Saturday, October 10, 2009

PIFF '09: A look at Ekachai's Enemies at the Pusan Promotion Plan

Ekachai Uekrongtham is at the Pusan International Film Festival, where he's pitching his next feature-film project, Enemies.

The only Thai project accepted for the Pusan Promotion Plan, Enemies is a thriller set during the "war on drugs" during the Thaksin era in Thailand in 2003. The script is co-written by Kong Rithdee and it's budgeted at US$1.7 million (about 56 million baht).

The PPP 2009 Project Information is available for download (PDF). Let's crack that bad boy open and see what it says about Enemies:


“Thailand, 2003. The Thai Government officially declared a war on drugs on the 1st of February. Quotas were set. Battles were fought. It was an all-out attempt to defeat the “Enemy of the Nation” - drugs and drug dealers. Ten months later, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra declared victory on the war that managed to seize more than 40 million methamphetamine tablets and “put the country out of danger from drugs”.

There were heroes, villains, suspects, casualties and bystanders. There were achievements and there were mistakes. Four months after the war began, about 2,400 people were killed –- according to official figures. No further statistics on the death toll were released after that. It’s a chapter of in Thai history that I find difficult to forget and understand. Perhaps I never will.

Who are our saviors? Who are our enemies? Who do we trust? And what must we destroy?

Despite the volatile political backdrop the film is set in, I’d like Enemies to have a real sense of intimacy. Our camera will follow the characters like their second skin.

We are not peeping into their lives. We are there with them. It’s their journey as much as ours. If the images are raw, that’s because they’re reflecting the reality the boys are confronted with.

The landscapes that the two brothers travel through are bound to be breathtaking. But I’d like to think that what would take our breath away would be the boys’ changing emotional landscapes as they navigate through a drug war many have described as bogus, and a killing season so glorified it’d be hard to ever fade from our collective memory.


From the award-winning director of Beautiful Boxer (Berlin, 2005), Pleasure Factory (Cannes and Pusan 2007) and The Coffin comes Enemies, a new film inspired by true events.

Set in 2003 when the Thaksin administration declared war on drugs and carried out widespread extrajudicial killings of alleged drug dealers, Enemies is a hard-hitting and impassioned film about two young brothers’ journey across the country after their father is brutally killed to “cut the link” and labeled an “Enemy of the Nation”.

Terrified after witnessing his father’s demise, 11-year-old Thon takes his 6-year-old brother Tor on a life-changing trip from Southern Thailand to Bangkok in the hope of finding their only relative.

Along the way, allies turn adversaries, truth becomes lies, sanctuaries transform into battlefields and killings are gleefully celebrated. Before their journey ends, the two innocent boys are forced to cut the link with their childhood and confront their true enemies.

April 2003. Southern Thailand.

It’s a beautiful ride.

Not because of the breathtaking scenery. Thon has seen that before. The 11-year-old Thai boy is sitting on a motorbike behind his father. They’re going along a road amidst a field of gold. Tall grasses sway in the wind. The sun is setting.

Wrapping his arms around his father’s waist, Thon can sense that his father is especially happy today. That makes Thon happy too. He holds his father tighter – wondering what good news his father has. He can’t wait to reach home.

A gun shot. More gun shots. The motorbike loses its balance and collapses.

Thon sees blood everywhere. It’s coming out from his father’s body. Thon looks up and sees policemen approaching. Then Thon hears his father telling him to run so he runs as fast as he can. The field of gold is turning red.

6-year-old Tor is chasing his puppy in a hut. The dog tries to hide. The boy tries to catch it. Then he notices someone approaching. It’s his elder brother Thon.

Thon tells Tor to quickly pack. Tor keeps asking why but Thon doesn’t answer. When they’re about to leave the house, policemen appear.

Thon grabs stuff from the house: clothes, pictures, a switchblade, the address of his father's sister in Bangkok and a bank book. They flee into the night.

So the boys’ journey begins. Will they succeed in running away from all the “enemies” –- lurking in every corner and within their hearts.

I hope they get funding for this, because it could be awesome -- a fact-based drama that tells a story from an all-too-quickly forgotten episode in Thailand's fast-moving recent political history.

Ekachai is keeping busy. After his Singapore romantic comedy The Wedding Game, released earlier this year, he's also directing the Bangkok theatrical production Breathe: The Musical, set for later this month, and he recently wrapped up duties on the Main Competition jury at the Bangkok International Film Festival.

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