There's a new English-language daily newspaper in Thailand. It's called ThaiDay (no website, yet) and is inserted in the Thailand editions of the International Herald Tribune. While scanning their pages recently I came across this item:
After watching the recently released Muang Rae (The Tin Mine) twice, Tuenjai Deetes, a senator from Chiang Rai, spoke to director Jira Maligool about way to better promote [his] film. Despite critical acclaim, The Tin Mine has been a commercial failure. Tuenjai suggested the director ask Prime Minister Thaksin to create a fund to support Thai films. The senator said quality films need government support and encouraged young people to see the adaptation of novelist Ajin Panjapan's real-life story.
I have mixed feelings about this. First, I'm encouraged that a senator is speaking up about the film, and that he's actually seen the movie not just once, but twice.
Really, it's a beautiful film, but probably there's not enough slapstick (even though there's some) or horror (even though there's a little bit) or action (there's a tiny bit) for local audiences.
From its beautiful look, which was emphasised in the previews, I think local audiences got the sense that it was an art film and decided to steer clear.
You see, films in Thailand are still viewed as merely entertainment -- nothing to be taken seriously, and certainly not art to be appreciated or even discussed. Watch it, forget it, throw it away, on to the next trendy thing.
This is why classic Thai films from the 1950s are practically non existent, and films from the 1970s, even the 80s and early 90s, are in danger of disappearing forever.
Yes, by all means, create a fund to support Thai films -- and concentrate first on saving the ones we have already and bring them back into the world public's consciousness.
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)