Friday, May 5, 2006

Thai films at Cannes

There's a Thai short film selected for this year's Cannes Film Festival this year, a short by Anocha Suwichakornpong called Graceland. The Bankgok Post's Kong Rithdee has more about the film in a story in today's Real Time section.

A master's thesis work for Columbia University, the 17-minute short is one of 17 titles that's been chosen for Cinefondation, a special programme that showcases works by promising film students.

The description from Kong's story makes it sound like 3,000 Miles to Graceland meets Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Blissfully Yours or Tropical Malady: "a Thai Elvis impersonator (played by TV star Sarawut Martthong, at a cut rate that is), lovingly brycleemed and sparklingly sequinned ... journeys with an older woman into the forest in the dead of the night in a futile attempt to heal each other's wounds."

The film was shot on 35mm last year in Bangkok and Khao Yai National Park. All went well until Anocha sat down to look at the footage after the shooting wrapped.

"What I saw was so shocking that I couldn't even cry," she told Real Time. Nearly every frame of the film was smeared with a mysterious blue tint, an effect caused by a camera malfunction.

Not happy with the unintended blue effect, the color was fixed at a Bangkok film lab, costing 2 million baht (about US$50,000) - the biggest ever expenditure for a Thai short film.

Meanwhile, even though there are no Thai features at this year's festival, which in past years has hosted Tears of the Black Tiger, Blissfully Yours and the 2003 Jury Prize winner Tropical Malady, Thailand will still have a big presence on the Croissette.

As for film, the most important thing going on is that Utopia, the latest project by Apichatpong Weerasethakul is included in the Atelier program, which gives exposure to projects by young directors. It's another effort by Apichatpong to drum up support for his film. It was also warmly received at the Hong Kong Filmart.

Then there are the parties, which the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee details in another story in today's Real Time section.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand, that free-spending, taxpayer-funded agency that brings us the glitzy Bangkok International Film Festival, is sparing no expense to put on a lavish party at Cannes finest hotel, the Carlton. Thai Night Party is May 19. It's 100,000 euro just for the hotel alone, not including the expense of organizing the bash, flying in all the guests and putting on a banquet of "exquisite Royal Thai cuisine". Partygoers can expect an announcement concerning the next edition of the Bangkok International Film Festival, as well as general efforts to promote the beauty of Thailand as a vacation destination and filming location.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture, which has access to less money, is sponsoring a six-day trip for cinema professionals. The agenda includes various meetings with film-related institutions from European countries, with the aim of sharing knowledge on cultural management, especially those regarding movies.

And then there are the other Asian films. It's worth noting here, I guess, that the closing film (in the En Certain Regard program) is Re-cycle (actually a Thai co-production) by the Pang Brothers - Hong Kong filmmakers who got their start making movies in Thailand. Gwai Wik (Re-Cycle) is actually a Hong Kong-Thailand co-production, with the involvement of Thailand's Matching Motion Pictures and several Thai crewmembers.

And there's the Cannes Classic section, which features the cool, old school Shaw Bros romp, 14 Amazons, as well as Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicca: Valley of the Wind.

And then I am looking at the jury, headed by Wong Kar Wai, with Monica Bellucci, Helena Bonham Carter, Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel, Zhang Ziyi, Samuel L. Jackson, French director Patrice Leconte, Tim Roth and Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, and I'm thinking what a great movie all these folks might make together.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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