Thursday, October 13, 2005

World Film Festival of Bangkok preview

Well, it's had some rough times getting organized, but as I've just completed an exhaustive look at the World Film Festival of Bangkok's lineup, I think it's actually pretty good.

For Thai film, the organizers are actually touting this as a big year for the local films, since in years past there have actually not been very many Thai films, though Last Life in the Universe was in the competition two years ago and they have worked with the Thai Film Foundation to present archived films.

But this year, they are presenting four Thai films:
  • Cherm (Midnight My Love) - Directed by Kongdej Jaturanrasami and starring Petchtai Wongkamlao in a rare dramatic role as a loner taxi driver who falls into a relationship with a massage parlour girl.
  • The Remaker - A karmic thriller directed by Mona Nahm and produced by Oxide Pang.
  • Suea Ronghai (Crying Tigers) - Santi Taepanich's documentary about Northeastern Thais, who are working in Bangkok, mostly in the music and entertainment industry.
  • Dek Toh (Innocence) - Miss Thailand Universe (1994) Areeya Sirisoda debuts her first film, a documentary about some Chiang Mai hilltribe children who dream about getting to see the ocean.
The biggest Thai fare on the festival program, though, are the Tsunami Short Films, most of which are made by Thai directors, including Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Commissioned by the Culture Ministry, filmmakers were given a budget of 200,000 baht (about US$5,000) and five days to make the films on location somewhere in the area where the tsunami hit Thailand on December 26, 2004.

Along with Apichatpong, there's Crying Tigers' Santi, with Tits and Bum, a parody of sand- and sun-swept karaoke videos and maverick director Thunska
Thunska Pansittivorakul’s After Shock, which is said to present some 'almost erotic scenes'.

Apichatpong's is Ghost of Asia, in which he invited three local children to direct an actor (Sakda Kaewbuadee, the country boy and “tiger” from Tropical Malady). His function was to be a ghost who wanders the rocky coastline.

Clay animation is used in Somkid Thamniamdi's Forget It, about a hard-working man who’s obsessed with earning enough money to take his wife on a honeymoon. But all the money in the world can’t keep the unexpected from happening.

Other films are by Malaysia's Margaret Bong Chew Jen, Suchada Sirithanawuddhi, Pimpaka Towira, Nation Channel documentarian Pipope Panitchpakdi, Sweden’s Folke Ryden, Pramote Sangsorn, Somkid Thamniamdi, Sompot Chidgasornpongs and Sonthaya Sapyen.

There are also many other Thai short films, including two Thai Short Film programs and a Thai Indie Short Film package programmed by the Thai Film Foundation.

Whew! Aside from all that, Roman Polanski is coming to town to present Oliver Twist. Repulsion, Cul de Sac, Knife in the Water and The Pianist also will be screened.

Jean Pierre Jeunet has four of his films showing, mainly with only Thai subtitles, though.

Ulrike Ottinger will be in town for a Q&A session and is having six of her films screened.

Werner Herzog probably won't be at the festival, though he's said to be in north Thailand making a film, but a short documentary, Werner at Work, will be presented by Beat Presser.

There's a bunch of Czech New Wave films (Larks on a String, Black Peter, The Shop on Main Street, etc) being shown as well as a package of classic Czech animation, including The Hand by Jiri Trnka.

Vimukthi Jayasundara from Sri Lanka has his Forsaken Land in the competition, a film that presents such a bleak picture of what's happening in Sri Lanka, he's had to flee the country for fear of persecution. I'm pretty amazed he's coming as close as Thailand to talk about his film in a Q&A session.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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