Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Buenos Aires está contenta with Mary Is Happy

Following its success at the awards in Thailand, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy is pleasing juries as it travels around the world, most recently picking up a special mention in the international competition at the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (BAFICI), which wrapped up on Sunday.

Mary Está Contenta, Mary Está Contenta was joined by another entry from Thailand's Mosquito Films Distribution, Las Canciones Del Arroz – Uruphong Raksasad's The Songs of Rice, which was in the Panorama section.

Mary also screened at the recent Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival and in Singapore as part of the Italian Film Festival, owing to Mary's genesis at the Venice Biennale College.

The Songs of Rice, meanwhile, is heading to Hot Docs in Toronto, running April 24 to May 4.

More coverage from Buenos Aires can be found at Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

As always, you can keep track of the comings and goings of all the Mosquito Films at the company's website.

(Via Pop Pictures' Facebook)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five projects in works by Asean Filmmakers in Residence

The Asean filmmakers in residence, from left, Sun Koh from Singapore, Anysay Keola from Laos, Ifan Ismail from Indonesia, Universe Baldoza from the Philippines and Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi from Myanmar. Nation photo by Anant Chantarasoot.

Filmmakers from Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore have been chosen for the Thai Culture Ministry's Asean Filmmakers in Residence program, which pairs them up with prominent Thai directors as they work on feature films that are set in Thailand and explore cross-cultural issues that have resonance in other Southeast Asian countries.

Launched last September, the project sought entries from across the region. The finalists then came to Thailand to stay for a month, during which they were paired with Thai filmmakers as mentors as they worked on treatments for a feature-length screenplay and visited possible filming locations.

There's more about the project in an article in The Nation today. The filmmakers are:

  • Anysay Keola, Laos – Best known around these parts for his stunning debut feature At the Horizon, Anysay has fittingly collaborated with Slice and Muay Thai Chaiya director Kongkiat Khomsiri on a gritty drama involving prostitutes and boat robbery in the lawless Golden Triangle border area of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
  • Ifan Ismail, Indonesia – He's working with Nonzee Nimibutr on A Fishy Adventure, about an Indonesian fisherman who becomes entangled in a web of conflicts common to the region, including fish poaching, human trafficking and homegrown terrorism.
  • Universe Baldoza, Philippines – She's paired up with Pen-ek Ratanaruang to make a very Pen-ek-sounding film. Set in the Thai jungle, the fantasy follows a woman who is the only victim to remember what happened when an entire Filipino town vanished in one night. At the heart of the mystery is a strange fruit that's poisonous in Thailand but is a cure in the Philippines.
  • Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, Myanmar – With October Sonata writer-director Somkiat Vituranich, Min is working on the romantic drama Love One Another, about the star-crossed relationship of a Burmese artist and a woman from a proudly anti-Burmese Thai family.
  • Sun Koh, Singapore – Mentored by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, she has written The Wedding Proposal, about a Singaporean-Thai lesbian couple who plan to get married in Chiang Mai after Thailand passes a law permitting gay marriage.

The program is overseen by producer Pantham Thongsang, and all the films are in various stages of development. According to The Nation, the filmmakers will be back in Thailand in June to pitch their projects during a market event at the Culture Ministry's yet-to-be-unveiled Bangkok Film and Digital Content Festival.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hi-Jaa! The Protector 2 streams, SPL 2 now even better with Yam

In case you missed it, this is a new occasional feature of the blog, in which I catch up on news of Tony Jaa.

Tom-Yum-Goong 2, Jaa's martial-arts swansong with his former studio Sahamongkol Film International, is streaming online as The Protector 2.

Even though folks are pleased to see Jaa in action, reception is generally along the lines of "Tony Jaa loses fight with CGI".

Fans are more excited about Jaa's upcoming projects, such as Skin Trade, his action drama with Dolph Lundgren, Ron Perlman, Michael Jai White and Selina Jade.

The guys at Twitch, having seen Jaa's sneak peek at Skin Trade, were raving, noting that the director – Ekachai Uekrongtham of Beautiful Boxer fame – makes a big difference. They go on to lambast TYG and Ong-Bak helmer Prachya Pinkaew, and they make fair points, especially about the godawful Elephant White. I think Prachya has a better track record and more promising future as a producer – taking a supporting, mentoring role behind more distinctive directorial voices, such as Panna Rittikrai, Chookiat Sakveerakul and Tanwarin Sukkhapisit.

Back to news of Tony Jaa – you can follow his official updates on Facebook – work is continuing on Skin Trade and he'll also soon resume production on Fast and Furious 7. Much of that and more is covered in an interview with Asian Movie Pulse
Also coming up is Jaa's Hong Kong debut SPL II, the sequel-in-name-only to the 2005 knock-down-drag-out that had Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung whacking each other with golf clubs. Neither of those two have been mentioned for the sequel, which stars Wu Jing. But Senh Duong's Movies With Butter notes that original SPL star Simon Yam will join the cast along with Max Zhang, the baddie from Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster. Soi Cheang (Accident, Motorway, The Monkey King) directs, taking over for Wilson Yip, who is still aboard as producer. Senh's still holding out hope for a Donnie cameo.

Apichatpong-a-rama: Dilbar, For Monkeys, Cactus River stream online

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is "this week's visionary" at the arts-and-culture website Dazed, which is streaming three of his short films – Dilbar, For Monkeys and Cactus River.

Dilbar is a work by Apichatpong and Chai Siri, commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation. Dilbar, which means beloved, is a black-and-white portrait of a migrant laborer of the same name. One of the million of Bangladeshi workers who currently live and work in the United Arab Emirates, Dilbar is a voiceless soul who moves between construction site and labour camp. Ghostly images grace the screen amid the hypnotic rhythms of a machine and the buzzing of high-tension electric wires.

For Monkeys is an outgrowth of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. "The terrifying ghost monkeys rear their heads again in this hypnotic short film, which overlays chattering automation and an all-seeing neon eye on top of stone statuary to disquieting effect."

Cactus River, which I had trouble viewing, tells the story of Kick the Machine company player Jenjira Pongpas. "Her life unfolds along the Mekong River as she changes her name for good luck and marries Frank, a retired U.S. soldier from New Mexico. Weerasethkul documents their domestic lives alongside the ebbs and flows of one of Asia's largest rivers."

If you are also having trouble viewing Cactus River, fear not, it might turn up at a film festival near you. As noted by Mosquito Films Distribution, Cactus River recently flowed at the Next International Film Festival in Bucharest. It's among many Mosquito films buzzing their way around the world.

Also at Dazed, there's the Da-zed Guide to Southeast Asian Cinema, an A-to-Z primer on notable films and filmmakers. Although A is not for Apichatpong (it's for Vietnam's Ahn Hung Tran), it's still a very Apichatpong-centric list, with notes about Tropical Malady, Syndromes and a Century and Uncle Boonmee. Others on the list include Bangkok and Only God Forgives, the Luang Prabang Film Festival, Gareth Evans and The Raid 2, Tony Jaa and Ong-Bak, Filipino auteur Lav Diaz and the Pang Brothers. However, for the letter P, I would have picked Pen-ek.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: The Teacher's Diary (Kid Tueng Wittaya)

  • Directed by Nithiwat Tharatorn
  • Starring Chermarn Boonyasak, Sukrit Wisetkaew
  • Released in Thai cinemas on March 20, 2014; rated G
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Toeing a fine line between sweetness and mawkishness, the sentimental GTH romance The Teacher's Diary (คิดถึงวิทยา, Kid Tueng Wittaya) mostly sticks to that line thanks to a fairly tight script, top-notch technical work, a memorable location and, of course, appealing performances by two fine lead actors.

Directed by one of GTH's "Fan Chan six", Nithiwat Tharatorn (Season's Change, Dear Galileo), the comedy-drama follows the stories of two lonely teachers, a woman and a man, who are posted to the same rural school a year apart. The setting is on a houseboat in the middle of a lake up in the mountains of Chiang Mai. Stuck out the boonies, with no electricity, phone service or Internet, one of the teachers turns to keeping an illustrated diary, pouring her thoughts and frustrations into it. When she transfers to another school, she leaves the diary behind. The well-worn notebook is then found by the young man who takes up the rural post. He reads the diary, falls in love with the writer and writes some of his own things in it. After the guy leaves, the woman resumes her former position and finds what he has written, and, having heard a few things about him, she also starts to fall in love, even though the two have never met.

Country schoolteacher dramas are a time-honored subgenre of Thai cinema. They used to be more frequent in the 1970s and '80s, when filmmakers tackled social problems. The setting is the same, thanks to that stunning lake with no cellphone service, so The Teacher's Diary is able to recall the feel of the classic old films while blending in bits of contemporary society. But the issues are more personal, detailing the growth of two young characters who rise to a challenge and accomplish more than they ever thought they would.

The Teacher's Diary also captures the spirit of another GTH film, The Tin Mine (มหา'ลัย เหมืองแร่, Maha'lai Muang Rae), about a college dropout learning life lessons at a Phuket mining outpost in the 1950s. The ramshackle little floating school in Teacher's Diary reminded me of the massive dredge GTH built as the centerpiece for The Tin Mine. Jira Maligool, director of the 2005 film, is a producer of Teacher's Dairy and he helped shape the project. Just like the dredge and jungle setting of The Tin Mine, the ragged diary and the floating schoolhouse of Teacher's Diary become strong icons to build a story upon.

"Ploy" Chermarn Boonyasak is Ann, and totally convincing as a stubborn young woman who butts heads with the school district's principal after she gets a small tattoo of three little stars on her wrist. After she refuses to have the tat removed, Ann is assigned to the tiny elementary school on the houseboat. There, her animated style of teaching and informal hipster wardrobe endear her to the half dozen or so impossibly cute students, all children of fishermen.

Ann's story unfolds in parallel to that of Song – No. 2 – a washed-up former Thai national-team wrestler who compensates for his lunkheadedness with sheer enthusiasm. But exuberance isn't enough, so he is assigned to the district's lowest post – the houseboat school. He arrives to find the place empty, Ann having moved on and no schoolchildren around.

Sukrit “Bie" Wisetkaew makes his much-touted big-screen debut as the lovable goofball Song. A runner-up on the Exact/GMM Grammy TV talent show "The Star" eight years ago, he's dropped the show's title from his nickname, but is probably the best-known of its discoveries, having performed on TV and stage and become much-sought-after for product endorsements and appearances. In addition to movies, the singer-actor is even being groomed for a role on Broadway.

Of the two teachers, Ann adapts the easiest to life at the lake school. When there's a crisis, she jumps right in to save the day, even though she can barely swim. (Indeed, Ploy had to take swimming lessons and overcome her fear of water for the role.) Song has a rougher time. On his first outing in the school's boat, he breaks his arm when he engages the longtail motor. Ann is the better teacher – smarter and more skilled. Song has to work out the algebra problems in private before presenting them to the kids. But Song's dedication is heartwarming. He faces his own crisis, and rebuilds everything, even the diary itself. He tracks down a former student and persuades the boy to return to his studies. Without Song, the school would likely not be afloat.

Outside of school, Ann and Song are in unhappy relationships. Song's girlfriend takes up with another guy, and Ann's boyfriend is a controlling jerk. It's the stringing along of whether Song and Ann will ever meet that keeps the movie going but also starts to wear thin as the 90-minute mark passes. It seems natural that Ann and Song would connect through the diary and fall for each other, but various circumstances, missed connections and a missing tattoo keep that pairing something that happens only in dreams.

Of course this is a GTH movie, which are all so very happy and uplifting, even if they are depressing psychological horrors. So, well, you know ...

Related posts:

Monday, March 31, 2014

Salaya Doc 2014 review: The Songs of Rice

  • Directed by Uruphong Raksasad
  • Screened as the closing film of the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival, March 29, 2014
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 5/5

A crowd-pleasing jubilation, Uruphong Raksasad's The Songs of Rice (เพลงของข้าว, Pleng Khong Kao) is a poetic portrait of the various rituals and celebrations that accompany the cultivation of rice in Thailand.

It starts off quietly and gently, with only the sounds of chirping birds and the buzz of insects, and slowly builds up until it explodes. The sounds and tempo then gradually trail off until the movie is right back where it started.

As with Uruphong's previous features, Stories from the North and Agrarian Utopia, genius camerawork is the highlight. Uruphong shoots the moon and then zooms back out to focus on the head of a grasshopper.

He does this a lot, showing you something pretty amazing and then turning the camera to reveal something even more astonishing. One early dramatic scene involves a Buddhist temple blessing procession, featuring worshippers in white parading along a rural road with a pair of elephants. The procession leads to a hilltop temple adorned by a golden stupa. Fans of Agrarian Utopia will recognize the place. If all that isn't enough, there's a guy riding a para-glider, flying around above it all.

The Songs of Rice completes a trilogy for the director. Stories from the North was a compilation of vignettes of the director's neighbors in his native rural Chiang Rai, while Agrarian Utopia followed a pair of farming families as they struggled to make ends meet while growing rice by hand on a single plot of land in Chiang Rai.

That same spot in Thailand's far North is revisited in The Songs of Rice, but Uruphong casts his gaze further afield, filming up and and down the countryside. Places visited include Chon Buri on the Eastern Seaboard, for the water-buffalo races, and in Isaan, the Northeast, the bang-fai (rocket) festival in Yasothon and a visit with the travelling families and their spacecraft-like harvesting machines in Roi Et.

The rocket festival, an annual rite in which homemade rockets are launched in a prayer for fertility and abundance, has been depicted before in such movies as Kim Mordaunt's The Rocket and Panna Rittikrai's Dynamite Warrior. But there's another element of the festival that's probably not as widely depicted – along with the the usual bamboo and blue-PVC-pipe projectiles, there is also the spinning discs that spiral into the sky. These fertilizer-fueled Frisbees are huge – one is hauled in on a 10-wheel truck and placed on the launchpad with a crane. The men use long burning sticks to set off the fuse, made of old monk's robes, and then run and jump for cover behind a mound of dirt. When the rockets work, it's pretty dramatic and beautiful, but when they don't work, it's also pretty dramatic and beautiful.

And is if exploding rockets aren't enough, there's music and dance performances to further liven things up. Cross-dressing men, likely inebriated, bang drums and play traditional instruments. A beautiful transgender person prepares a spicy somtum-and-sticky-rice feast – watch for the symbolism of the mortar and pestle. Steaming sticky sweet dessert is ritually prepared – mounds of it. A granny hula hoops, teetering on the edge of a rice paddy. A rotund dancer waggles her behind to the delight of a provincial governor and other dignataries. A beauty queen rides in a golden cart pulled by water buffalo. It's a rig that the gods could use to fly across the sky.

Communities, young and old, pull together to celebrate. In this time of troubled politics polarizing Thai society, The Songs of Rice is a healing message. It gets back to the basics of stuff that really matters – traditions, culture, spirituality, food and just plain living.

Capping off the closing day of the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival, The Songs of Rice, along with Soundtrack for a Revolution and Cambodian director Rithy Panh's The Missing Picture, left me to ponder what really matters. The right to be treated like a human being. Honoring the haunting memories of family members who died at the hands of a genocidal regime. The act of growing the food that sustains us. These are basic things I think Thailand's warring political parties have lost sight of in their fight to protect their own comparatively petty, selfish interests.

There's nothing really political about The Songs of Rice, but with politics tearing apart the country right now, it's hard for me to come to any other conclusion than I just have.

Related posts:

Muay Jin Din Kong Lok 'the worst ever' Thai film

The comedy Muay Jin Din Kong Lok (หมวยจิ้น ดิ้นก้องโลก) was in and out of cinemas so fast, I didn't get a chance to see it. Turns out hardly anybody did.

But really, the insane trailer (embedded below) was all I needed to feel undeprived.

Now, according to Coconuts Bangkok, the film – the title is translated as "Chinese-looking daughter dances 'til the world ends" – "could be one of the worst ever". However, it is being buzzed about in the Thai social media because of its remarkable failure, "with people sharing it online to celebrate its total lack of cool, popularity and (thankfully) chance of a sequel."

Released on February 27, the film by VIP Entertainment opened on 15 screens and made a whopping 29,000 baht, or just under $1,000. That's according to figures cited by the I Love Movie Thai Facebook group.

The plot, such as it is, supposedly involves a teenage boy from Bangkok who seeks a change of scenery to heal his broken heart. He moves to a seaside village where he falls for a local lass who works in a convenience store. But she's aiming to fulfill her best friend's dream by dancing on stage with a popular singer.

But I think Coconuts Bangkok probably sums it up best: "A coming-of-age comedy, the story of 'Chinese-looking Daughter Dances ‘til the World Ends' examines the difficult relationships … haha just kidding."

Pen-ek and Ploy to sing Samui Song

Ploy in Last Life in the Universe.
Pen-ek Ratanaruang has picked actress "Ploy" Chermarn Boonyasak to star in his next feature, Samui Song.

“Using Hitchcock as a starting point, it serves as an homage to the kinds of movies I enjoy from Bollywood and Shinya Tsukamoto to Luis Bunuel and Thai cinema from the 1960s,” Pen-ek tells Screen Daily.

Pen-ek previously worked with Ploy on 2003's Last Life in the Universe. She had a small role as the sister of the lead actress, Ploy's real-life sister, Sinitta Boonyasak. Ploy is currently on the Thai big screen in the GTH romance The Teacher's Diary. Her many film credits also include Yuthlert Sippapak's Buppa Rahtree ghost-comedy franchise, Chookiat Sakveerakul's Love of Siam, ML Bhandevanov "Mom Noi" Devakula's period romance Chua Fah Din Salai (Eternity) and Mom Noi's Rashomon adaptation U Mong Pa Mueang (The Gate of the Ghost).

In Samui Song, she will portray the wife of a man who joins a cult and falls under the influence of its charismatic leader, the Holy One. The cult leader will be portrayed by Vithaya Pansringarm – the killer cop from Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives. He's wrapping up work on his next movie, The Last Executioner by Tom Waller.

Samui Song is being produced by Raymond Phathanavirangoon, who previously worked with Pen-ek on Headshot.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Salaya Doc 2014: Awards for Singapore, Red Wedding and Behind the Screen

 Cambodian director Lida Chan accepts the special mention award for Red Wedding.

Myanmar's rich cinema history blended with family heartbreak in Behind the Screen, which was named the winner of the Asean Documentary Competition at the fourth Salaya International Documentary Film Festival, which held its closing ceremonies on Saturday at the Thai Film Archive.

Special mentions were To Singapore, with Love and Cambodia's Red Wedding.

Directed by Aung Nwai Htway, the tear-jerking Behind the Screen, looked at the broken marriage of the director's parents, two of Myanmar's popular film stars of the 1960s, Burmese Academy Award-winning actress Kyi Kyi Htway and actor Aung Thein. Beautiful, vibrant clips from the actor couple's old films gave voice to the sad reality that off camera, the marriage wasn't working out. As a boy growing up in a broken home, it broke the director's heart.

"It shows how fiction can find the way to the truth," said jury member Iv Charbonneu-Ching, director of the documentary Cambodia, After Farewell. Other jury members were Final Score director Soraya Nakasuwan and Indonesian producer Meiske Taurisia (Postcards from the Zoo, Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly).

The special mention winners also had a strong sense of history, underscored by archival film footage and family photos.

Tan Pin Pin's To Singapore, with Love featured interviews with political exiles from Singapore, among them communist freedom fighters who took up residence in southern Thailand and ardent activists from the 1970s and '80s, feeling homesick and out of place in London.

Red Wedding brought forth a legacy of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge era, during which some 250,000 women were forcibly married. Rice farmer Sochan was one of them, and with an international tribunal established in Phnom Penh, she decided to break her 30-year silence and come forward. Courageously, she sets about to find out which of her neighbors ordered her "marriage" to a stranger, another Khmer Rouge cadre, who then raped her. Featuring famous archival footage of Khmer Rouge Brother No. 1 Pol Pot and a horizon full of black-clad laborers building his agrarian utopia, the film is produced by Rithy Panh and dovetailed nicely with another Salaya Doc entry, Panh's own The Missing Picture.

Lida Chan, who co-directed Red Wedding with Guillaume Suon, was the only filmmaker present to receive an award. She dedicated it to the brave farmer-turned-sleuth Sochan.

Other competition entries were two Thai short docs, the sweet ode to motherhood Homemade by Sivaroj Kongsakul and Wichanon Sumumjarn's profile of a product-presenting model in Pretty Woman Walking Down the Street. Romance was in the picture with Jazz In Love by the Philippines' Baby Ruth Villarama and the painful Vietnam War memories surged forth in the poignant Mrs. Bua's Carpet by Duong Mong Thu.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Salaya Doc 2014 review: Receiving Torpedo Boats

Seamen exercise on deck in Receiving Torpedo Boats.

The crack of a croquet mallet signified the ceremonial opening of the fourth Salaya International Documentary Film Festival last weekend at the Thai Film Archive.

Dome Sukwong, director of both the festival and the archive, had tasked Royal Thai Navy officers with putting a croquet ball through three wickets before the festival could “officially” begin.

Fortunately, one of the captains made quick work of rolling a ball over the bumpy lawn and it wasn’t long before the audience was treated to an old story about the Royal Thai Navy in the rare film Receiving Torpedo Boats (การรับเรือตอร์ปิโด).

Shot in 1937, the documentary recounts the Navy’s historic first overseas mission, to Italy to take delivery of two tiny warships built there.

The film was made by Luang Kolakarnchenchit, a.k.a. Pao Wasuwat. One of Thailand’s best-regarded pioneer moviemakers, he started his career shooting newsreels for the Royal State Railway’s Topical Film Service. He was the cinematographer on the first Thai feature film, Double Luck, in 1927, and also shot the first Thai sound film, Going Astray, in 1932. When the Wasuwat Brothers established the Sri Krung Studio – a replica of which serves as the archive’s bright yellow Thai Film Museum – Pao was the go-to cinematographer. He made many sound films before his death in 1948 at age 48.

As far as Dome knows, Receiving Torpedo Boats is the only surviving complete film by the talented cinematographer.

Inducted last year into the Culture Ministry’s Registry of Films as National Heritage, Receiving Torpedo Boats might have been lost if not for the efforts of Captain Suwit Chanpensri of the Navy’s documentary team. Introducing the movie, Suwit said the two reels were found tucked away in a plastic garbage bag.

Sensing he had something important, he drove it himself to the archive, worrying along way about the film’s telltale odor of decay. The reels were indeed in pretty bad shape, but happily, at some point, some sailor had made a videotape copy, which was used to make the digital file projected at the festival.

Receiving Torpedo Boats follows the four-month, 24,000-kilometre voyage of the training sloop HMTS Chao Phraya as it carried Navy officers, seamen and cadets from Bangkok to Trieste in northern Italy, where a shipyard had built a pair of torpedo boats for Thailand.

It shows the ship making stops along the way, including Mumbai, Colombo, Aden, Egypt’s Port Said and Athens. There are strange rituals aboard, including exercise sessions that require the seamen to perform headstands and walk across the deck on their hands.

On the notoriously rough Indian Ocean crossing, Suwit noted, everyone aboard got seasick, except for the cameraman – Pao, much admired by the sailors, was probably immune from nausea thanks to his strict regimen of alcohol consumption, he said.

At the invitation of Thailand’s Italian allies, the Navy men undertook an extensive tour of the country, with stops that included Venice, Pisa and Rome.

Rough seas were again encountered on the return voyage. Drama ensued when an Italian engineer wanted to cut an anchor loose on one of the torpedo boats, fearing the weight would drag the vessel down. But the Thai sailors wouldn’t let him – they would rather drown in the sea than face harsh discipline if they returned to Bangkok without the anchor.

Taking a detour from the choppy waters, the two smaller torpedo boats were able to break away from the Chao Phraya. With narrow beams, the boats were able to navigate the 21-metre-wide Corinth Canal in Greece, reuniting with the training sloop in Athens.

Once back in Bangkok, the two boats were ritually blessed and named the HMTS Trat and Phuket. Both served the Royal Thai Navy until they were decommissioned in the 1970s. In all, nine of the small warships were built in Italy for Thailand. French gunboats sank two sister vessels, the Chon Buri and Songkhla, in 1941’s Battle of Koh Chang. One survives – the Chumphon, now berthed for public visits in its namesake town.

The film was shown without English subtitles, but another member of the Navy's team, Captain Araya Amrapala, grabbed a microphone and performed a running English translation. And added on to the film was around two minutes of new footage, featuring interviews with some of the surviving sailors from the voyage.

Capping off the screening was the presentation of a historic photo from the Navy archives to the Film Archive. It shows the two torpedo boats docked side by side with all the sailors on deck in their dress whites, while at a higher vantage point in dark clothing is a solitary figure, cameraman Pao, dutifully recording the proceedings.

“It’s Thai naval history and Thai film history in one photo,” Captain Suwit said.

Receiving Torpedo Boats screens at 3.30pm on Sunday, March 30 as part of Doc Day at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. For more details, see www.Facebook/SalayaDoc.

The Royal Thai Navy presents a historic photo to Thai Film Archive director Dome Sukwong, second from left. In the photo are the torpedo boats Trat and Phuket and pioneering Thai cinematographer Luang Kolakarnchenchit, a.k.a. Pao Wasuwat. The officers are, from left, Captain Suwit Chanpensri, Captain Chatetha Jaipiem, Captain Benjamaporn Wongnakornsawang and Captain Araya Amrapala, who served as translator.

(Cross-published in The Nation)