In the year's first issue of Real Time in the Bangkok Post today, Kong Rithdee offered up his own views of the tumultuous past year for Thai cinema and a fearful look at the coming year. Thai cinema is facing the dual threats of a new film act that looks set to further hinder independent filmmakers and a "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" government that will likely embrace the media-muzzling, lawsuit-happy ways of its predecessor before the coup.
There's hope though, says Kong:
It will be interesting to see how daredevil indie filmmakers will react to the control-freak new Film Act - and the rise of the Samak Sundaravej government. It's even possible that at this very moment, someone somewhere is scheming to make a movie berating the new bill. If culture depends on the binary opposites of action and reaction to survive, the tight control and Right-leaning administration might actually foster an environment of new creativity.
Another encouraging development is the new Bangkok Museum of Modern Art near Siam Square. It is expected to open around April and have a space for film screenings. Long in the works, this project was initially doomed during Samak Sundaravej's tenure as governor of Bangkok. He wanted to turn it into a parking lot.
Speaking film screenings, a continuing theme that Kong has hammered on more vigorously this year is the business of the multiplex cinema chains, and their tendency to dictate what viewers "must see", screening the latest Hollywood fluff on every screen and promoting the films on huge displays in the lobbies and billboards around the city. Meanwhile, smaller films and most Thai films barely receive any promotion. Kong suggests a quota system similar to Korea, but I don't like the spirit of a move like that and feel it won't really benefit filmgoers.
Anyway, Kong also offers a look at some of the Thai films to be released in 2008, including many that I missed in my roundup for 2008.
An obvious one is of course, Red Eagle. This is a reboot of a 1950s and '60s Thai film series about a masked crime fighter. Wisit Sasanatieng is directing, with Ananda Everingham starring, which I knew about. Production starts in March. What I was missing was a possible release date. Kong says it might be released as soon as August.
Other big names to watch for:
- Songyos Sugmakanan (Dorm) is making a romantic drama transliterated as Pid Term Yai, Hua Jai Wawoon (literally Anxious Heart of Summer Break).
- Kongdej Jaturanrasamee (Sayew, Midnight My Love) offers something called Kod "about a three-armed man and a big-bosomed girl".
- Jira Maligool - After the disastrous performance of his well-meaning drama The Tin Mine, the producer-director returns with Murder in the Kitchen, based on a short story by MR Kukrit Pramoj.
- Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom (Shutter, Alone), Yongyuth Thongkongtoon (Iron Ladies, Metrosexual) and Paween Purijitpanya (Body) are making a four-part horror anthology called 4 Prang.
- Pongpat Wachirabunjong - The perennial bad-guy character actor hopes to follow up on the success of his directorial debut Me ... Myself with Happy Birthday, about a girl in a coma.
- Ekachai Uekrongtham - The Beautiful Boxer and Pleasure Factory director directs Ananda Everingham in The Coffin.
- Yuthlert Sippapak - The Buppha Rahtree director is doing Rak Sam Sao, a comedy about a triangular romance between college friends.
There are some independent releases mentioned: Agrarian Utopia, a rice-farming documentary by Urupong Raksasat; Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town, a romantic drama set in post-tsunami Phuket, and Like Real Love, a new short film by Graceland's Anocha Suwichakornpong (due to premiere at Rotterdam). Also, Pimpaka Towira's political documentary, The Truth be Told, is being touted for a wider release in 2008. It played last year at the inaugural Digital Forum.
Also one to look out for will be The Happiness of Kati, directed by Genwai Thongdeenok, based on the 2006 S.E.A. Write Award-winning novel by Ngarmpun Vejjajiva.