Friday, August 28, 2009

Synopsis and photos for Sawasdee Bangkok

One of the selections for the Toronto International Film Festival that makes me think about walking off my job, turning my cat loose, packing a bag and jumping on an Air Canada flight is Sawasdee Bangkok, a four-segment short-film omnibus featuring works by four of my favorite filmmakers -- Aditya Assarat, Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Wisit Sasanatieng.

TIFF's canny programmer Raymond Phathanavirangoon cherry-picked the four shorts from the nine-segment Saneh Bangkok project commissioned by TV Thai earlier this year. Presumably all nine of those films will be shown together at some point, sometime, somewhere, where everyone will get the chance to see them as many times as they'd like. But for now, it's just these four that will have their world premiere in TIFF's Contemporary World Cinema Section. Here's the synopsis from the TIFF website:

In Thai, sawasdee is a customary greeting that could mean either hello or goodbye. The country's capital, Bangkok, is famous for its hospitality while also notorious for its nightlife and recent political turmoil. It is the dichotomies of these two words that, when combined, make the title of this omnibus film, Sawasdee Bangkok, so fitting.

Unlike the recent Paris, je t'aime and New York, I Love You, Sawasdee Bangkok is notable in that only Thai filmmakers were commissioned for the project, giving this omnibus work a much more intimate knowledge of its city. Moreover, the directors are not afraid to show the darker side of Thai society, from prostitution to poverty.

The first segment, Sightseeing, directed by Wisit Sasanatieng (Tears of the Black Tiger, Citizen Dog), is a magic-realist tale of a blind woman ["Tak" Bongkot Konmalai] who longs to see the city in which she lives. Bangkok Blues from Aditya Assarat (Wonderful Town) follows an amusing account of two buddies [actor Ananda Everingham and singer Louis Scott], both of mixed nationality, and their awkward relationships with Thai women. One scene is particularly effective: a slow pan of a dilapidated playground accompanied by the recorded sounds of children. Kongdej Jaturanrasamee (Midnight, My Love) directs the melancholic third segment, Pi Makham. The title [literally "tamarind ghosts"] refers both to a ghost and to the prostitutes who roam an area called Sanam Luang Park each night. Finally, Silence by Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Last Life in the Universe, Nymph) tells the funny and poignant story of one woman's drunken escapade with a friend. It leads to a chance encounter with a bizarre homeless man at two in the morning when her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

Together, these shorts by four acclaimed filmmakers form a surprisingly cohesive and entertaining whole –- a rarity for an omnibus project. For those who have never been to Bangkok, this film is probably the cheapest way to experience the “land of smiles” without having to pay for a long-haul flight. And if you don't crack a grin during the shorts, wait until you see the hilarious post-credit segment.

There are lots more photos at the TIFF website.

I wonder if that "hilarious post-credit segment" will be included with the whole nine-film package, or is it just for Torontonians? When it comes to works by these four directors, the feeling that I'm going to miss out on something is a difficult one to shake.

(Via Pop Pictures)

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