, she hopes to find would-be investors.

A returnee herself like Suwichakornpong, Charlotte Lim Lay Keun does not seem to have forgotten the PIFF fever from last year and returns with It Must Be a Camel. PIFF has noticed both Suwichakornpong's and Lim's talents from the beginning and ever since then, it seems like their career as a filmmaker continues to rise.

The White Room is listed as a co-production between Thailand, the U.K. and Japan. The Japanese producer is Kousuke Ono.

Anocha says she wrote the script before Mundane History, back around 2004, and it was accepted to the Script Program at the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2006.

The story is set in England and Japan.

That's another project in the works for Anocha, who is also doing her Bangkok factory-worker drama Dao Khanong (By the Time It Gets Dark), which is among projects backed by the Culture Ministry's Strong Thailand fund and Rotterdam's CineMart.

(Photo via Extra Virgin)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ananda Everingham in action as Red Eagle

Tempting fate, a red-masked, black-leather-clad Ananda Everingham dangled from a rope ladder and rode a motorcycle yesterday in a live stunt-show promotion in Pattaya by Five Star Production for the October 7 release of Insee Daeng (อินทรีเเดง, Red Eagle).

It was 40 years ago on October 8, 1970 at Dong Tan Beach, Jomtien, a few miles down the Gulf of Thailand coastline from Pattaya, where the original Red Eagle star, superstar actor Mitr Chaibancha, fell to his death while dangling from a rope ladder on a helicopter as it soared into the skies. He was making Insee Thong (Golden Eagle), the last in his long-running series of Red Eagle movies. There's a shrine to Mitr at Jomtien that to this day receives daily visits from fans and people praying for luck.

And, it was just a couple years ago that leading man Ananda himself took a nasty spill on a motorcycle and suffered serious injuries that delayed his work on this reboot of the Red Eagle franchise, which being directed by the imaginative director of Tears of the Black Tiger and Citizen Dog, Wisit Sasanatieng.

The original series, which started in the 1950s, is based on crime novels by Sake Dusit, about drunken playboy lawyer Rome Rittichai, whose alter-ego is the masked vigilante crimefighter Insee Daeng, similar to Green Hornet or Batman. Mitr starred in the series, with actress Petchara Chaowarat as his plucky confidante and assistant. There've also been other movie incarnations of Red Eagle, as well as TV dramas.

The Pattaya Daily News has an account of the stunt show with more photos, and says a helicopter was involved in yesterday's events at the Central Festival shopping mall on Pattaya Beach.

Actually, the sturdy steel-cable ladder was suspended on a sling between buildings at the shopping center, as photos show.

And, had the actor's grip on the ladder loosened, as Mitr's did back on that fateful day in 1970, Ananda would have been okay, because he was rigged into a climbing harness, attached to a safety rope.

Though the actors weren't in danger, it still must have been a thrill for Pattaya folks to get a look at the red-masked man and the movie's heroine, musician and actress Yarinda Bunnag.

You can get another look at Ananda in action in the Red Eagle trailer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Culture Ministry screens International Award-Winning Thai Films at Paragon

The Culture Ministry together with Paragon Cineplex join the trend of saluting Thai independent cinema with a program of 11 shorts and features, screening from August 18 to 22 in the International Award-Winning Thai Films series under the ministry's Fuan Mit Ruan Samai Sangsan Thai Su Sakol project.

According to a Culture Ministry press release, the program is in honor of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit and aims to "propagate contemporary art as [a] cultural asset, and also to extend the contemporary art to the creative economy".

Here's the lineup (also at the Major Cineplex website):

  • August 18, 5pm: Zart Tancharoen's Lost Nation (100 min)
  • August 19, 5pm: Apichatpong Weerasethakul's A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (20 min), Kanitta Kwanyu's The Moment of Love (22 min), Nattaphong Homchuen's Red Man (8 min), Pichaya Chaidee's Love You If Me Dare (17 min) and Zart Tancharoen's Relativity Plus Quantum (15 min.)
  • August 20, 5pm: Anocha Suwichakornpong's Graceland (17 min), Anocha's Like Real Love (38 min) Adiya Assarat's Waiting (25 min) and Aditya's 705/1 Sukhumvit 55 (5 mins)
  • August 21, 1pm: Citizen Juling (222 min) by Samamrat "Ing K" Kanchanawit, Manit Sriwanichapoom and Kraisak Choonhavan
  • August 21, 5.30pm: A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, The Moment of Love, Red Man, Love You If Me Dare and Relativity Plus Quantum
  • August 22, 1pm: Graceland, Like Real Love, Waiting, 705/1 Sukhumvit 55
  • August 22, 6pm: Citizen Juling

Zart Tancharoen's experimental documentary-style drama Lost Nation (ผมชื่อชาติ) is about a man named Chart (Nation), who's lost in the woods. As he fades into the mist, his identity becomes clearer to friends and family who talk of his disappearance. It screened at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Apichatpong's A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, a short that's part of his multi-platform Primitive art project, which also spawned the Cannes Golden Palm-winning feature Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Letter has reaped several awards, including best film and prize of the jury at the Pernambuco Association of Filmmakers at the Janela Internacional de Cinema do Recife, Brazil, as well as honors in Oberhausen and Ann Arbor. It was also screened at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Kanitta's The Moment of Love (เวลา...รัก) was featured at last year's Thai Short Film & Video Festival and the Bangkok Fringe Festival.

Nattaphong's highly entertaining, politically colored Red Man was also featured at last year's Thai Short Film & Video Festival. It won the best cinematography award in the Kodak Filmschool Competition and was part of last year's travelling package of S-Express Thailand shorts.

Pichaya's Love You If Me Dare won a short film prize at the 16th Subhanahongsa Awards and was selected for the Fat-rama festival, the Bimm festival and others.

Zart's Relativity Plus Quantum was featured at the 2005 World Film Festival of Bangkok. It was the second-prize White Elephant Award for student films as well as the best cinematography honors in the Kodak Awards at the ninth Thai Short Film & Video Festival. It was shown at the 2006 Curta Vila do Conde International Film Festival in Portugal and the 2005 CJ Entertainment Asian Film Festival in South Korea.

Graceland, from 2006, was Anocha's graduate thesis film from Columbia University. It's about an Elvis impersonator (Sarawut Martthong) being picked up by a mysterious woman and taken into the countryside. It was the first Thai film to be selected for the Cannes Cinefondation program. It won awards at the Busan Asian Short Film Festival and the Tampere Film Festival.

Anocha's triptych Like. Real. Love (ดุจ จิต ใจ , Duj Jit Jai), premiered at the 2008 International Film Festival Rotterdam, and won the grand prize at the 13th Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Awards and a special mention at Oberhausen. Each of the three segments examine different states of emotion and dreams.

Aditya, this year's Silpathorn laureate for film, has Waiting from 2002, which has been featured at dozens of festivals. Awards include the Cinemavenire Grand Prize at the 2003 Torino Film Festival and a special mention at the 2003 Thai Short Film & Video Festival. His 705/1 Sukhumvit 55 (an address along Bangkok's Soi Thonglor) is also from 2002 and has been featured at many film festivals.

Citzen Juling (พลเมืองจูหลิง, Polamuang Juling) is a sweeping, epic-length documentary on Thai politics and society that stems from the fatal beating of a young Buddhist schoolteacher in restive Muslim-majority southern Thailand's Narathiwat Province in 2006. The film premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and was also screened at that year's Bangkok International Film Festival and the 2009 Berlinale. Despite much fear by Ing K, Manit and Kraisak that their politically sensitive movie would be censored, it was screened uncut in a limited release at Bangkok's House cinema last year. It was a nominee for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and best-picture winner at the Kom Chad Luek Awards.

Apichatpong-a-rama: The 'Boonmee Effect' in Thailand, New York and Toronto

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is part of the opening lineup of Toronto's Bell Lightbox, a new cinema that's the new permanent home of the Toronto International Film Festival. Uncle Boonmee starts playing on September 23 as part of the Bell Lightbox's regular lineup, following the 10th edition of TIFF.

It's also has been announced for the main slate of the 48th New York Film Festival, set for September 24 to October 10.

And Uncle Boonmee is on tour in Thailand. Following its successful run in Bangkok, Uncle Boonmee has moved to the SF cinema branch in Apichatpong's boyhood hometown of Khon Kaen. It's playing until August 18. Other dates are Bang Saeng from August 19 to 25, Pattaya from August 26 to September 1 and Phuket from September 2 to 8.

There are many more festival dates yet to be officially announced. Here's New York's synopsis:

Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year for this gently comic and wholly transporting tale of death and rebirth, set in Thailand's rural northeast. Uncle Boonmee, a farmer suffering from kidney failure, is tended to by loved ones and visited by the ghosts of his wife and son. As for his remembered past lives, they might-or might not-include a water buffalo, a disfigured princess, a talking catfish, and the insects whose chirps engulf the nighttime jungle scenes. A sensory immersion, Uncle Boonmee is an otherworldly fable that lingers on earthly sensations, a film about a dying man that's filled with mysterious signs of life. Apichatpong's vision is above all a generous one: in the threat of extinction he sees the possibility of regeneration. A Strand release.

The Australian Broadcasting Company has a recent review on its website, from a listener who say Uncle Boonmee in Melbourne. Here's a snip:

If you do ultimately manage to go along with the ghosts, the Chewbaccas, the trancelike powerhold of the Thai jungle, straight after the credits roll, you might just end up eager to throw yourself back into it again, from the beginning.

I think it's important and helpful to stay seated through the credits, especially with Uncle Boonmee.

The success of Uncle Boonmee in Thailand has energized an already vibrant independent film scene.

The latest issue of BK magazine examines "the Boonmee effect", with a look at Extra Virgin's Director's Screen Project at Bangkok's SFX the Emporium cinema, and interviews with the directors, Mundane History's Anocha Suwichakornpong, Agrarian Utopia's Uruphong Raksasad and Aditya Assarat, whose shorts Phuket, Boy Genius and The Sigh will screen in October. They also talk to founding Extra Virgin producer-director Pimpaka Towira and Kittayporn Klangsurin, who's among the directors on another project, Brown Sugar, an anthology of erotically-themed shorts due in cinemas on August 26.

They say the Extra Virgin project is a direct result of Apichatpong's Cannes win and the successful limited release Uncle Boonmee in the Bangkok multiplex.

And the capper to the BK mag issue this week is a "First Person" interview with Apichatpong. He says:

I don’t think my films are more popular abroad than they are in Thailand. I think my films do best in Thailand, considering how small we are, and how bad our economic situation is. We don’t even have a proper film archive facility.

I am the first and foremost audience when I am making a film.

I have some stock answers if someone says, “I just didn’t get your movie.” I say, “It’s normal,” “See it again,” “So?” “Try to see it in a theater,” or, “OK, I will try harder next time.”

We need independent, art house cinema in Thailand. This type of cinema should not depend on government support because it’s never stable. It should be a private business. We need well-off investors who love art, cinema, and have guts. I think they exist. It’s a matter of time.

Go read the rest.

Update: Cinematical offers five must-see movies at the New York fest. Among them is, of course, Uncle Boonmee.