Tuesday, January 11, 2005

2005 Bangkok International Film Festival preview

Glitzy and overdone as it is, this year's Bangkok International Film Festival from January 13 to 24 still has some good stuff in store. What's most exciting is a great line-up of Thai films.

In addition to bunch of Thai films from last year, including Ai Fak and Citizen Dog, there's a retrospective category for the late Vichit Kounavudhi, who will have four of his films shown. There's also a 1976 film by Piak Poster.

Shutter is in the main competition, which is somewhat embarrassing. Yes, Shutter was the top Thai film at the box office last year, but I think a stronger film could have been chosen to go up against these heavy hitters - like maybe Tropical Malady?

Ai Fak is in the Asean competition, along with a good one I missed called Pisaj, or Evil. More embarrassment comes in the form of the exploitive sports comedy Sagai United and the melodramatic tear-jerker The Letter are also in the Asean slot from Thailand. Why isn't Citizen Dog being put up for competition?

International Competition:
  • Being Julia, directed by István Szabó, Canada/USA/Hungary/UK
  • Clean, directed by Olivier Assayas, France/UK
  • Don’t Move (Non ti muovere), directed by Sergio Castellitto, Italy
  • Les Choristes, directed by Christophe Barratier, France/Switzerland
  • Innocent Voices (Voces innocents), directed by Luis Mandoki, Mexico
  • The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de motocicleta), directed by Walter Salles, Argentina/UK/USA/Germany/Peru
  • Old Boy, directed by Park Chan-Wook, South Korea
  • Red Dust, directed by Tom Hooper, South Africa/UK (Opening Night film)
  • The Sea Inside (Mar adentro), directed by Alejandro Amenábar, Spain
  • Shutter, directed by Pakpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun, Thailand
  • The Syrian Bride, directed by Eran Riklis, France/Germany/Israel
  • Vera Drake, directed by Mike Leigh, UK
  • Zelary, directed by Ondrej Trojan, Czech Republic
ASEAN competition
  • The Beautiful Washing Machine, directed by James Lee, Malaysia
  • Buffalo Boy (Muoa Len Trau), directed by Minh Nguyen-Vo, Vietnam
  • Crying Ladies, directed by Mark Meily, The Philippines
  • Homecoming, directed by Gil Portes, The Philippines
  • The Judgement (Ai-Fak), directed by Patham Thonsang, Thailand
  • Keka, directed by Quark Henares, The Philippines
  • The Letter, directed by Phaoon Chandrasiri, Thailand
  • Perth, directed by Djinn, Singapore
  • Pisaj (Evil), directed by Chookiat Sakvirakul, Thailand
  • Princess of Mount Ledang (Puteri Gunung Ledang), directed by Saw Teong Hin, Malaysia
  • Rainmaker, directed by Ravi Bharwani, Indonesia
  • Sagai United, directed by Somching Srisuphab, Thailand
  • Spirits, directed by Victor Vu, Vietnam
  • True Love, directed by Kyi Soe Tun, Myanmar
  • Women of Breakwater, directed by Mario O'Hara, The Philippines
Out of that, I'm interested in seeing the Vietnamese film, Buffalo Boy. I am curious to see what Burma, otherwise known as Myanmar, has to offer in the way of cinema. I also have heard good things about the Philippine movies, Keka, The Crying Ladies and Women of the Breakwater. And for sheer epic scale, Princess of Mount Ledang, will be hard to beat. Malaysia's answer to Suriyothai, it's the most expensive film mounted by that country. I also hope to catch up with Pisaj, or Evil, which I 've heard good things about.

And more Thai films in the schedule. Many of these I have not seen and know nothing about_:
  • ART OF THE DEVIL - Supernatural thriller directed by Thanit Jitnukul.
  • BE VERY QUIET - Directed by Mona Nahm, it's the story of a young man who witnessed the rape and murder of his prostitute mom when he was a child.
  • BICYCLES & RADIOS - Directed by O Nathapon, it's about two wounded souls meet on a radio talk show.
  • BIRTH OF THE SEANEMA - Directed by SASITHORN ARIYAVICHA, I have no idea what this is about.
  • BORN TO FIGHT - Directed by Panna Rittikrai, the action choroegrapher for Ong Bak, it's about a team of national athletes (portrayed by real athletes) who use their various skills to save a small village from bad guys. I want to see this!
  • CITIZEN DOG - Wisit Sasanatieng's urban love story is told with the colorful, comic style he introduced in Tears of the Black Tiger.
  • DOWN THE RIVER - Directed ANUCHA BOONYAWATANA, a young gay guy searches for the truth of his love life.
  • ENLIGHTENMENT - Directed by TANON SATTARUJAWONG, a monk attempts to retrieve his meagre possessions when his bag is stolen.
  • IS AM ARE - Directed by CHANATIP KUNASAYEAMPORN, two strangers cross paths while discovering the other dimension of life through the mysterious palm reader.
  • MAID - By the director of the slapstick gay volleyball movie Iron Ladies, Maid or Jeaw is a comedy about secret-agent maids.
  • MY FIRST BOYFRIEND - Directed by ISSARA MANEEWAT, it's about a gay guy with aspirations of making a movie and being in love.
  • MY SPACE - By WITIT KUMSAKAEW and RITHICHAI SIRIPRASITPONG, students at Thammasat University, it's about a guy and a girl living in the same apartment building who break out of their isolated routines and actually talk to one another.
  • OUR FILM - Directed by ATTHASIT SOMCHOB, a wife brings her husband for rest in Pattaya. Well, I know that doesn't make any sense, but that's what the synpopsis says.
  • PATTAYA MANIAC - The latest crime comedy from Killer Tattoo director Yuthlert Sippapak.
  • PIK-BAAN-HAO - Directed by SUPAWUT BOONMAHATHANAKORN, it's about Odd, who wishes there would be something better for his family and beloved, Yao.
  • ROOM NUMBER 3 - A mother comes to visit her daughter in Bangkok and finds that her daughter has a new roommate.
  • SARS WAR - Fluent Thai-speaking Australian TV presenter Anthony Biggs is a zombie!
  • SOOTH - Directed by PATANA CHIRAWONG. I have no idea.
  • THE ATTEMPTS - Directed by DEJA PIYARHTKUL, a mother with her newborn son desperately waits for her husband.
  • TOM-YUM-GOONG: MUAY THAI FIGHTER - I'll believe it when I see it, mostly likely not at the festival. It will be in the multiplexes soon.
  • WAI ONLAWON - From 1976, as far as I can tell, this is the debut film by Piak Poster, who made a string of (mostly youth-based?) movies throughout the 1980s. Certainly, this was the first film that really got Thai audiences and the movie industry interested in making movies about teens.
And the retrospective to Vichit Kounavudhi (PDF).
  • FIRST WIFE - From 1978. Stars Jatupol Phuapirom, Wongdeaun Indharavud and Wiyada Aumarin. Husband-and-wife, both doctors,
    Dr Vikanda has to face her husband’s unfaithfulness.
  • HER NAME IS BOONROD - From 1985. Set during the Vietnam War era, it depicts the burgeoning sex trade that developed in Thailand to service the US military. Boonrod is labeled as one of them just because of her rough appearance. However, she proves herself to be a virtuous woman.
  • SON OF THE NORTH-EAST - From 1982. Stars Tongparn Phontong, Chanpen Siritep, Krailad Kriang-krai and Pailin Somnapa. This iconic film is a semi-documentary film derived from the work of award-winning author Kampoon Boontawee, who wrote from first-hand experience of life in rural Isaan - northeast Thailand.
  • MOUNTAIN PEOPLE - From 1980. Stars Montree Jenaksorn, Walaikorn Paovarat, Supavadee Thiensuwan and Petcharat Indharakamhaeng. In another semi-documentary, Vichet focuses on hilltribe life along the Burmese border. Ayo, a young man of the Egor tribe, and his wife as they are driven away after she gives birth to twins who, according to Egor folklore, will bring bad luck to the village. Adventures lead to Ayo's involvement with a Chinese opium trafficking gang.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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