The godfather of the Thai New Wave, Nonzee Nimibutr, joins fellow Thai filmmakers Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Wisit Sasanatieng and Thunska Pansittivorakul as a Silpathorn Award honoree.
Nonzee, born in 1962 in Nonthaburi Province, attended Silpakorn University. His early films were Daeng Bireley's and the Young Gangsters in 1997 and Nang Nak in 1999 (both penned by Wisit). Along with Wisit and Pen-ek, Nonzee is generally credited with starting the Thai New Wave movement of the late 1990s that got Thai audiences back into cinemas to watch Thai films and brought increasing numbers of Thai films to the world cinema scene. He's also been an influential producer, getting behind such movies as the Pang Brothers' original Bangkok Dangerous in 1999 and 2004's The Overture, which was submitted as Thailand's Oscar pick in 2005. For the past three years, he's been working on his latest film, the historical fantasy Queens of Langkasuka. It is due to be screened out of competition at the upcoming Venice Film Festival and will likely be screened at the Bangkok International Film Festival as well.
The Silpathorn Award is given by the Ministry of Culture's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture to living contemporary artists between the ages of 30 and 50, who are considered to be in their mid-career, and have made notable contributions to the Thai arts scene and been an influence on other artists. Initiated in 2004, the award is named after Silpa Bhirasri, the influential Italian sculptor who is considered the father of Thai modern art. In addition to film, artists are honored in the fields of visual arts, literature, music and performing arts. A design honor was added this year. Some years, more than one award is given in certain fields.
This year's other honorees are:
- Writer Paiwarin Khao-Ngam, a winner of the 1995 S.E.A. Write Award.
- Writer Khajornrit Raksa, a S.E.A. Write finalist and former editor of Writer magazine.
- Artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, known internationally for her controversial installation works. She is a teacher at Chiang Mai University.
- Playwright, director and actress Sineenadh Keitprapa, artistic director of the Crescent Moon Theatre, which is known in the Bangkok theatre circle for its avant-garde work. Her latest work is an adaptation of Waiting for Godot.
- Composer Narongrit Dhamabutra, a doctoral graduate from Michigan State University. His contemporary classical works have been performed by orchestras all over the world. He teaches at Chulalongkorn University.
- Jewellery designer Sompis Phosakul, a teacher at the King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang.
Also, a new class of Silpathorn honorees were named, the Distinguished (Kitikhun) Silpathorn Award, going to senior artists who are considered too old to receive the Silpathorn Award, but too controversial or unconventional to likely ever be considered for the staid, traditional Thailand National Artist title bestowed by the Ministry of Culture.
The Distinguished Silpathorn winners are:
- Conductor, composer and author Somtow Sucharitkul, founder of the Bangkok Opera.
- Artist and designer Saiyart Semangern, who crafts contemporary-design furniture from old, oddly shaped tree branches and other pieces of wood.
- Artist and designer Suwan Kongkhuntien, who makes furniture from rattan.
Honorees get a jeweled brooch and a cash prize. This year, 1 million baht is being spread among the 10 of them, OCAC director Apinan Poshyananda told Daily Xpress.
According to the Daily Xpress, actress Sinjai Plenpanich was considered for this year's film honor, which would have been the first time the award was given to an actor rather than a director.