Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tons of extra features but no subtitles

You think of Thailand and DVDs, legal DVDs aren't usually the first ones to come to mind. But it's because of piracy that distributors of licensed DVDs are getting creative with their packaging.

The Nation yesterday had a story about the cool designs for DVD packages for such films as Khan Kluay and Dear Dakanda. Most of them have been by a company called Dodisc.

For Fan Chan, they packaged the special edition DVD in a scaled-down replica of a school book bag. They did elaborate layouts for Tom Yum Goong and Invisible Waves. Check out Twitch for an example of The Tin Mine.

They are beautiful, with tons of extra features, gatefold sleeves and lots of photos. There's a catch though: No English subtitles. Not on any of them.

Since 2004, there has been a steady decline in the Thai releases of Thai films with English subtitles. And there have been plenty of great and good films that deserve a wider audience, but will likely never see the light of day.

The reason, I've been told, partly has to do with the licensing of the subtitles. If they are left off the Thai release, the companies don't have to pay royalties. And, there's the exclusivity that they can use to sell foreign distributors on if they pick up the films for overseas release. But it's a big if.

It was good to see The Nation's Parinyaporn Pajee address the issue by talking to Thai film critic Je-ngor Sor Bai of Pulp magazine. She feels that Thai DVDs should come with English subtitles.

"We all know it's just a trick they use to keep prices as low as possible," Je-ngor was quoted as saying. I think we are losing an amazing chance to introduce Thai films to a much wider audience."

The critic points out that only a few Thai movies are released in foreign cinemas. Even those that travel on the festival circuit rarely receive the kind of exposure they deserve. Adding English subtitles would benefit the entire Thai film industry.

It makes me think about the old days, back about, oh, 2003, when just about every Thai film released had subtitles. It meant there was great exposure: Tears of the Black Tiger, Monrak Transistor, Last Life in the Universe, Mekhong Full Moon Party and more.

But now, no more. No Citizen Dog (not yet anyway). No Ai-Fak. No Yam Yasothon. No Midnight My Love. No Sai Lor Fah. No Tin Mine. These are all wonderful, loopy films that I'd love to watch again, but anyone who doesn't speak Thai is cut out of the loop by the language barrier. So on the store shelves the DVDs will sit and unwatched the films will be.

A great many films have been released overseas that are worthy. Buppha Rahtree is one worth ordering from Hong Kong. Fan Chan is another.

Born to Fight and The Bodyguard have become available, but mainly because they appeal to the action genre. Films like Ai-Fak, Yam Yasothon or Midnight My Love (even with the presence of "Dirty Balls George") are harder sells. It's really too bad they don't have English subs. They deserve a wider audience.

Anymore, you have to wait for the overseas release, like in the case of Invisible Waves, which is due out in Hong Kong.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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