He has the unenviable task of heading an industry group that has seen its share of friction. In 2006, the FNFAT, then headed by Sahamongkol Film International honcho Somsak Techaratanaprasert, called for a boycott of the Bangkok International Film Festival, over a dispute about organization of the film market and the promotional budget.
The festival, meanwhile, is trying to regain its bearings after having its budget slashed and being hit with a bribery scandal that's linked to the festival's past organizers, the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Jaruek's role as both head of the FNFAT and the festival is one of peacemaker. And it marks the first time that a someone from within the Thai film industry is taking charge of the festival.
Here are some quotes from the article (cache):
I'm a figure of compromise, I think that's why the industry trusts me. I've always been a professional, and I want to install a professional system into the FNFAT, to make it work like a company, to transform it into an organisation that really matters to Thai cinema."
"The festival has been going for five years, the TAT has already spent 800 million baht on it, so it'd be a shame if we just discontinued it. And it's a good opportunity that the industry people will now run the festival, because it is directly related to the image of our local film industry and the confidence of the international film community."
"There are good things about the past festival, not just bad bits. We'll keep those good things, while we'll try to be more creative and to spread good words. The scandal is out of scope here. We're thinking forward now."
At the same time, the Thai film industry is facing challenges. Filmmakers are struggling, and the new Film Act, still in the process of implementation, could restrict creativity, muzzle independent voices and make things even harder for filmmakers to break into the industry.
Jaruek addressed the new Film Law, which the FNFAT helped "negotiate" with the Ministry of Culture Ministry "to include a clause that approves in principle the formation of a central, semi-governmental body to oversee filmmaking activities". Details are sketchy on how such a body would be funded, organised or what authority it would have, "not to mention how it will work to reconcile the conservatism of the Ministry with the liberal creativity of modern filmmaking". Here's more:
Right now this is the only promise of support that the new Film Law spells out, and without the FNFAT's participation, maybe it would have been left out," says Jaruek, adding that in dealing with the lawmakers, he had to concede certain stances in order to win others. "It's still a concept, but I'd say that this new organisation will work to develop the quality of Thai filmmakers, promote them in and outside the country, and give them funding. This is not only for mainstream directors, but also for independent and the so-called art films."
Jaruek also addressed the view of indie filmmakers, who see the FNFAT as only representing the big studios and mainstream filmmakers.
Commercial films are important to keeping the industry going, but I recognise the importance of art films too. Without them, cinema won't improve, and the audience won't improve.
"The problem is that filmmakers do not have funding to make art films in Thailand, and these films do not have a venue for screening. I have those issues in mind, and will consider them with the plan to set up the central film body."
The implementation of the new Film Law and the new motion-picture ratings system is still being pondered though, says Kong, so other, more ambitious schemes are a long way off. He lets Jaruek have the last word:
I'm hopeful though. The government has good intentions but it will take time for them to learn about the industry, and it'll take time for us to learn to compromise with them. But the point is we will try to work together. I'm working on that."