ThaiCinema.org has posted the results of its survey of Thai film critics, in an effort to name the most important Thai film director.
I participated in the poll, though I was thrown off a bit by the "most important" tag, so I picked Rattana Pestonji, whom I regard as the father of contemporary Thai film.
But there were other criteria, one of which was that the directors should be actively working, which means they must be alive. Doh! But to be fair, the contributions of Rattana, as well as many other living and retired directors, are recognized in the survey. A weighting system employed by ThaiCinema.org was employed to rank the directors, and those who have been more active recently were weighted higher.
Also, ThaiCinema was seeking comments about why the critics thought the directors were so important, another element I neglected to participate in. No biggie. Dozens of critics were polled, and a lot of thoughtful comments were offered. Anyway, here's the top four (with some selected comments from the website):
Apichatpong Weerasethakul - "Not only the most important Thai director or one of the most important in Southeast Asia, but in the world at large as well. Challenging (and triumphing over!) common notions of narrative cinema, while exploring simple topics with such raw, primal emotional force and honesty. Truly exciting to watch, as he continues to experiment with the medium, and to grow as an artist."
Pen-ek Ratanaruang - "A remarkable story-teller whose films are interesting and engaging. Last Life in the Universe marked an experimental and pensive shift in directorial mood after 6ixtynin9 and Monrak Transistor, both of which could be categorised more as conventional crowd-pleasers (but compelling ones nevertheless). Most of his films are underscored by black humour and are comparable to the plots of the Coen Brothers, which I believe is one reason why they continue to attract interest. It remains to be seen if Invisible Waves will sustain his 'arthouse' interests as demonstrated in Last Life."
Wisit Sasanatieng - "Wisit's sense of visual style is developing a noticeable pattern. From the international success of Tears of the Black Tiger to Citizen Dog, it's one that relies more on technology and camera tricks than traditional framing and compositional strategies. However, his flair for imagery outshines his narrative and directorial control. Citizen Dog is a fine piece of cinema, but had his command of visuals not been as strong, I think the film would have failed because it was the narrative aspect of his directing that let him down. Lesser known is his screenwriting work for Dang Bireley and Nang Nak, two films correspondingly unheard of outside Asia"
Nonzee Nimibutr - "Not only directing film but also producing so many & good quality Thai film and can send to international market. He is a good spokeperson of Thai film, especially in Japan. He was invited to symposium about Thai movies twice to explain about Thai film industry."
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)