Saturday, March 30, 2013

P-047 unlocks top awards from Bangkok Critics

Best actor winners David Asavanond, left, and Apichai Tragoolpadetkrai flank best actress winner Penpak Sirikul. Nation photo by Thanachai Pramarnpanich

P-047 (Tae Peang Phu Deaw, แต่เพียงผู้เดียว), veteran writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's first independent film, scored big with the Bangkok Critics Assembly (มรมวิจารณ์บันเทิง)  on Thursday night, winning five of the 12 awards, including best director and best screenplay.

The oddball psychological drama about a locksmith who breaks into apartments to "borrow" the residents' lives, also shared the best actor prize. Cult indie musician Apichai Tragoolpadetgrai, playing the taciturn keymaker and lock jimmier, shared the award with David Asavanond, who's won other awards this season for his turn as an unhinged drug dealer named Jesus in Countdown

Apichai was also a nominee for his music, for best original song on the spiritual road-trip drama Shambhala, but that prize went to his P-047 director Kongdej, who penned an original tune for Kantana Animation's Echo Planet.

Among other accolades for David was a best-actor win at the Thai film industry's leading awards, the Subhanahongsas, which bafflingly ignored P-047 as well as another indie favorite from the film-festival circuit, 36, by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit. Nawapol, who's made many noted indie short films and has also written several commercial screenplays, picked up the Young Filmmaker Award from the Critics.

According to The Nation, Kongdej wasn't present to pick up his awards, being in Hong Kong with his latest film Tang Wong, but he thanked everyone on his Facebook page.

Veteran actress Penpak Sirikul won the best actress prize for her role as a grieving widow in Chookiat Sakveerakul's sentimental three-segment drama Home Khwam Rak Khwam Sook Khwam Songjam (Home ความรัก ความสุข ความทรงจำ,), which also won best picture.

Penpak, who turned up at the casual ceremony in fashionably ripped and faded blue jeans, was also a nominee for her turn as an aging transgender in Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's It Gets Better (ไม่ได้ขอให้มารั, Mai Dai Kor Hai Ma Rak). Her castmate from that film, Parama Imanothai, won the supporting actor prize, sweeping the awards in the category this year, along with Piyathada Worramusik, best supporting actress for the family drama Together Wan Tee Rak (Together วันที่รัก)

Here's the list of winners:

  • Best Picture: Home, Sahamongkol Film International
  • Best Director: Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, P-047
  • Best Actor: David Asavanond, Countdown and Apichai Tragoolpadetgrai, P-047
  • Best Actress: Penpak Sirikul, Home
  • Best Supporting Actor: Parama Imanothai, It Gets Better
  • Best Supporting Actress: Piyathida Worramusik, Together
  • Best Screenplay: Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, P-047
  • Best Cinematography: MR Umpornpol Yugala, P-047
  • Best Film Editing:  Manussa Vorasingha and Kamontorn Eakwattanakij,
  • P047Best Original Song: “Fang Si Fang Si Fang”, Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, Echo Planet
  • Best Original Score: Chatchai Pongprapapan, Echo Planet
  • Best Art Direction: Achira Nokthet and Narongsak Pawapootanon, It Gets Better
  • Lifetime Achievement award: "Philip" Chalong Pakdeewijit
  • Young Filmmaker Award: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, 36
  • Top Grossing Film Award: ATM Er Rak Error

Malaria and Mosquitoes buzzes into Ties That Bind

Indie filmmaker Pimpaka Towira and her Extra Virgin Company are on the hunt for funds for another project, Malaria and Mosquitoes, which has been picked for the Ties That Bind Asia-Europe Producers Workshop.

The deal brings together five producers with from Asia and five from Europe. They get to pitch their projects in two sessions, at the Udine Far East Film Festival from April 21 to 27, and at the Busan International Film Festival from October 5 to 11.

The producer on Pimpaka's project is Vanna-Pond Noigasame.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

In Lav We Trust this weekend

It was a couple of months ago that I posted here about In Lav We Trust, in which the local film group Film Virus is bringing in two recent works by the master of long-form black-and-white human suffering, Filipino auteur Lav Diaz.

So this is a reminder that the screenings are this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, March 30 and 31, at the Reading Room on Silom Soi 19.

The films are 2011's Century of Birthing (Siglo ng pagluluwal) and last year's Florentina Hubaldo, CTE. Century of Birthing has two stories, one dealing with a filmmaker who has spent years making an epic and still isn't happy with it, and the other dealing with a religious cult of mainly young women who are dominated the charismatic male leader. Florentina Hubaldo, CTE is described as a philosophical drama about the psychological effects of injustice and arbitrariness, with two poor laborers leaving the city to look for a treasure. "CTE" is a medical acronym referring to the condition suffered by boxers who get punched in the head too many times.

And you might feel punchdrunk after watching. Both films clock in at 6 hours. However, as Diaz fans know, that's actually pretty short in comparison to some of Diaz' other films.

The showtime is 1pm. I advise getting there early in order to stake out the spot you'll be occupying for the day. Bring along snacks and perhaps a pillow, folding chair or bedroll.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Salaya Doc 2013 schedules online, 14 October added

A frame from 14 October, which has been added to the Salaya Doc 2013 lineup.

Finally, the schedules for the third Salaya International Documentary Film Festival have been released on the festival's Facebook page.

Newly added to the program is the historic 14 October (อนุทินวีรชน 14 ตุลา) by Shin Klaipan. It is newsreel footage from the tumultuous days of October 6 to 14, 1973, capturing the demonstrations by pro-democracy students against the dictatorship. It was inducted into the Films as National Heritage registry in 2011.

Salaya Doc 2013 will take place in two venues, from April 1 to 7 in the Sri Salaya Theater at the Thai Film Archive in Nakon Pathom, and from April 2 to 7 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

The festival opens at 5pm on April 1 in Salaya with Boundary  (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง, Fahtum pandinsoong), Nontawat Numbenchapol's look at the politically charged border area around Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple. It premiered at last month's Berlin International Film Festival.

The rest of the week in Salaya is devoted to special programs, with the Southeast Asian Documentary competition screenings over the weekend of April 6 and 7.

The schedule is essentially flipped around at BACC from April 2 to 7, with competition screenings on the weekdays and many of the special programs, including Boundary, screening over the closing weekend.

Among the highlights are two films by Indian documentarian Sourav Sarangi: 2008's Bilal about a boy living with his blind parents and his latest, Char ... the No-Man's Island, about inhabitants of islands along the winding river border between India and Bangladesh. Char was featured at this year's Berlin International Film Festival. Both films screen at BACC on Friday, April 5. Sourav will also be teaching a workshop to registered participants in Salaya.

Other notable films include the Q Docs and Nargis: When Time Stopped Breathing from Myanmar. There's also The Cat that Lived a Million Times, about Yuko Sano and her cancer diagnosis. The 70-year-old author is best known for her 1977 children's book, The Cat That Lived a Million Times.

And the closing ceremonies and awards presentation will take place not in Salaya but at the BACC at 5pm on Sunday, April 7.

Terror for teenyboppers in Pee Mak Phra Khanong

The often-told ghost legend "Mae Nak Phra Khanong" gets a twist for young Thai audiences with Pee Mak Phra Khanong (พี่มาก...พระโขนง), opening in cinemas this week.

Made into movies dozens of times before and widely known for 1999's Nang Nak directed by Nonzee Nimibutr and scripted by Wisit Sasanatieng, this new version is a contemporized horror-comedy take on the century-old legend of Nak, a young woman who dies in childbirth while her husband is away fighting a war. When he returns, he doesn't realize that his wife is a ghost.

With young heartthrob Mario Maurer as Mak and Davika Horne as Nak, it's released by GTH and is clearly aimed at GTH's usual audience of middle-class urban Thai teens.

Supported by a major marketing campaign, it's been wildly hyped as a major tentpole release as the Thai film industry gears up for its summer movie-going season, a time when scorching temperatures and school holidays send folks scrambling for the freezing cold refuge of the cinema. GTH has even had flashmobs of fierce-looking young ghost mothers toting little ghost baby dolls riding the skytrain in Bangkok to promote the film.

But Pee Mak is also genuinely anticipated for its celebrated young director, Banjong Pisunthanakun, half of the duo that made the solid horror hits Shutter and Alone and was behind the more-comedic segments of GTH's Phobia horror compilations. He collaborated on the script with his Hello Stranger star Chantavit Thanasevi.

There are scares and melodrama as Mak goes to war and Nak dies, but that soon gives way to comedy as Mario's clueless character is assisted by the hilarious quartet of character actors from the funny Phobia segments.

And though the setting is still 100 years or so ago in canal village in old Siam, there are plenty of nods to current fads and contemporary Thai society.

GTH has an English-subtitled teaser in which Mak explains his name is actually Mark. It's embedded below.

Titles tipped for Film Destination Festival

More details have been revealed about the Thailand International Film Destination Festival, which only emerged from the planning stages about a week ago.

Set for April 1 to 10, the venue has been confirmed as SF World Cinema at CentralWorld in Bangkok.

Films to be screened include such made-in-Thailand blockbusters as The Hangover Part II, Danny Boyle's The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio, Luc Besson's Aung San Suu Kyi biopic The Lady starring Michelle Yeoh and the low-budget Chinese box-office surprise Lost in Thailand. There will also be Fabrice du Welz' weird 2009 thriller Vinyan, filmed in Phuket and starring Emmanuelle Beart. All those have screened before in Thailand.

Local premieres will include Formosa Betrayed, which has Thailand standing in for 1980s Taiwan, the Danish romantic comedy Teddy Bear and Lukas Moodysson's globalization drama Mammoth starring Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams.

And, although it's been out on DVD for awhile, Elephant White will make its Thai theatrical premiere. Director Prachya Pinkaew's Hollywood debut stars Djimon Hounsou as an assassin hiding out in Bangkok. While holed up in a Buddhist temple, he takes on the job of protecting a mysterious woman and runs into conflict with a former friend, played by an oddly accented Kevin Bacon.

April 9 has been designated Pang Brothers Day, dedicated to the Hong Kong filmmaking twin brothers Danny and Oxide, who got their start in the film industry in Thailand in the late 1990s. Now back in Hong Kong, they continue to use Thailand as a filming location and setting as they also continue to favor the Bangkok post-production houses for all their films. Among the movies to be screened will be the 2007 crime thriller The Detective, featuring Aaron Kwok as a downtrodden private investigator in Bangkok's Chinatown. It features a rare car chase through the traffic-clogged streets of Bangkok.

Generously budgeted at around 80 million baht and organized by the Thailand Film Office under the Department of Tourism, the Destination festival's centerpiece is the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge, which has flown in 48 foreign teams to compete with two Thai teams for a grand prize of 1 million baht. They will have just about one week to find a subject, film it and edit their shorts for completion by the April 8 deadline. Winners will be announced at the celebrity festooned red-carpet closing ceremony on April 10.

The schedule has yet to be released, but keep checking the festival website in case, you know, you actually think you might want to see some films at this film festival.

Unfortunately, due to the hasty planning, the Destination organizers not only don't have a lot of time to promote their festival, they overlooked the fact that their event conflicts with another film festival, Salaya Doc 2013, which runs from April 1 to 7 at the Thai Film Archive and from April 2 to 7 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

(Via The Nation)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Salaya Doc 2013 lists competition films, special screenings

Nine films from six countries will take part in the ASEAN Documentary Film Competition at the third Salaya International Documentary Film Festival, which also plans several special screenings.

Here are finalists in the Doc Fest 2013 competition:

  • Before the Wedlock House, Liao Jie Kai, Singapore
  • Denok and Gareng, Dwi Sujanti Nugraheni, Indonesia
  • Durga, Jingyu Wong, Singapore
  • The Hills are Alive, Steve Pillar Setiabudi, Indonesia
  • Overlay, Nattanop Traiteepueng, Thailand
  • Saleng (Recycle Trishaw), Wasunan Hutawach, Chulayarnnon Siriphol and Ukrit Pornsampansuk, Thailand
  • Tondo, Beloved: To What Are the Poor Born?, Jewel Maranan, Philippines
  • Where I Go, Kavich Neang, Cambodia
  • With or Without Me, Tran Phuong Thao and Swann Dubus

Apart from the competition section, there are several special programs offered, including Nargis – When Time Stopped Breathing by The Maw Naing and Pe Maung Same from Myanmar and The Cat that Lived a Million Times by Tadasuke Kotani from Japan.

Two films by Indian documentarian Sourav Sarangi, will also screen: 2008's Bilal about a boy living his his blind parents and his latest, Char ... the No-Man's Island, about inhabitants of islands along the winding river border between India and Bangladesh. It was featured at this year's Berlin International Film Festival. Sourav will also be teaching a workshop to registered participants.

And there will be Q Docs, all from Southeast Asia: Children of Srikandi by the Children of Sriandi Collective (Indonesia and Germany), Two Girls Against the Rain by Sao Sopheak from Cambodia, Burmese Butterfly by Snow from Myanmar and Consider by Thailand's Panu Seang-xuto.

The fest opens at 5pm on Monday, April 1 at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakon Pathom with Nonthawat Numbenchapol's Boundary.

In addition to the Sri Salaya cinema until April 7, there will be screenings at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center from April 2 to 7. Keep an eye on the Salaya Doc Facebook page for further details.

New festival shoots for Destination Thailand

Another film festival has emerged – the Thailand International Destination Film Festival.

Organized by the Kantana film studio with support from the Thailand Film Office and other sponsors, it aims to highlight Thailand as a film location, especially foreign productions.

The centerpiece is the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge, in which foreign and local filmmaking teams were given modest budgets to make shorts with an emphasis on exploration in Thailand. Teams have been picked and are listed on the contest's Facebook page.

Film-industry veteran Paul Spurrier is heading up the contest, and he put together a nifty sample reel to give the filmmaking teams an idea of what to shoot for. It's embedded above.

Plans are to also screen films that have been made in Thailand, such as The Hangover Part II, plus a retrospective of the Pang Brothers movies.

More about it is at Film Business Asia, though neither that article nor the festival website seem to have details regarding the venue or exact schedule for the festival, supposedly set for April 1 to 10, directly conflicting with the third Salaya International Documentary Film Festival.

Pen-ek retrospective in San Francisco, April 4-21

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's upside-down hitman thriller Headshot will make its San Fransisco premiere along with some of his other films in Thai Dreams: The Films of Pen-ek Ratanaruang at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from April 4 to 21.

Here's more from the YBCA:

YBCA is thrilled to welcome acclaimed Thai filmmaker Pen-ek Ratanaruang for this retrospective, featuring the local premiere of his newest film and five earlier works. Some of the themes he consistently revisits include the frailty of human relationships, multiple levels of consciousness, urban vs. natural landscapes, and shifting identities. His work has an elegant visual design, and often a subtle, peaceful ambience. He’s made several films in the crime genre, but these are no ordinary thrillers. Ratanaruang always twists convention in unique ways, making the familiar unfamiliar. Join us in celebrating this distinguished director’s first visit to San Francisco.

Headshot opens the series on April 4 followed by the forest psycho-thriller Nymph on April 7, 2003's dreamy masterpiece Last Life in the Universe on April 11, 2007's marriage drama Ploy on April 14, the underrated Last Life followup Invisible Waves on April 18 and 1999's black comedy 6ixtynin9 on April 21.

Check the YBCA website for the complete details.

(Thanks Jonathan!)

Kohtee to make his mark at Thai Film Archive

With a show-business career going on a couple of decades, Jaroenporn Onlamai, better known as Kohtee Aramboy (โก๊ะตี๋ อารามบอย), has appeared in dozens of films, thanks to his collaborations with the prolific director Poj Arnon as well as Rerkchai Paungpetch.

A unique character in a local industry that is full of unique characters, the rotund, cherub-like funnyman with a squeaky voice will be honored for his works on Saturday, March 30, at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom. There will be a hand-and-foot imprinting ceremony and other activities starting at 1pm,

Kohtee's films are  mostly comedies in which he cross-dresses in outlandish outfits, such as Poj's Plon Na Ya (Spicy Beauty Queens of Bangkok) or the never-ending Hor Taew Tak series. Or, if he's not portraying a woman or man who likes to dress up in women's clothes, he's usually wearing some other kind of bizarre disguise, such as in Rerkchai's movies, including his lucrative year-end comedies. Though even in those he usually cross-dresses.

Karaoke Girl, Mekong Hotel screened in Helsinki

Two Thai independent films were shown at the inaugural Helsinki Cine Aasia, which took place March 14 to 17.

From the Rotterdam fest was Visra Vichit-Vadakan's debut feature, the documentary-style drama Karaoke Girl (สาวคาราโอเกะ, Sao Karaoke).

The Helsinki fest also screened Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Mekong Hotel, which has been screened at many festivals worldwide.

(Via Film Business Asia)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: Jan Dara: Epilogue

  • Directed by ML Bhandevanov Devakula
  • Starring Mario Maurer, Chaiyapol J. Poupart, Ratha Po-ngam, Bongkot Kongmalai, Sakkaraj Rerkthamrong, Sho Nishino
  • Released in Thai cinemas on February 7, 2013; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

Once committed to a direction, Bhandevanov "Mom Noi" Devakula sticks with it, even if it's as dull and predictable as the path he took in the first part of his epic adaptation of the erotic novel of family dysfunction, The Story of Jan Dara.

Jan Dara: Epilogue (จันดารา ปัจฉิมบท), a.k.a. Jan Dara 2, wraps up Mom Noi's two-part take on the tale of a bastard son of a noble family in 1930s and '40s Siam. It follows last year's Jan Dara: The Beginning.

It's a story that sizzles with sex and symbolism about Thai society, so it's really a shame it turned out so stuffy and boring.

One problem is the old-fashioned stagebound direction that veteran dramatist Mom Noi adheres to. Despite a few bravura cinematography moments and the sumptuously detailed art direction and costume design that are trademarks of Mom Noi's movies, it all has the feel of a high-school play. The performances for the most part are campy and overly-dramatic. Instead of conveying emotion, the performances only elicited laughter from the audience.

The chief offender is Mario Maurer, the heartthrob star who is woefully miscast as Jan. He pastes on a mustache in a bid to appear more mature and believable as his character commits acts of adultery and rape, but his puppy-dog eyes and sweet, dopey expression betray him. Scenes that feature him smoking, drinking and lounging about in nothing but a pair of silk trousers (or less) are especially laughable.

In the right hands, the melodramatic Mom Noi acting style is effective. Stealing the show is Mom Noi's go-to character actress Radklao Amradit, portraying the family matriarch. As Jan's grandmother on her deathbed, she speaks her lines powerfully and with hair-raising venom as she tells Jan to claim his birthright and take revenge on his evil stepfather. The singer and stage actress is required to wear heavy aging makeup, as are Mario and his co-star Chaiyapol J. Poupart. But while the guys look hilarious, Radklao pulls it off. She benefits from better lighting than the young actors do in their old-age scenes, but it's also her immense talent that sells it. Here's a thought – if Mom Noi does another literary adaptation, he could do it Cloud Atlas style with Radklao playing all the roles.

As the story goes, Jan has learned the terrible truth behind his birth, sort of. Mom Noi throws a few curveballs at audiences who might only be familiar with Nonzee Nimibutrs's 2001 version of the tale, and gives Jan's parentage a Rashomon twist – only fitting because Mom Noi offered his version of Rashomon in 2011. Each witness to the act has a different story.

Finally figuring out that the sadistic man he thought was his father was in fact his stepfather, Jan returns to his family's Bangkok mansion to take charge. Not only does he take over the family business, give his stepdad  (Sakkaraj Rekthamrong) a stroke and banish him to a locked tower wing, Jan also takes the old man's mistress Bunluang.

Faring a bit better in part two is Ratha "Yaya Ying" Po-ngam who portrays the worldly Bunluang. It was a role previously portrayed by Hong Kong's Christy Chung in Nonzee's version, but Ratha succeeds in putting her own memorable stamp on it.

"Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai, who chewed up the scenery as Jan's doting aunt/stepmother Waad in part one, is for the most part sidelined here. She takes vows as a Buddhist nun, has her head shaved thinks to nifty CGI and finds peace.

Jan, meanwhile, is on the warpath, driven by disappointment and despair. His old sweetheart is gone, and Bunluang ultimately spurns him. Just like his stepfather, who married Jan's mother to save the family's reputation, Jan is forced into a sham marriage with his cousin/stepsister Kaew to cover up an incestuous affair she had, which resulted in her giving birth to a developmentally disabled child.

Kaew is again portrayed by Japanese AV star Sho Noshino. In part one her voice was dubbed, but she underwent Thai dialogue coaching and speaks her lines herself in part two. Her character also undergoes a few changes from Nonzee's version, the most notable of which involves her gluing on a mustache in a seemingly self-aware parody of Mario's character, and in the bloody way she aborts her baby with Jan.

Chaiyapol J. Poupart is Jan's loyal servant and friend Ken. Choosing a path that leads to better karma, his life is filled with happiness and contentment while Jan's, despite all his riches, is not. It's Ken, along with the bombing of Bangkok during World War II, that sort of shakes Jan out of the cycle of hatred and violence that he seemed doomed to repeat.

The sense of dread for Jan is underlined by Chatchai Pongprapaphan's score, which has Godfather-like tones.

The story circles back to the beginning, cutting to modern-day Bangkok with Mario in unconvincing old-age makeup, sitting on a Bangkok park bench in the harsh daylight. He's joined by his friend Ken, also in old-age makeup, and again Jan is reminded that his friend Ken has achieved everything that Jan could not.

A big chunk of Jan's life seems to be missing, with the timeline skipping through a few decades after the war when Jan could have conceivably gotten his life back on track and found happiness. But, apparently, he didn't. Time slipped by and old age crept up. In the end, those Godfather strains play Jan off as he hobbles down the street, whimpering.

See also:

Related posts:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Suddenly it's Mario

Suddenly It’s Magic, the popular Filipino romantic comedy starring Thai superstar Mario Maurer, has opened in Thai cinemas. 

He's a broken-hearted Thai superstar who goes on vacation in the Philippines and falls for a Filipina (Erich Gonzales) who works in a bakery. He then invites her to visit him in Bangkok, but his fans are opposed because they want him to get back together with his former girlfriend, a Thai actress.

Produced by Star Cinemas and directed by Rory B. Quintos, Suddenly It's Magic is the direct result of the popularity of the cute 2010 Thai romantic comedy A Crazy Little Thing Called Love (สิ่งเล็กเล็ก ที่เรียกว่า...รัก, Sing Lek Lek Thi Riak Wa ... Rak), a.k.a. First Love, which was a sleeper hit in Thailand. It spread like a virus to infect teenybopper fans in other Asian countries, especially in the Philippines, where it aired on TV and made the Chinese-German Thai-raised Mario a huge idol there.

So the Philippines returns the favor with Suddenly It's Magic, which has the Thai title Mahassajan Rak Kab Sing Lek Lek (มหัศจรรย์รักกับสิ่งเล็กๆ), aping the original title of Crazy Little Thing. Mario's Sing Lek Lek co-star "Bai Fern" Pimchanok Luevisadpaibul, also popular in the Philippines, appears as Mario's Thai-actress ex.

Mario, coming off his starring role in the epic drama Jan Dara, next has the GTH horror comedy Pee Mak Phra Khanong (ตัวอย่าง พี่มาก..พระโขนง ), directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, due in Thai cinemas on March 28.

There's a trailer for Suddenly It's Magic, embedded below.


Salaya Doc 2013 to open with Boundary

Fresh from its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, Nontawat Numbenchapol's Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง, Fahtum pandinsoong), will be the opening film of the the third Salaya International Film Festival.

Here's the synopsis from Berlinale:

The 2011 New Year celebration at the Ratchaprasong Junction in Bangkok. This is where demonstrators’ protests were violently crushed a few months earlier, with more than 100 people ending up dead. It was there that the conflict between the largely rural "red shirts" and the more affluent, royalist "yellow shirts" escalated. How did this come to pass? Filmmaker Nontawat Numbenchapol came across young soldier Aod by chance, who had just completed his military service, and asked if he could accompany the soldier on his way home. Aod’s village is on the border to Cambodia and near the Hindu temple of Prasat Preah Vihea, which both countries claim as their own. Here too, a violent conflict is smouldering. A conversation between Aod and Nontawat Numbenchapol forms the backdrop to the often slowed down and distorted images as they travel through the countryside. Residents and soldiers tell of their experiences. Traces of the military conflict are visible. The footage creates a multifaceted view of how events are subject to different perceptions and is a unique reflection of the political reality in present-day Thailand.

The rest of the Salaya Doc 2013 program is still coming together. The fest runs from April 1 to 7 at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom and from April 2 to 7 at Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Salaya Doc 2013 set for April 1 to 7

Although final program details are yet to be released, the dates are set for the Thai Film Archive's third Salaya International Documentary Film Festival.

It'll be held from April 1 to 7 at the archive's Sri Salaya Theatre in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom and from April 2 to 7 in the fifth-floor auditorium at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

Along with competition entries from across Southeast Asia, Salaya Doc 2013 will also feature a special program of documentaries by Indian director Sourav Sarangi (Char ... The No Man's Island).

For more details, check the festival's Facebook page or the Thai Film Archive's website.

Wish Us Luck steams into cinema

Wish Us Luck (ขอให้เราโชคดี), that train-travel documentary by twin-sister filmmakers Wanweaw and Weawwan Hongvivatana, is getting a release this week at Bangkok's House cinema.

After finishing up their master's degree film studies in London, the sisters thought it would be a swell idea to take the train back to Thailand.

So they documented their colorfully languorous one-month adventure, which took them across Europe and Asia on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and then down through Mongolia, China and Vietnam. They then jumped the tracks and made their way across Laos before finally boarding a train home to Bangkok.

With many reflective moments along the way, the film at times takes on precious airs that recall Wes Anderson's train movie, The Darjeeling Limited. Other times, it's a bit weird, like when they have to share a compartment with a creepy Russian guy.

Wish Us Luck was shown last year in a on-off screening by Third Class Citizen – watch the trailer here – and at Salaya Doc 2012, so now's a chance for more folks to check it out.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Home, Countdown, I Carried You Home take top prizes at Subhanahongsa Awards

Best actor and best actress winners David Asavanond and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk. Nation photo.

The sentimental three-segment drama Home, the psychological thriller Countdown and the funereal road movie I Carried You Home shared the top prizes at the 22th Subhanahongsa Awards (รางวัลภาพยนตร์แห่งชาติ สุพรรณหงส์) last night.

Put on the by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, the Thailand National Film Association Awards, a.k.a. the Golden Swans, are the Thai film industry's equivalent of the Oscars.

Home won best picture and director Chookiat Sakveerakul won Best Director. The three-segment drama from the celebrated helmer of Love of Siam is set in his hometown of Chiang Mai, and involves stories of beginnings and endings, with ruminations on death and major phases of life, such as school graduation, widowhood and marriage. It was one of the top nominees, with seven nods.

Best actor went to David Asavanond for the thriller Countdown, in which he portrayed an unhinged drug dealer named Jesus who terrorizes three young customers in a New York City apartment. It was a controversial nomination, being not only an edgy choice for the usually conservative awards, but also because Asavanond had been billed in the movie as a supporting character. Writer-director Nattawut Poonpiriya, who adapted his feature from his original short film, which featured Asavanond in the same role, won best screenplay. Also with seven nominations, Countdown also won for film editing.

Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, who has landed roles in dozens of movies since making her debut as a teenager in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy in 2007, was named best actress for I Carried You Home. She plays a rebellious young woman whose mother has just died in a bizarre karaoke mishap. She accompanies her mother's corpse on an ambulance journey to Bangkok to the southern border town of Pedang Besar, and her estranged older sister joins her. Along the way, the siblings hash out their strained relationship and renew their bonds. Indie director Tongpong Chantarangkul's I Carried You Home also won best cinematography.

The top nominee in this year's awards was Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's generation-spanning transgender drama It Gets Better, which had 11 nods. It won three awards: best supporting actor for Parama Imanothai as well as best art direction and costumes.

The lifetime achievement award went to Pong Asvinikul, who founded the Ram Indra Sound Recording Studio in 1971. Pong's career dates back to the 1950s. He was a sound man in the early days of recording on film, working on the now-lost 35mm masterpiece, 1955's Santi-Weena. His Ram Indra studio handles the sound on dozens of films each year.

Two indie favorites from the festival circuit, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit's 36 and Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's P-047 were not nominated at all. They, along with It Gets Better, have both been major winners in other awards shows this season, such as the Kom Chad Luek Awards and Thursday night's Thai Film Director Association Awards. But they were not entirely shut out. Nawapol co-wrote the nominated screenplay of Chookiat's Home, and Kongdej won best original song from the animated feature Echo Planet, which also won for score and sound mixing and editing.

Here is the list of winners:

Best Picture

  • Home (Home ความรัก ความสุข ความทรงจำ, Home Khwam Rak Khwam Sook Khwam Songjam), Sahamongkol Film International

Best Director

  • Chookiat Sakveerakul, Home

Best Actor

  • David Asavanond, Countdown (เคาท์ดาวน์)

Best Actress

  • Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, I Carried You Home (Padang Besar, ปาดังเบซา)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Parama Imanothai, It Gets Better  (ไม่ได้ขอให้มารั, Mai Dai Kor Hai Ma Rak)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Piyathida Worramusik, Together Wan Tee Rak (Together วันที่รัก)

Best Screenplay

  • Nattawut Poonpiriya, Countdown

Best Cinematography

  • Pramett Chankrasae, I Carried You Home

Best Film Editing

  • Panayu Khunwallee, Countdown

Best Recording and Sound Mixing

  • Trithep Wongpaiboon, Noppawat Likhitwong, Wattanadet Samanchat and Kantana Laboratories, Echo Planet (เอคโค่ จิ๋วก้องโลก, Echo Jew Kong Loke)

Best Original Song

  • “Fang Si Fang Si Fang” (“ฟังสิฟังสิฟัง”), Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, Echo Planet

Best Original Score

  • Chatchai Pongprapapan, Echo Planet

Best Art Direction

  • Achira Nokthet and Narongsak Pawapootanon, It Gets Better

Best Costume Design

  • Panchalee Pinthong and Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, It Gets Better

Best Make Up Effects

  • Amarit Chokprecha, Dark Flight 407

(Via The Nation, THRDaily News, Kom Chad Luek, Manager)

Pen-ek's Paradoxocracy delayed indefinitely

Held back from its release last month due to supposed "technical problems", it turns out politics was the reason all along for the delay in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's political documentary Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิปไตย, Prachathipatai).

According to The Nation's Soopsip column today, the Thai Film Board has approved the film's release after "some censorship".

It was due to open in a limited run on February 7 at Bangkok's Lido cinemas, but the theater got cold feet.

"The problem is no venue wants to screen my film!" Pen-ek is quoted as saying.

It's a reflection of the state of the media under the current government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose administration inspires the same paranoia-fueled fear that kept the media cowed when her now-self-exiled brother Thaksin was prime minister until his ouster by a coup in 2006.

In order to continue doing business and getting access to government sources and advertising streams from Shinawatra business cronies, the mass media feel compelled to play ball, or else be shut out entirely. And rather than risk upsetting the status quo, the tactic is to simply avoid any subject that's even remotely political.

Another example of this was the abrupt cancellation of Channel 3's politically themed TV series Nua Mek 2. Channel 3 execs insisted that they hadn't been pressured by any political figures to cancel the series, which was produced by and starred Chatchai and Sinjai Plengpanich and was directed by Nonzee Nimibutr. However, the channel bosses said they felt "some content was inappropriate for broadcast".

"My film is rather childish," Pen-ek tells Soopsip, saying he doesn't think his documentary is particularly serious in tone. “I don’t understand what they’re scared of. It’s as if we’re back in the dictatorship era of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat – everyone self-censors.”

If Pen-ek can't find a cinema to show the film, perhaps it'll screen for a festival audience, or he might opt for a tour of places like universities and libraries, and pass around a donation box to defray costs.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Love of Siam gets 'redux' treatment

Following his cheeky shot-for-shot remake of Bangkok Traffic Love Story for last month's "Live at the Scala" performance-art micro-festival, some folks may have wondered why British filmmaker Richard DeDomenici didn't opt for another Thai film that might have been closer to home for "Live at the Scala" – Love of Siam, which had a scene that was actually filmed in the Scala Theatre's spacious art-deco lobby.

Well, before he left Bangkok, DeDomenici rectified that oversight, and sat down on the landmark Scala bench to re-enact a 1-minute scene from Chookiat Sakveerakul's Love of Siam for The Love of Siam: Redux (embedded above).

With DeDomenici taking Mario Maurer's role, and fellow "Live at the Scala" artist Brian Lobel taking Witwisit Hirunwongkul's, the pair acted out a conversation in which Witwisit's Mew and Mario's Tong meet on the bench in the Scala, and Mew ends up inviting Tong over to his house so he can make him a music CD.

Forest Fringe's Andy Field, curator of "Live at the Scala", pitched in as "best boy".

It's a short and simple scene – not near as complicated as the six-minute remake of Bangkok Traffic Love Story, but is perhaps even more valuable as a video homage to one of Thai cinema's great moments inside Bangkok's last remaining single-screen movie theater.

Oh, and if you missed Bangkok Traffic Love Story: Redux, it's embedded below.

Thai Film Director Association Awards It Gets Better, 36

It Gets Better director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit gets a hug from the film's lead actress Penpak Sirikul on winning Best Film from the Thai Film Director Association. Photo via TFDA Facebook page.

The Thai Film Director Association (สมาคม ผู้กำกับภาพยนตร์ไทย) held its third annual awards last night at the Crowne Plaza Bangkok hotel, honoring It Gets Better as Best Film and Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit as Best Director for 36.

The TFDA also awarded 36 and Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's P-047 Best Film runner-up honors and Kongdej was named runner-up in the Best Director category.

Nawapol, in Venice taking part in the Biennale College, shared his thanks via video.

Silver-haired helmer Chalong Phakdiwichit (ฉลอง ภักดีวิจิตร) was on hand to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Also known as Philip Chalong, he directed a string of gritty action films from the 1970s to the 1990s, among them such Hollywood-Thai crossovers as 1976's S.T.A.B. with Sombat Methanee and Mission: Impossible's Greg Morris, 1990's The Lost Idol with Sorapong Chatree and CHiPs' Erik Estrada and In Gold We Trust with Jan-Michael Vincent and Sam Flash Gordon Jones.

The TFDA ceremony also boasted music performances from such film-soundtrack-friendly indie acts as Desktop Error, Yellow Fang and P-047 star Apichai Tragoolpadetgrai's Greasy Cafe.

In all, eight titles were up Best Film. The other nominees were Super Salaryman, Jan Dara: The Beginning, Home, Seven Something and the animated Yak: The Giant King.

There other Best Director nominees were Kongkiat Komesiri for Antapal, Tanwarin for It Gets Better, ML Bhandevanov Devakula for Jan Dara: The Beginning, Chookiat Sakveerakul for Home and  Paween Purijitpanya, Adisorn Trisirikasem and Jira Maligool for Seven Something.

Previously, 36 and P-047 were big winners at this year's Kom Chad Luek Awards, but were flatly ignored by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand's Subhanahongsa Awards, which take place tonight. It Gets Better also scored a win at the KCL Awards and is the top nominee at the Subhanahongsas.

Still to come this awards season are the honors from the Thai Film Critics Assembly.

(Via Thai Film Director Association Facebook page)