Bangkok … Bananas!!, a multimedia contemporary arts festival, starts on Thursday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre and other venues, mainly around Siam Square, including the Skywalk between Siam Square and CentralWorld, at Siam Paragon and also at the Emporium.
The outdoor cinema portion of the program -- called "Cine Bananas!!" and put together by the Thai Film Foundation -- starts on Friday, May 1, with screenings taking place in the open-air plaza between Siam Center and Siam Discovery Center. The screenings start at 7pm. Here's the schedule:
- May 1 -- Operation Revenge (Torachon Khon Suey), featuring James Bond-style action with Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat. There's no subtitles but it's still worth checking out for the 35mm print.
- May 2 -- Chang: A Drama in the Wilderness, the 1927 silent docu-drama by King Kong directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack will feature live musical accompaniment, though not by the Alloy Orchestra. But no matter who's playing, it should be a memorable experience.
- May 3 -- Mae Nak Phra Khanong, the famous, often-told story of the ghost wife. This is the 1958 film starring Preeya Rungruang and it will feature the traditional "nang khai ya" live dubbing, usually improvised on the spot and taking the film to an entirely different level.
- May 4 -- 3 Screens Battles, a multi-screen compilation of archival footage of old Bangkok on 16mm and 35mm.
- May 5 -- Soon Ruam Heng Duagjai (Center of the Heart), a feature-length documentary made by MC Chatrichalerm Yukol for the Tourism Authority of Thailand for His Majesty the King's 60th birthday.
- May 6 -- Khon Jorn, directed by Attaporn Thihirun. This 1999 drama was selected in August 2007 for the list of 75 Hidden Gems by Sight and Sound magazine. (There's a second Thai film on the list, 1975's Grounded God (เทวดาเดินดิน) by Prince Chatrichalerm.) Depicting family life, police indifference and contemporary Thai society, Khun Jorn premiered at the 1999 Bangkok Film Festival. It's a rarely shown, provocative film and will have English subtitles.
- May 7 -- Dedicated to Payut Ngaokrachang, father of Thai animation. The artist and animator, who turned 80 on April 1 (no fooling!) is best known for his 1979 animated feature The Adventure of Sudsakorn. But he created many other works, and this screening gathers together his first cartoon, Het Mahasajan, commercials and shorts by other Thai animators.
- May 8 -- The Light of Asia (Prem Sanyas), a 1925 Indian silent about the enlightment of the Lord Buddha. Live musical accompaniment will be provided by Baby Arabia, a Muslim rock band.
- May 9 -- Home Movie Meets Home Video, a compilation of home movies.
- May 10 -- Spooky Night, devoted to ghost and horror films. Three films will be shown, starting with the first Baan Phee Pop film, about a malevolent spirit that possesses women and turns them into clawed demons with a hunger for raw liver, prompting villagers to run around and scream. It's an enduring comedy-horror series, the latest installment of which came out last year. And Pop's due to battle another famous regional ghost later this summer in Krasue vs. Pop. Other films will be Pi Thong Leung, a documentary about mysterious hilltribe people in the North and Vampire, a short that Apichatpong Weerasethakul made last year for a compilation for the Louis Vuitton Space.
There's also an exhibition of old-time cameras and movie ephemera.
Bangkok Bananas!! is the Thai contemporary art community's tougue-in-cheek answer to the Venice Biennale, according to a story in The Nation's Ace magazine on Sunday (PDF). Around 15 million baht is being spent by the Ministry of Culture to bring art to the masses. Here's more from Apinan Poshyanond, the ministry's deputy permanent secretary (formerly head of the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture):
Hosting a proper biennial requires a lot more money and professional commitment, so in the meantime Bangkok Bananas is like a rehearsal! We’re going bananas anyway. Bangkok is crazy with conflicts between people in different-coloured shirts, but beneath the craziness, our art and culture is very solid.”
In addition to the film screenings, there will be art exhibitions and live performances of music, theater and dance. More than 100 artists are taking part. Patravadi Theatre will stage contemporary dance, physical theater, puppet shows and workshops in Parc Paragon for the festival.
Among the performers will be Silpathorn honoree Pichet Klunchuen -- Tony Jaa's dance teacher -- with his dance production Kap Hay Kluay, inspired by the poetry traditionally sung for Royal processions. Another Silapathorn winner, Manop Meejamras, will revive The Eclipse.
Bands taking the stage at CentralWorld will include Fongnam, Khun In, Apartment Khunpa, Teddy Ska, Paradox and Oh of Doobadoo.
There will also be mimes, human robots, clowns, jugglers, magicians, breakdancers and skateboarders. So watch out for those.
The complete schedule is at the Bangkok Bananas!! blog.
(Thanks Li! Cross-published at Bangkok Cinema Scene)