A dark picture of Thailand's capital, painted by four of the country's filmmakers, Sawasdee Bangkok has had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival to generally positive reviews and comments.
Twitch's Todd Brown has a full review. Here's a snip:
Though the complete Sawasdee Bangkok project features nine shorts by nine directors, only four were chosen to participate at the Toronto Film Festival screening, those four being new shorts by Wisit Sasanatieng, Aditya Assarat, Kongdej Jaturanrasmee and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. All four are relatively big names on the international film circuit, all four given very close to free rein to tell whatever story they wanted to tell with the sole condition that it had to somehow be about their view of Bangkok. And while the limited production budget for these projects - which were commissioned and largely funded by [Thai Public Broadcasting Service] - means much of the directors' trademark visual flair is lacking the stories are quite strong - albeit it more than a little bleak in three of the four entries - right across the board.
More buzz about Sawasdee Bangkok can be found on Twitter, where PoppedCulture quipped "Lesson learned from Sawasdee Bangkok: Don't ask artists to be tourism boosters. They have a darker vision."
Todd says Aditya's Bangkok Blues is the strongest of the four. Twitterer Gemko agrees. "Man, this is one maudlin-ass collection of shorts. Only the Aditya had a little spark."
There is the inevitable comparison to other city omnibus projects, such as Paris Je T'aime. Culturites says it's like Paris but "with a tortured twist. Dark and beautiful look inside a great Asian metropolis." And Miklow says it's "much better too", with the added of a music video by the film crew at the end.
I think the lesson to Thai authorities about this is -- don't try to cover things up, whitewash, disguise or make Bangkok and the nation something that it is not. The reality, however unattractive it might seem on the surface, is far more interesting and compelling than whatever homogenized, standardized and packaged product is being pushed on an unsuspecting public.
Sawasdee Bangkok played on Friday and Sunday and has one more screening in Toronto on Saturday, September 19.
The same four shorts are also set for the Pusan International Film Festival.
The full nine-segment version of Sawasdee Bangkok will premiere as the closing film of next week's Bangkok International Film Festival. In addition to the four by Aditya, Kongdej, Pen-ek and Wisit, there are shorts by five more talents: Bandit Rittakol, Ruethaiwan Wongsirasawad, Prachya Pinkaew, Chookiat Sakveerakul and Santi Taepanich.