Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review: Vengeance of the Assassin

  • Directed by Panna Rittikrai
  • Starring Chupong Changprung, Nathawut Boonrubsub, Ping Lumpraploeng, Nisachon Tuamsungnoen
  • Released in Thai cinemas on October 13, 2014; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Vengeance of the Assassin (Rew Talu Rew, เร็วทะลุเร็ว) wasn't supposed to be Panna Rittikrai's last film. It feels more like a middling placeholder, a fun slice of gritty action to tide folks over until something bigger from the director and martial-arts choreographer comes along. Heck, there's even a tag that hints at a sequel to Vengeance of the Assassin, which was completed around a year or so ago and kept in the vaults of Sahamongkolfilm. Sadly, Panna passed away in July at age 53 of liver ailments. So a sequel seems unlikely.

Vengeance of the Assassin also harks back to the original backyard stunt movies Panna made in the 1980s and '90s, before he blew up big in 2003 with his protege Tony Jaa in Ong-Bak, which made Panna a household name among action cultists worldwide. Before then, Panna's rough-and-tumble direct-to-VCD offerings were mainly only viewed in his native Northeastern Thailand, and were popular among farmers, truckers, cab drivers and laborers hailing from the Isaan region.

And the opening scene of Vengeance of the Assassin could be viewed as a standalone, a beautiful and moving tribute to Panna's talent at staging martial-arts setpieces. It has everything the late stunt guru became known for. The scene involves young guys squaring off at a game of indoor soccer, with deadly consquences. Panna dusts off all his tricks, with fighters swooping in from outside the frame to converge in a mass of swinging limbs and bone-crunching sound effects. Water is spraying everywhere, and there's tons of glass to break, for no apparent reason other than it just looks cool. With each moment, Panna one-ups himself, and for the players, the risks become greater and greater until they are essentially playing soccer in a lake of gasoline next to a red-hot charcoal grill. Boom!

"Diew" Chupong Changprung, who made his debut with Panna's first big mainstream directorial effort, 2004's, Born to Fight as well as another top-shelf Panna project, Dynamite Warrior, stars. He's Thee, a young man seeking answers about the death of his parents. Thee's drunken auto-mechanic uncle (scene-hogging comedian Ping Lumpraploeng) is mum on the details but his daily afternoon Beer Leo stupor makes it easy for Thee to sneak into a secret room and find clues.

So Thee lights out on his own, tracking down a mysterious Buddhist monk who knew his parents. He then bumps into a cardigan-clad man who is a member of a league of assassins. Brooding Thee joins this shadowy band of killers in zipper sweaters. But it's anything but a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

The plot becomes a bit muddled, but it boils down to Thee being framed for trying to kill Ploy, the daughter of a politically connected bigwig, and he has to go on the run with the girl (bright-eyed newcomer Nisachon Tuamsungnoen).

His quest for revenge and refuge leads him back home to his uncle and brother Than, who are reluctantly drawn into Thee's fight. Ploy's family doctor, a Chinese healer named Master Sifu, also ably pitches in. A fierce fighter, he's portrayed by a Malaysian actor, but I missed the fellow's name in the credits.

Nathawut Boonrubsub, who made his debut as a pint-sized warrior in 2009's Power Kids – another Panna project – is in fine form as Thee's kid brother Than. He teaches himself martial-arts moves and gun-fu by watching old videotapes of his parents that his uncle had hidden.

Bad guys clad in black are literally coming out of the woodwork as martial-arts battles ensue in the confines of greasy garages, grimy factories and abandoned office buildings.

Among the villains Thee and Than have to tangle with is an imposing female assassin portrayed by Diew's Born to Fight co-star, former taekwondo national athlete "Nui" Kessarin Ektawatkul. She's having a blast as the oversexed lead baddie, but her threat is short-lived. She has a boyfriend with a neck tattoo who takes over for her in the fight.

There's a lot of gunplay. And a gratuitous number of car chases. And a big setpiece atop a moving passenger train that is probably 90 percent CGI, but is still great fun. There's thrills and painful-looking spills aplenty during the train sequence, which involves the uncle and the Chinese healer chasing along in a Land Rover filled with machine guns and a misfiring RPG. Then a helicopter swoops in and it all goes crazy.

Related posts:

See also:

Monday, November 10, 2014

EXpatZ sets Thai premiere

ExpatZ, a short film made in Thailand that has been screening and winning awards at fests worldwide, will make its Bangkok premiere next week at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.

Directed by Jimmie Wing, ExpatZ is a psychedelic horror-comedy mash-up set in the totally fictional country of Wighland, which bears no resemblance at all to Thailand. Nope. Not one bit. Anyway, in this strange land, a foreign TV journalist encounters all sorts of colorful characters as he tracks down a rogue retired American military officer.

Here's more details:

A foreign television reporter specializes in interviewing bizarre foreigners living in Wighland. The reporter and his local partner, Professor Roasted Squid, take off to find an especially peculiar retired American military officer. Ordinarily, the boss of a local hamburger joint, the retired officer hides a secret culinary technology. When a few of the reporter’s jealous "friends" show up on the scene, they get caught up in a long and unexpectedly strange trip. The hilarious antics and cross-cultural relationships of these crazy white people perfectly set the scene for this wild adventure.

In awarding Jimmie Wing's film the grand prize for best short film, the Urban Nomad Film Festival (Taiwan’s largest independent film confab) said, "Adopting a humorous and visually alluring style, EXpatZ describes the strange and twisted stories of Westerners in Asia and the adventures of one Asian people’s turnabout in fortunes. The film is a satire on the ridiculousness of the superiority of white people and lampoons standards of racial stereotyping. Through extreme subversion and sabotage, EXpatZ presents a multi-faceted view of the relative relationship between the West and Asia within the ecology of Southeast Asian colonialism.”

The screening is set for Wednesday, November 19, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. The event starts at 6pm with hamburgers, followed by the film at 7pm. Wing will talk and answer questions later, along with co-leads Soontorn Meesri and Lex Luther. Kamonrat Ladseeta, who plays Madame Quoits, the wife of Commander Quoits (Darren Potter), will also field questions.

Check out the trailer, embedded below.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: So Be It

  • Directed by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee
  • Starring Sorawit William Caudullo, Bundit Laocharoeysuk, Phra Sanan Titameto, Phra Marhalatsiam Thammutasiu
  • Limited release at House cinema in Bangkok on October 30, 2014; rated G
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee harnesses his flair for telling engaging stories about unusual people with So Be It (A-Wang, เอวัง ), his first feature documentary.

It's about Buddhism, but it isn't preachy. There are no talking-head interviews like ordinary documentaries. There's pleasant images of shaven-headed men and boys in saffron, but there's more to it than that. Its accessibility is boosted by clear, high-definition images and polished editing and post-production. A burbling acoustic guitar soundtrack provides ear candy, gently spurring the story along.

Like his narrative features, Kongdej takes an unconventional approach to his subjects. No lost elephant, or three-armed man, or cabaret dancers with amnesia. Here, there's two very real Thai boys from very different backgrounds. Their whose lives are entwined in Buddhism. Although it's an unscripted documentary, the story clicks along as if everyone is reading from one of Kongdej's weird but higlyh compelling screenplays.

It also helps that one of the stars is a celebrity, William, a half-Thai 7-year-old boy, went viral on social networks when he appeared on the TrueVisions reality series Samanean Pruk Panya, which followed boys as they become novice monks.

The other boy is Bundit, 10-year-old son of a Karen family. His family is poor and they sent him to live at Wat Sa Kaeo, a well-known Buddhist temple and boarding school in central Thailand's Ang Thong province.

Parallels are drawn to the stories of these two different boys with help from a Buddhist parable that's related in intertext titles, about Sakka and Pura, monks who each struggled with attaining enlightenment. Sakka seeks to hunt for answers outside the temple, while Pura remains inside, yet whatever peace he's looking for is elusive.

In the TrueVisions series, William is shown at first being bratty, impatient and hot-tempered, spoiling for a fight with another novice who taunts him. But as the spiritual practices of meditation and mindfulness take hold, William's demeanor changes, and he becomes genuinely interested in learning more about Buddhism, and thinks he might want to be a monk when he grows up. Back at school, he's chosen to lead the Buddhism club. With the kind support of his Thai mother and American father, he takes a trip to the rural northern temple of prominent monk Phra Sanan Titameto, who was featured on the TV series. William spends time as a temple boy and watching the monk's every move.

Bundit, who is introduced while he's in a classroom watching the TV show with William, is also bratty and hot-tempered, yet there's nothing anyone can do to control him. A rebellious little gangster who has issues with authority figures, Bundit skips classes, ducks off campus to go swimming in the river and sneaks out of the dormitory at night to sleep elsewhere. He is not the least interested in learning about Buddhism. For him, monkhood is a punishment.

While William makes morning alms rounds with the uncle-like Phra Sanan, Bundit is granted leave by his temple's abbot to visit his home, accompanied by an older relative boy. The angry little Bundit seems happier at the rustic wooden homestead, where the family hand-raises corn and chickens. But, overburdened with other mouths to feed, they can't afford to keep William there. So he must go back to school. And that anger, manifested by a scary look in Bundit's eyes, returns.

And like the monks in the Sakka and Pura tale, enlightment doesn't come easily for the devout and ever-curious William, and his time as a temple boy seems to have raised more questions than answers.

A documentary, So Be It might seem like an odd fit alongside Kongdej's other work, which includes commercial screenplays like Tony Jaa's lost-elephant tale Tom-Yum-Goong or the amnesiac transgender tale Me Myself, and the three-armed romance Handle Me With Care. It's closer in tone to Kongdej's more recent ventures into independent filmmaking, which he and producer Soros Sukhum kicked off with the weird P-047, about two guys – spirituality seekers of a sort – who break into people's apartments and "borrow" their lives while they are away. So Be It is also an examination of contemporary Thai culture, such as Kongdej's most recent narrative feature, Tang Wong, which had bratty teenage schoolboys struggling to learn a traditional Thai dance.

With So Be It, which was produced in part by cable-television company TrueVisions and intended for broadcast, Kongdej finds another angle for examination and reflection.

Related posts:

Y/Our Music is coming to Bangkok

The unusual documentary Y/Our Music attracted positive buzz when it screened at the Busan International Film Festival this year, and it's set for a Bangkok screening this Saturday.

The venue, also a bit unsual, is The Space Bangkok, above the 7-Eleven at Klong San Plaza, next to Hilton Millenium Bangkok. Should be ferries and hotel boats that cross the river to take you there. It runs from 7 to 11.45pm. A "laid back" evening is promised, with Isaan music to follow by Mahidolwatit khaen band.

Directed by David Reeve and Waraluck Hiransrettawat, the documentary covers a diverse array of musicians all around Thailand, from "leftfield to rice field".

With post-production funds from the Busan fest's Asian Network of Documentary and the Asian Cinema Fund, the film was made on a shoestring budget, with begged and borrowed equipment.

Check out the trailer.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

So Be It, The Eyes Diary, The Couple open in Thai cinemas

It's a big week for new Thai films in Bangkok cinemas, with the release of three movies.

Among the crop is the latest from Kongdej Jaturanrasmee, his documentary So Be It. And, owing to Halloween, there's two horror films, The Eyes Diary, which sees Chookiat Sakveerakul returning to his horror roots, and The Couple, the sophomore release of the indie-film shingle Talent 1.

In So Be It (A-Wangเอวัง), two very different boys – a poor hilltribe youngster and a half-Thai reality-TV star – ordain as novice Buddhist monks. The half-Thai, half-farang kid William was featured on the TrueVisions’ reality series Plook Panya Dharma Novice, which followed the daily lives of novice monks. After his stint on the series, he returns to the temple on his own to continue his studies into the Buddhist faith. Meanwhile, there's Bundit, a Karen boy whose family is too poor to afford schooling. So he's sent to the Buddhist boarding school, but is uncomfortable and tries to leave.

The third indie-film effort by Kongdej, So Be It premiered at the recent Busan International Film Festival, which had supported the project through the Asian Cinema Fund. Variety gave it a good review. The Nation has more about it today. It's at House on RCA. Check out the trailer below.

The Eyes Diary (คนเห็นผีKon Hen Pee), directed by Chukiat, stars Parama Im-anothai as a young guy whose girlfriend (Focus Jeerakul) dies in a motorbike wreck after they had a fight. He’s desperate to communicate with her "on the other side", so he seeks help from a young woman (Chonnikarn Natejui) who's had a similar experience.

Not to be confused with the Pang brothers' Eye franchise, The Eyes Diary marks a return to horror by Chookiat, who has garnered much acclaim for his sprawling family and friendship dramas like The Love of Siam and last year's Grean Fictions. But he got his start with thrillers, such as his 2004 horror Pisaj and the twisting 2006 thriller 13 Game Sayong, which was recently remade by Hollywood as 13 Sins.
There's an English-subtitled trailer already.

In The Couple (รัก ลวง หลอนRak Luang Lon), a newlywed bride is possessed by the evil spirit of her sister-in-law. Sucha Manaying, Pitchaya Nithipisarnkul and Mali Coates star.

This is the second feature from Talent 1, which made its bow last year with the well-received thriller Last Summer. The indie film label is run by producer Ladawan Ratanadilokchai, who takes a different approach to her films. She had a hand in the script, with help from indie filmmaking talents Kongdej Jaturanrasmee (who also has So Be It opening at House this week), Pimpaka Towira and Sivaroj Kongsakul.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

WFFBKK 2014 review: Somboon

  • Directed by Krisda Tipchaimeta
  • Starring Somboon Ruekkhumyee, Lamaid Ruekkhumyee
  • Opening film of 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 24, 2014
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

A bittersweet and gentle documentary, Somboon (ปู่สมบรูณ์ , Poo Somboon), is a portrait of a couple in their winter years, with the husband devoted to caring for his chronically ailing wife.

The debut feature of 28-year-old film-school graduate Krisda Tipchaimeta, Somboon was filmed over the course of four years, and follows the daily routine of the elderly Somboon as he tends to the needs of Miad, his wife of more than 45 years. Suffering from kidney disease, among many other ailments, Miad undergoes dialysis treatments at home. It's a laborious process for Somboon, who administers the kidney flush every four hours, in addition to bathing his wife and tending to her other needs. It's unflinching, warts and all, as the nude woman is gently and patiently washed on her front doorstep.

There's a visit to the hospital, a 30-mile trip that Somboon and Miad must complete each month. They leave their rustic riverside home in Ayutthaya and go by tuk-tuk, the three-wheel motorized rickshaw that's common on Thai roads. And it's quite a process to get the heavy-set wheelchair-bound woman in and out of the vehicle.

The medical treatments are interspersed with solo interviews with Somboon, a wiry, terrier-like gentleman, still sharply handsome. With a gleam in his eye, he recalls his early life and the arranged marriage with Miad.

On its face, Somboon does not appear to be political, nor does it offer any overt commentary on Thai society. Nonetheless, there probably is a message in there somewhere about the rickety state of Thai public health policies, but the documentary also speaks volumes about the strength and closeness of the family unit.

Politics do come up eventually, courtesy of the 2011 flood that inundated the Central Plains and suburban Bangkok. Ayutthaya bore much of the brunt of the flooding, as authorities sought to spare Bangkok from the deluge. So we see news footage Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (ousted earlier this year and eventually replaced by a military coup) touring the floods. Especially revealing is a daughter's epic journey through the floods, hiring boats herself to bring much-needed medical supplies to Somboon.

With Ayutthaya largely cut off, it was up to Somboon's family to keep the documentary going, so footage shot during this time was done with a consumer-grade camera, and the resulting images are grainy. So when the footage switches back to the director's own high-resolution camera, it's dramatic, but also somber because circumstances for Somboon have changed, and a new stage of life for him has begun.

Somboon follows a trend in Thai cinema, with indie filmmakers getting increasingly bold with their depictions of family life. Other examples have included Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul's Mother, the films of Sivaroj Kongsakul and the early shorts of Chulayarnnon Siriphol, who courageously put their own families on the screen. Krisda, on the other hand, was turned onto Somboon by a film professor, but with the family helping out and giving consent, his film has the same intimate feel as those others. Perhaps Krisda and his producers can find a way to engage Somboon and include him in their next project?

See also:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Fin Sugoi

  • Directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit
  • Starring Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Makoto Koshinaka, Settapong Piangpor, Supanart Jittaleela, Nawapol Lampoon
  • Released in Thai cinemas on September 25, 2014; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any cases where directors and their lead actresses might have shared the same shade of lipstick. But if there have been any such cinematic cosmetic collaborations, it's unlikely they were as fruitful as Love Sud Fin Sugoi (ฟินสุโค่ย), an eye-poppingly slick romantic comedy by Tanwarin Sukkahpisit and starring Apinya Sakuljaroensuk.

"Saipan" Apinya, who memorably made her debut in 2007 with an Afro hairstyle in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy, has long been a favorite actress of Thailand's indie directors, turning in solidly dramatic performances in such films as I Carried You Home and most recently in Concrete Clouds. She's had supporting roles in a dozen or so Thai mainstream comedies and romances, but none have allowed her to stretch her talents like she does in Fin Sugoi.

Working for the first time with popular director "Golf" Tanwarin, Saipan and the transgender director seem to have inspired each other.

With bright red lipstick, long straight black hair and a goth-rock wardrobe possibly borrowed from Golf, Saipan gives a force-of-nature performance as Noona, a domineering young Thai woman who is obsessed with Japanese rock star Makoto. But when her screaming-schoolgirl devotion to the hair-metal singer goes too far, her long-time boyfriend, the jealous judo-practicing Khrong (Tao Settapong) calls it quits. Noona then wins a chance to star in a music video with Makato, but she's torn by her feelings for Khrong and misgivings when romance with her rock idol becomes all too real.

Meanwhile, everyone in Noona's close circle of friends is looking for love in all the wrong places. Noona's best friend, the tomboy folksinger and pub owner Ham (Yes or No star Tina Suppanart) has attracted the attention of platonic guy pal Tong (Guy Nawapol), but lesbian Ham has long held a hidden torch for the glamorous Noona. And the hot-headed Khrong is tentatively crushed on by stepbrother Noi, who is still unsure about his sexuality, even as his best friend Toh good-naturedly flirts with him. And an orange-haired girl (Chicha Ammartyakun) who's always hanging around Ham's music pub is on the sidelines, waiting to scoop up whatever guy is left broken-hearted by Noona and Ham.

Fans of the cult-hit lesbian romance Yes or No get a scene made just for them, with a dream sequence involving Tina Suppanart that demonstrates just how sexually flexible Noona and her friends might be.

Fin Sugoi touches on several trends and issues in contemporary Thai culture. The backdrop is Thai society's continuing fascination with Japanese culture, especially J-rock, the '90s-style hair metal that's been popular in Thailand a lot longer and seems way cooler than the more-recent South Korean pop imports.

The romance is also a relaxed look at sexuality and the fluid nature of relationships with family and friends. And there's a look at how the media are manipulated into reporting on scandals by unscrupulous managers hoping to drum up publicity for their celebrities.

The film hooks audiences in with a fast and furious first half, punctuated by tasty licks of Japanese rock. The soundtrack then turns to quiet piano and guitar ballads for a slower second half that has Khong trying to win back Noona's heart and Noona feeling conflicted about her romance with the much-older Makoto. Portrayed by the actual musician, the frontman for Lucifer and now the Trick Band, Makoto turns out to be a bit creepy even if he seems geniunely sweet. The pace slackens a bit too much toward the end, leaving me to wonder if a bit of tightening here and there could have trimmed the 110-minute running time. But that's my only quibble.

It's an attractive production, offering a glimpse of the colorful cos-play scene in Bangkok's Siam Square, lounging for drinks and music in one of the city's trendy Thai pubs (the kind with antiques and weird stuff on the walls) and taking in the energy of a J-rock show, where the screaming fans are as big a part as what's onstage. There's even a beautifully framed dream journey or flashback to Japan, where Noona and Khong first fell in love.

A music-video shoot offers more chances for Saipan to don different costumes and wigs, each a jaw-dropping revelation. As a humorous aside, the music video's grumpy director is actual music-video director Alongod "Book" Uabhaibool.

At the local box office, Fin Sugoi hasn't performed all that strong, earning just around 5 million baht at last count. However, the film had its world premiere in Japan, back in March at the Osaka Film Festival, and it's at fests like that where Fin Sugoi will likely be most appreciated.

See also:

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 17-26

The 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok opens this Friday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld with Somboon, a documentary by young Thai director Krisda Tipchaimeta that follows the lives of Grandpa Somboon and Granny Miad, a couple married for 45 years. With Miad suffering from acute kidney disease, Somboon stays by her side, providing constant care.

Among the highlights of the festival are entries from this year's Cannes Film Festival, including Jean Luc-Godard's latest, Goodbye to Language, an experimental 3D drama, and Mommy, by French-Canadian badboy Xavier Dolan. Both films were jury prize winners at Cannes. Also from Cannes is The Blue Room, a fresh adaptation of the Georges Simenon crime novel by Mathieu Almaric, about childhood friends reunited as adulterous lovers.

Two French classics will unspool, Godard's 1965 comedy, Pierrot le Fou and from 1980, Francois Truffaut's World War II drama The Last Metro. The fest will also screen the newly restored version of Metropolis, with footage rediscovered a few years ago.

There's a block of French animation in a festival sidebar, the French-Thai Animation Rendezvous, which offers five recent French animated features in various styles – A Cat in Paris, The Congress, the 3D Minuscule, Valley of the Lost Ants, Ernest and Celestine and Tales of the Night.

Another festival sidebar groups together Israel films, going back as far as 1988's Aviya's Summer up to 2013's Cupcakes. Others are The Band's Visit, A Matter of Size, Noodle and Footnote.

There's the Cine Latino and Cinema Beat programs, which feature entries from across Latin America, the US, Canada and beyond. The selection includes the Sundance winner Whiplash, which will also get a general release in Thai cinemas.

Other festival sections include Doc Feast, Asian Contemporary and Short Wave.

The fest closes on October 26 with The Tale of Princess Kaguya, a new anime feature from Japan's Studio Ghibli.

Tickets cost Bt120. There are 500 special packages offering five movies for Bt500.

This year, for the first time, the World Film Festival of Bangkok will have many films with both Thai and English subtitles, which will travel to the provinces, taking a selection of movies on Blu-ray to SF cinemas in Khon Kaen from November 7 to 9, Pattaya from November 14 to 16 and Chiang Mai from November 20 to 23.

Find out more at www.WorldFilmBkk.com.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fan Chan, Nang Nak, Monrak Transistor, Mysterious Object, Santi-Veena added to Registry

The Culture Ministry and the Thai Film Archive have added another 25 films to the National Film Heritage Registry, running from 1897's visit to Stockholm by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) to 2003's smash-hit childhood drama Fan Chan and including 1953's Santi-Veena, which was thought for years to be lost.

The oldest entry, King Rama V visits Stockholm, is footage that was found last year. According to Film Archive director Dome Sukwong it is one of the two oldest surviving filmed records of Thais. The other, a 2011 Registry entry, is Rama V's visit to Berne, Switzerland, also in 1897, by Francois-Henri Lavancy-Clarke. In Sweden, pioneering cinematographer Ernest Florman captured Chulalongkorn and King Oscar II greeting each other with kisses.

Established in 2011, the film registry now numbers 100 entries. The latest additions were announced by Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat on October 4 at the Archive.

This year's listing also includes Apichatpong Weerasekthakul's debut Mysterious Object at Noon, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Monrak Transistor and Nonzee Nimibutr's Nang Nak, Oscar-submitted social-issue dramas by M.C. Chatrichalerm Yukol and Bhandit Rittakol and two films with cinematography by pioneering auteur R.D. Pestonji.

Among Pestonji's films is the 1953 drama Santi-Veena, which had been feared lost.

Sanchai Chotirosseranee, deputy archive director, said that copies of Santi-Veena were recently discovered at Gosfilmofond in Russia and at the China Film Archive. "We are now trying to do digital restoration," Sanchai says.

A romantic drama, Santi-Veena was the first Thai film to win awards overseas, grabbing four prizes at the 1954 Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo, including best cinematography for Pestonji, who was awarded a Mitchell camera. In a quirk of history, he was charged $5,000 tax for the $16,000 camera. Also, the filmmakers were fined 1,000 baht by Thai authorities for failing to clear the film with censors before exhibiting it overseas. The camera is now the centerpiece of an exhibit with a wax figure of Pestonji at the archive's Thai Film Museum.

In the following list, Sanchai adds information about some of the lesser-known entries.

2014 Registry of Films as National Heritage

  1. King Rama V visits Stockholm, (ร. ๕ เสด็จประพาสกรุงสต็อกโฮล์ม ), 1897 – Cinematographer Ernest Florman filmed the meeting of Chulalongkorn and Sweden's King Oscar II. 
  2. Siamese Society, 1920 – A record of Siamese tradition and culture by noted travelogue maker Burton Holmes. 
  3. King Rama VII Visits Indochine (เสด็จอินโดจีน พ.ศ. ๒๔๗๓ ), 1930 – The film is also the first football match between the Siamese national side and Saigon's team.
  4. Sound Patch Work, 1930 – Introduces the first Thai radio station in Phaya Thai Palace.
  5. Past Pattani (ปัตตานีในอดีต ), 1936 – Depicts tourist attractions, the constitution ceremony and a boxing match between famous fighters Saman and Sompong. 
  6. Handful of Rice (ข้าวกํามือเดียว), 1940 – A Swedish filmmaking team was invited by high-society northerners. Shot in Chiang Mai, it shows the importance of Thai rice.
  7. Pry Ta Khean (พรายตะเคียน ), 1940 – The oldest surviving Thai ghost film includes many comic gags that are used in Thai horror comedies to this day.
  8. The Birthday Ceremony of Major General Luang Piboon Songkarm, the Prime Minister at The Parliament at Suan Kulap Palace (งานวันชาตะ นายพลตรีหลวงพิบูลสงคราม นายกรัฐมนตรี ณ ทําเนียบ วังสวนกุหลาบ ), 1941 
  9. Brother (พี่ชาย ), 1951 – Adapted from a stage play, the film starred many important Thai actors.
  10. Jumruen–Jimmy (จําเริญ -จิมมี่ , 1953 – World-champion boxer Jimmy arrives in Bangkok to face his opponent Jumruen.
  11. Santi–Veena (สันติ -วีณา , 1953 – Directed by Tawee "Kru Marut" na Bangchang with a screenplay by Vichit Kounavudhi and cinematography by R.D. Pestonji, it won three prizes at the 1954 Asia Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo, the first Thai film to be awarded overseas.
  12. Forever Yours (ชั่วฟ้าดินสลาย, Chua Fah Din Salai), 1954 – Kru Marut with cinematographer R.D. Pestonji directed this adaptation of Malai Choopiniji's novel about adulterous young lovers chained together. 
  13. Poor Millionaire (เศรษฐีอนาถา ), 1956 – The winning Best Thai Film of the first national film awards in 1957.
  14. Envy Love (รักริษยา, Rak Ritsaya), 1957 – A romantic drama starring 1954 Miss Thailand Universe Ammara Assawanon, a.k.a. "the Thai Elizabeth Taylor".
  15. Rice Carriage, Threshing Rice, Rice Mill, Wedding in Southern Thailand, (หาบข้าว นวดข้าว สีข้าว แต่งงานภาคใต้ ), 1968-69 – A record of many interesting Thai rice customs.
  16. Virginity Market (ตลาดพรหมจารีย์ , Talad Prom Charee, 1973 – Veteran director Sakka Charuchinda's drama criticizes male hegemony in Thai society with a story about a fisherman who sells his stepdaughter to buy a new motor. 
  17. Chinatown Montage (สําเพ็ง, Sampeng), 1982 – Surapong Pinijkhar directs this pioneering experimental look at Bangkok's Chinatown, from morning to night.
  18. Silhouette of God (คนทรงเจ้า , Kon Song Jao), 1989 – Jazz Siam's social-issue drama for Five Star Production takes a critical view of black-magic beliefs in Thai society. Classic screen couple Santisuk Promsiri and Chintara Sukapatana star.
  19. The Elephant Keeper (คนเลี้ยงช้าง , Kon Liang Chang), 1990 – M.C. Chatrichalerm Yukol addresses environmental issues in this gritty action-drama about a mahout (Sorapong Chatree) who takes his elephant to work in the illegal timber trade. It was a submission to the Academy Awards.
  20. Rolling Stones, กลิ้งไว้ก่อนพ่อสอนไว้ , Gling Wai Kon Por Son Wai, 1991 – A famous teen film by director "King" Somching Srisuparp.
  21. Once Upon a Time ... In the Morning (กาลครั้งหนึ่งเมื่อเช้านี้ , Kalla Khrung Nueng ... Muea Chao Nee), 1994 – Another Oscar submission, Bhandit Rittakol's social-issue drama deals with children who run away from their divorcee mother (Chintara Sukapatana). They fall in with gangsters as they travel cross-country to find their father (Santisuk Promsiri).
  22. Nang Nak (นางนาก ), 1999 – Nonzee Nimibutr's adaptation of the famous ghost story of Mae Nak of Phra Khanong was a box-office hit and swept up most of the National Film Association Awards, the Netpac Award at Rotterdam and several prizes at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.
  23. Mysterious Object at Noon (ดอกฟ้าในมือมาร, Dokfa Nai Meuman), 2000 – Winner of awards in Fribourg, Yamagata and Vancouver, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's debut feature is an experimental documentary in which a film crew travels the length of Thailand, getting various folks to take part in an "exquisite corpse" storytelling exercise.
  24. Monrak Transistor (มนต์รักทรานซิสเตอร์), 2001 – An Oscar submission and winner at festivals and the National Film Association Awards, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's sprawling musical-comedy-drama pays tribute to singer Suraphol Sombatcharoen with a story about a young man who goes AWOL from the army and leaves his wife in order to be a big luk thung star.
  25. Fan Chan (แฟนฉัน, a.k.a. My Girl), 2003 – The smash-hit childhood drama launched the careers of six young directors and led to the formation of the GTH studio.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Busan 2014: White Light, VS Service join for Open Sea Fund

Two Bangkok-based film-services companies, film editor Lee Chatametikool's White Light post-production house and the venerable VS Service, have joined to start the Open Sea Fund, which is touted as Southeast Asia's first regional film fund.

Here's more from a press released issued today:

Open Sea Fund is Southeast Asia’s first regional film fund. A pioneering collaboration between White Light and VS Service, Open Sea Fund will initially support two feature film projects per year – one in production and one in post-production.

VS Service will provide a full camera, lighting and grip package for a feature film to be shot in Thailand. White Light will offer a color grading and DCP package for a feature. The deadline for submissions is the end of November 2014, with the aim for projects to be completed in 2015.

“Thailand has profited immensely from being the post-production center of Southeast Asia,” says White Light’s Lee Chatametikool. “With the Open Sea Fund, we want to give back to the region by opening up funding opportunities for both unknown and established Southeast Asian filmmakers.”

“VS has already been active in funding local films, but we were looking for a more comprehensive way for filmmakers to take its projects from production all the way to post,” says VS Service’s Pete Smithsuth. “Our collaboration with White Light is the perfect answer – projects with some funding in place would benefit from our production support and become good candidates for further post-production support.”

Representatives from Open Sea fund will be present at the Busan Film Festival’s Asian Film Market.

For more information contact openseafund@gmail.com.

White Light is a maverick post-house founded five years ago by five leading Thai cinematographers, film editors and post-production supervisors. Recent projects include Hollow by Vietnam's Ham Tran, Men Who Save the World by Malaysia's Liew Seng Tat, The Second Life of Thieves by Malaysia's Woo Ming Jin, Taksu by Japan's Kiki Sugino, Riverof Exploding Durians by Malaysia's Edmund Yeo and As You Were by Singapore's Jiekai Liao, as well as Concrete Clouds, Lee's own directorial debut. He's also a partner in Mosquito Films Distribution, which has added Thieves and Durians to its slate of titles.

VS Service was founded in 1985 and is mostly known for supporting foreign productions, including The Beach, The Hangover Part II, American Gangster and The Rocket. But in the past year or so, VS Service has raised its profile among the indie-film community in Thailand through several initiatives, including a new award at this year's Thai Short Film and Video Festival. It's now headed by second-generation owner Pete Pithai Smithsuth.

Update: The Open Sea Fund has a Facebook page.