Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apichatpong and the ghosts of Kamchanod

Happy birthday to Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The filmmaker turns 39 today.

Seems as fitting a day as any to dust off another excerpt from the recent book about Apichatpong, and this ties in with something else going on, the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, which starts tomorrow and is showing the 2007 thriller, The Screen at Kamchanod as well as last year's hit horror omnibus 4Bia.

The Screen of Kamchanod is said to be based on a true incident that took place in a forest preserve in Udon Thani, where an outdoor cinema company was hired to show a movie to an audience of ghosts.

Apichatpong refers to the incident in the book, and writer Tim Pfaff highlighted the passage in his recent review for the Bay Area Reporter. Here is an excerpt:

Smack in the middle of the book, where it belongs, are his reflections ("Ghosts in the Darkness") on the primal act of filmmaking and film-watching, which for him are inseparable acts.

Drawing a haunting analogy to primal man's habit of painting images on cave walls, he tells a story "said to be true" about an Isaan man with a traveling cinema show, making "open-air presentations in villages and temples." As he showed his film, an audience filed in to watch them and they "all got up and wandered away. At dawn the next day, the film-show owner realized he was in the middle of a cemetery, and that he had been paid to show a film for ghosts.

"Even ghosts wanted to watch films," Apichatpong writes, drawing a parallel to ordinary people watching, ghost-like, moving images on a screen. "The cinema itself is like a coffin with bodies, sitting still, as if under a spell. The moving images on the screen are camera records of events that have already taken place; they are remains of the past, strung together and called a film. In this hall of darkness, ghosts are watching ghosts."

I still wonder what film it was that was shown to those ghosts in Kamchanod.


  1. wat cham chanot is about 10 km from my second thai home outside of ban dung i must admit until recently the story was new to me there's a link to my blog post with a little more info on ban dung and kham cha not from my name above
    regards john

  2. Thai Films,
    you sound pretty rude telling people to look somewhere else instead of maybe referring a web site to help your fans..I am not a fan. It just sounded a tad self centered. I just watched, SCREEN AT KHAMCHANOD, and I have to say that the people were beautiful. I kind of enjoyed the film because it actually had a story but it loses the story and jumps to things you really can't piece together so it makes it feel as if you are watching the, TWILIGHT ZONE SHOW....They also did not speak very much in the film..more expressions than words...The actress was good, too bad the writing isn't as good as she is with her acting..I have only watched or tried to watch a thai, indonsia, films but they are hard to follow..This one kept my attention to the end because I was hoping it would explain more but it didn't..The story was pretty clear but the scenes they jump to make no sense in the film at the moment...Unless there is some meaning behind making films to confuse you this film is whacked and it could of been a lot better with better writers and better directors..This is my opinion as a NYC FILM CRITIC...

    1. My message for folks to "go elsewhere" is meant for those who ask "where can I download this?" I don't want to encourage illegal downloading and so won't be linking to such sites.

      Thanks for your comments.


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