Thursday, April 30, 2009

Agrarian Utopia in competition at Barcelona Asian Film Festival

Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia is in the competition at the Barcelona Asian Film Festival, which runs from April 30 until May 10.

Here's the synopsis:

Uruphong Raksasad, whose 2006 debut Stories from the North attracted favorable reviews on the festival circuit, should with his latest work Agrarian Utopia choose to tackle his country's problems in such an uncompromising and direct fashion. Though the title evokes the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, who tried to create an equal society based on rural cultivation, Raksasad intent is to capture a long-lost tradition that is slowly vanishing. Shot around the filmmaker's village in Chiang Rai, in order to show how a muddy rice paddy is tilled throughout the seasons, he even rented a piece of land. He offered local farmers the yield if they would work it in the traditional way. Without machines, without electricity and with no profits in mind. It looks so ordinary, yet it is fiction. No matter how much the world is evolving, how much the country is going through economic, political and social changes, they still cannot grasp that ideology of happiness.

The film continues its festival run, following screenings in Rotterdam (where it won a NETPAC mention), Hong Kong, the recently wrapped-up Singapore fest and the current Jeongju International Film Festival (where it's also in competition).

The Barcelona fest has a heavy contingent of Southeast Asian films. There's Edwin's Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly (censored in Singapore) and the Malaysian musical comedy Sell Out! (good reviews from Singapore, and due to open in Malaysia) and Brillante Mendoza's Serbis also in competition. There's the Focus on Southeast Asia section and two Filipino Cult Movies from 1980, Katorse and Temptation Island.

(Via Wildgrounds)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thai film industry celebrates World Intellectual Property Day with DVD release

Yesterday was business as usual for the pirate-DVD dealers who do brisk trade in the streets and marketplaces across Thailand, but in observance of World Intellectual Property Day, the Thai film industry and the Motion Picture Association Asia Pacific issued their own DVD.

The 20-minute promotional DVD, Creators in Action: The Thai Film Industry, features clips from award-winning Thai films with an aim to "provide an insight into the filmmaking process in Thailand and to raise awareness of the complexities involved and the need to respect the creators behind the camera," according to a press release from the MPA.

The observance of World IP Day was organized by the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) of the Ministry of Commerce, the U.S. embassy and the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand.

Among the attendees at "Protect Intellectual Property and the Future of the Film Industry” were Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot, U.S. embassy deputy chief of mission James F. Entwistle, DIP director Puangrat Asawapisit and Jareuk Kaljareuk, chairman of the Federation.

Here's more from the press release:

Five thousand copies of this DVD will be distributed across the country, mainly to schools and educational institutions.

“This is a very special day for the Thai film industry indeed as well as the people who make it the powerhouse industry it is,” said Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot. “On their behalf, I would like to thank the MPA for shining the spotlight on all the hard work, effort and people behind a creative work. Combined, the industry makes a very significant contribution to the country. The government needs to take a tough stance on piracy to make sure it can continue on its course to expand as well as win the hearts of more film fans in Thai and abroad.”

“We hope this DVD will help young people better appreciate the creative process,” said Jareuk Kaljareuk, chairman of the [Federation]. “Every one of the 300,000 people plays a role in bringing your favourite movie to life. Illegal camcording and pirated DVDs caused very serious economic damage to our industry.”

“Through this DVD, we appeal to the Thai people to help us fight these pirates who seek to destroy the livelihood of all of us who work in the industry.”

Jaruek is also a managing director of the Kantana Group, one of Thailand's leading film production companies.

Fittingly, guests at yesterday's DVD launch were treated to a screening of Kanatana Animation's Khan Kluay II, the continued adventures of a plucky war elephant that began with 2006’s Khan Kluay -- the first Thai computer-animated feature.

(Via Business of Cinema)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bitter/Sweet win for Thai-Hollywood romance in Houston

The Thai-U.S. production Bitter/Sweet won two prizes at the 42nd WorldFest-Houston International Film and Video Festival, which wrapped up on Sunday.

Directed by Jeff Hare, Bitter/Sweet won a Grand Remi Award for Best Theatrical Feature, and a Golden Remi for best director. The film made its premiere at the Houston fest.

The romance features a cast of Thai stars stars and Hollywood players, led by "Mamee" Napakpapha Nakprasitte as a headstrong public-relations executive who at first clashes but ultimately falls in love with an American coffee buyer, played by Kip Pardue.

Other actors are James Brolin, Spencer Garrett and Laura Sorenson as well as Akara Amarttayakul, Pakkaramai Potranan and Kalorin Nemayothin. Pop singer Tata Young makes a brief cameo.

Bitter/Sweet was filmed last year in the little-seen coffee plantations of Krabi in southern Thailand. It's produced by Urs T. Brunner's Angel and Bear Productions and U.S.-based Capital Motion Pictures and Jon Karas.

Brunner is a Bangkok-based Swiss businessman who is chief executive of the Thailand-based coffee brand BonCafe. The idea behind Bitter/Sweet was to highlight Thailand's coffee-growing regions in the same way that the Hollywood buddy comedy Sideways spotlighted California's wine country.

Brunner says he plans to release the film in Thailand later in the year, and is hoping for a slot at a film festival in Bangkok.

Here's what he had to say about the Houston festival awards, according to Lekha J. Shankar, whose article about the film's awards appears on page 7 of today's Daily Xpress:

I can't describe in words how happy and thrilled I am that Bitter/Sweet won these two top awards! This is the third-oldest U.S. film festival, and the very place where directors like Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone and Ang Lee won their first awards for creative excellence. For me, Thailand won here tonight, beating entries from 33 countries! This award is for the beautiful country, people, and Thai cast of the film.”

From left, producer Jon Karas, director Jeff Hare, producer Urs Brunner, actress Laura Sorenson and producer Mark Lane.

The full list of awards is at the festival website (XLS file).

Update: Lekha says the producer told her that the screening was attended by a large number of Thai-Americans, who seemed to enjoy the film a lot.

(Via Daily Xpress and e-mail from Lekha. Thanks Lekha!)

Classic outdoor cinema for Bangkok Bananas!!

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)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Panna, Prachya at Udine Far East Fest, talking about seven female fighters, Ong-Bak 3

Action filmmakers Panna Rittikrai and Prachya Pinkaew, together the driving force behind Tony Jaa and Ong-Bak, Jeeja Yanin and Chocolate and a dozen or so other action films from Sahamongkol Film International, are guests at the Udine Far East Film Festival.

Panna and Prachya each had meetings with the press and they talked their careers, their views on filmmaking and future projects.

Both mentioned that one of their upcoming projects -- aside from Ong-Bak 3 of course -- will feature seven female fighters, inspired by Seven Samurai. It will include Chocolate star Jeeja Yanin. Prachya said "it will show a new fighting style combining martial arts with traditional Thai sword-fighting and some use of CGI."

Though not mentioned in either write-up, presumably this seven female fighters movie would be coming after the current "Jeeja project", Du Suay Doo, the action-romance being directed by Rashane Limtrakul and also stars "Kazu" Patrick Tang.

Both Prachya and Panna also talked about working on Ong-Bak 2. Here's Prachya:

He produced, but didn’t direct, Ong-Bak 2, and admits to doubting the choice of his colleagues and friends Panna Rittikrai and Tony Jaa to set the movie in 15th century Thailand – he was afraid the audience wouldn’t be interested in ancient Thai history and although he’s quite pleased with the end result he would have preferred for the sequel to have been connected to the first Ong Bak. He also feels there should have been more action scenes and a bigger variety of fighting styles. “Luckily,” he says, “you’ll have the chance to see more in Ong-Bak 3”.

And Panna:

Rittikrai talks about the difficulties faced during the production of [Ong-Bak 2], a long process that took 3 years – a perfectionist at heart, he would repeatedly reshoot scenes until he was satisfied, while at the same time juggling the roles of director, action supervisor and producer. This meant that he not only had to take care of the action scenes, but also oversee other aspects, like the acting and locations.

Tension on the set was high, given the fact that Jaa too had high expectations for the film. Says Rittikrai of his pupil, “Our relationship is just as good as when we first met 15 years ago. His curiosity and dedication to the filmmaking process has helped him evolve from being a mere stuntman into the star that he is today.”

Prachya's interview is more extensive than Panna's, but both are well worth reading.

The Udine fest has a special program, "Kicks of Fury -- New Muay Thai Films", which features recent Thai martial-arts films, among them Ong-Bak 2 (making its European premiere), Chocolate and a third action film from the Sahamongkol stable, Somtum, which features kid-fighter Kat Sasisa, who made her debut in Panna's Born to Fight and was recently featured in Power Kids, as well as guest appearances by Dan Chupong (Born to Fight, Dynamite Warrior, Queens of Langkasuka, Ong-Bak 3) and another female brawler, "Nui" Kessarin Ektawatkul (Born to Fight, Dangerous Flowers).

Given that Sahamongkol's talent pool runs deeper than just Tony Jaa and Jeeja, I can see the seven female fighters as a distinct possibility, and I have my own personal wish list of who I'd like to see in it. But how many years is it going to take to train everyone and then start filming?

Update: Actual photos of Panna and Prachya in Udine are at Frederic Ambroisine's blog. (Via Kung Fu Fridays)

(Via Far East Film the Blog; photo of Prachya and Panna via Flickr from Chocolate premiere in Bangkok in 2008.)

World Comedy Film Festival now set for June 10-16

Originally scheduled to take place at the end of this month, Bangkok's 1st World Comedy Film Festival is now set for June 10 to 16, 2009. The festival website is back up but is still under construction, so there's no details yet about the program.

Organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, the venues will be CentralWorld and Siam Paragon.

(Thanks Tyler!)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Oppressive heat, depressing Thai summer movie lineup

The weather has been stifling for the past week or so in Bangkok, with temperatures soaring past the 100-degree Fahrenheit mark. It's usually hot as blazes this time of year, after all it is what's called the "hot season", but I'm not wrong in thinking it is inordinately hot this year. Backing up that claim is Absolutely Bangkok, which notes that the temperatures are above average.

A great way to beat the heat would be to camp out in one of the ultra-air-conditioned multiplexes and spent your days watching movies. But my past two forays into the world of commercial Thai cinema have left me feeling cold towards the domestic industry's output of late. And the upcoming lineup of Thai films is failing to get me fired up. Let's have a look at what's not exciting me:

Saranair Haao Peng (สาระแนห้าวเป้ง) -- Termed a comedy/documentary, this Punk'd-style reality-TV based movie stars Willy McIntosh, "Ple" Nakorn Silachai and "Sena Hoy" Kiatisak Udomnak. They challenge a couple of hapless young guys to pull pranks on well-known entertainment figures in order to win a spot on their TV show. Celeb victims include country-folk legend Ad Carabao, comedian Kotee Aramboy (poor guy -- they make him cry!), the Korean girl group Baby V.O.X. Re.V and Petchtai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkamlao. A scene involving Mum had a propane tank explode near a taxi he was riding in. It was filmed a couple of months back, and Mum was purportedly so scared and angry that Willy, Ple and Sena Hoy had to apologize. Of course Mum getting all worked up and the profuse apology were all captured by the Thai media, so I have to wonder if it was simply a publicity stunt. The trailer's at YouTube, and there's a website. Distributed by Sahamongkol, Saranair Haao Peng opens next Thursday, April 30. (Via Enjoy Thai Movies)

Mor 3 Pee 4 Rao Rak Naa (ม. 3 ปี 4 เรารักนาย) -- In this, ugh, teenage romantic melodrama, teens in Bangkok and Phuket chat on MSN, fall in love and then meet face to face. What can possibly go wrong? Haeman Chatemee directs and the stars include Sarocha Tanjararak, Kanin Bhatia and Suppasit Chinwinijkul. The trailer's at YouTube, and there's a website. Distributed by Avant/RS Film, Mor 3 Pee 4 Rao Rak Naa also opens next Thursday, April 30. (Via Enjoy Thai Movies)

2022 Tsunami (2022 สึนามิ วันโลกสังหาร) -- A humongous wave buries Bangkok underneath the ocean. This might not be so bad. But be forewarned and ready to head for high ground. It's from the controversially outspoken Toranong Srichua, who previously made Unhuman, which the usually enthusiastic folks at 24 Frames per Second hedge on wondering if it's so bad it's good. The trailer's been posted here before. Released by 20th June Entertainment, 2022 Tsunami opens on May 28.

Dek Khong (อนุบาลเด็กโข่ง) -- Okay, this cute kids' movie might not be so bad either. It looks to be trying for a Fan Chan vibe, and that turned out to be a classic. Released by Sahamongkol, Dek Khong opens on June 4. (Via Bangkok1080 and Deknang)

Roommate (เพื่อนร่วมห้อง...ต้องแอบรัก?) -- Another, ugh, teen-twenties romantic drama, Roommate involves three young women and two guys who all live together and play together in a rock band. What can possibly go wrong? It's going to be the music that draws audiences to this one. And I'll admit, I kind of like the look of this one. There's a website with music videos. Released by motif+ (formerly Mono Film), Roommate also opens on June 4. (Via Popcornmag)

Krasue vs. Pop (กระสือฟัดปอบ -- Holy crap. This ghost comedy looks so bad I think might I have to see it to believe it. Two of Thailand's most feared female ghosts are played by pretty young actresses. Krasue is Southeast Asia's gut-munching flying vampiric head that trails its entrails around. She's been depicted in lots of films, like 1981's Mystics in Bali, 2002's Krasue, Yuthlert Sippapak's Krasue Valentine and that recent award-winning Sylvania light bulb commercial. Pop is perhaps less well known. A demonic spirit that likes to eat people's livers and possess women's bodies, I am guessing she's been depicted on film many times in the past. Probably most famous film is 2001's Body Jumper (Pop Weed Sayong), which is actually quite a bit of fun. And the director of Body Jumper was none other than Haeman Chatemee -- so, darn it, I might be going to see Mor 3 Pee 4 Rao Rak Naa after all. Released by 5 4 3 2 Aekchan Film, Krasue vs. Pop opens on June 11. (Via Bangkok1080 and Deknang)

There's one other release I haven't included in this listing -- the angry foreigner stuntmen extravaganza Bangkok Adrenaline -- mainly because being an action-film fan I'm pretty excited about seeing it. Also, I don't want those guys to beat me up.

Heading into June and July there's a few question marks along the way, like Mum Jokmok's next directorial effort Wongkamlao. Involving largely the same cast as his Yam Yasothon, which I loved by the way -- just to show I don't hate all Thai comedies -- instead of a rural setting, Mum is taking on high-society urbanites for his romantic comedy, which looks to be a spoof of Thai soap operas.

But the biggie coming up on July 2 (tentatively) is Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nang Mai (Nymph), which is in the Un Certain Regard competition at the Cannes Film Festival. That one I really am looking forward to seeing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pen-ek's Nymph (Nang Mai) chosen for Un Certain Regard competition at Cannes Film Festival

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's new thriller Nang Mai (นางไม้, English title: Nymph) will premiere in the Un Certain Regard competition at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, which unveiled its lineup today.

It's about a young wife whose husband is abducted by a nymph in the jungle. The stars are "Gybzy" Wanida Temthanaporn from the pop group Girly Berry, Nopachai Jayanama (Lord Rachamanu from Naresuan 2) and NBT anchorman Chamanan Wanwinwet.

Pen-ek is known for his dark, moody comedies like Last Life in the Universe and Invisible Waves. Nang Mai is being billed as his first foray into horror.

"It's different," he's quoted as saying by Soopsip in Daily Xpress recently. "It's surrealistic. My ghost doesn't come out and haunt people in the usual way, but it will definitely thrill the audience."

The film had been tipped as a possible contender for the main Palme d'Or competition. It marks the first time Pen-ek has had a film in competition in Cannes. His previous film, the marriage drama Ploy, premiered in the festival's out-of-competition Directors' Fortnight section in 2007.

Nang Mai is a co-production by Thailand's Five Star Production and Fortissimo Films. Among the producers is independent-cinema champion Wouter Barendrecht, who died when he was in Bangkok to watch a rough cut of the film.

(Via Matt Riviera, Wildgrounds)

Me ... Myself added to London's Terracotta Far East Film Festival

Ananda Everingham's turn as an amnesiac man who falls in love with the woman who ran him over with her car in 2007's Me ... Myself (ขอให้รักจงเจริญ, Khaw hai rak jong jaroen) is now in the final lineup of the Terracotta Far East Film Festival in London.

Directed by Pongpat Wachirabunjong and also starring Chayanan Manomaisantiphap -- the same team that reunited for last year's Happy Birthday -- Me ... Myself is in addition to the previously announced Muay Thai Chaiya.

The Terracotta Far East Film Festival runs from May 21 to 24 at the Prince Charles Cinema.

(Via Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow)

Pe Arak's hair takes a Slice

Haircuts and movie publicity go hand-in-hand these days.

The latest actor to submit to the scissors is "Pe" Arak Amornsupasiri, who cut off his rock-star mop as part his agreement to star as an assassin in Slice (Chuean or เฉือน), Five Star Production's upcoming crime thriller from director Kongkiat Khomsiri and screenwriter Wisit Sasanatieng.

Soopsip in today's Daily Xpress has more details:

Losing his locks actually wasn’t such a big deal. “I’d often thought about it but never had the chance. And anyway, my hair’s getting thinner.”

Doing the slicing was celebrity hairdresser Somsak Chalachol, who stuffed the evidence in a bag so Pe could use it as a prop in the film.

How? Wait for the flick to hit screens in October.

It was the first time in six years that Pe had cut his hair. A guitarist for the Thai alternative rock band Slur, Pe and his long hair have appeared in several films and TV dramas, including his big-screen debut Body #19 and last year's weepy romance Rak/Sam/Sao, as well as a cameo appearance in Buppha Rahtree 3.1: Rahtree Reborn. He also stars in the GTH romantic drama Best of Times, but for that film he tucked his hair under a top-heavy short-hair wig to make it look like he'd had a haircut.

Dirtii Laundry has more photos of the shearing, and Lyn's Lakorns has thoughts on Pe's new look as well.

Catching up with Anocha Suwichakornpong at 6 Degrees

Postponed from April 11, the final session of Kiosk Cafe's 6 Degrees of Separation short-film series is planned for this Saturday, screening two works by "Mai" Anocha Suwichakornpong, Graceland and her triptych Like. Real. Love. (Duj Jit Jai).

Graceland was Anocha's master's thesis work from Columbia University, and it was the first Thai short to be selected for the Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered in 2006. Sarawut Martthong stars as an Elvis impersonator from Bangkok is taken out into the countryside by a strange woman (Jelaralin Chanchoenglop) and abandoned. The 17-minute, 35mm short, which premiered in Cannes Cinefondation program, has a interesting production history involving the color blue -- perhaps appropriate given that Elvis sang songs about blue suede shoes and blue Christmases -- but it ended up costing Mai a lot of green, as in money.

Next will be Like. Real. Love. (Duj Jit Jai), a mini-trilogy on romance, with each word setting a theme: "Like" for love between a man and a woman; "Real" for mother-child love; and "Love" about all encompassing love in humanity. One of the segments, Jai (Love) won a special mention at last year's International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, and the 38-minute compilation premiered at last year's International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Saturday's session will hopefully be a good time to catch up with Mai and find out what other projects she and her Electric Eel Films have going. I know she and editor Lee Chatametikool have been at work on her debut feature, initially called The Sparrow but now it's Mundane History.

A recent interview in BK Magazine has more details. Here's an excerpt:

BK: Can you tell us more about your feature debut?

Mai: It’s called Jao Nok Krajok (Mundane History: Of Fragments of a Film I Once Made). It’s a family drama that revolves around a boy who suffers from paralysis after an accident, a father who brings him home, and a male nurse hired to take care of the son. The film focuses on how the boy’s life is changed by the accident and the relationships between the three characters living under the same roof. We’re in the editing process right now. Hopefully, it will be completed mid-year.

BK: What else are you up to?

Mai: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, a three-part film by three female directors from Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore. We present different aspects of love through three meals, and I chose lunch. I find it the most interesting because lunch feels more like an interval of your day than a proper meal. You have to hurry through it. It’s a perfect representation of fleeting love.

Read the whole thing for Mai's views on filmmaking and how she feels about watching her own movie.

Programmed by the Thai Film Foundation, the 6 Degrees of Separation screening is at 5.30pm on Saturday, March 25, in the Kiosk Cafe, at the back of the Thailand Creative and Design Center on the sixth floor of Bangkok's Emporium shopping complex. Get there early to get a seat.

Ong-Bak 2 on DVD with English subtitles from Malaysia

The wait for a DVD of Ong-Bak 2 with English subtitles is over.

And it comes not from Hong Kong. But from Keris Video in Malaysia.

HK Flix has it, and "all product features ... have been physically verified by HKFlix staff."

A further note says: "This DVD is labeled as Region-3, but is actually all region. The English subtitles are not advertised on the case, and are not available in the menu. To access them, you must use your remote while the movie is playing. We have manually confirmed that the subtitles are of excellent quality."

I should note that Chocolate, a much-sought-after "sister" film to Ong-Bak 2, also had an English-subtitled release in Malaysia before anywhere else that went out of print after just one pressing, and this could be a similar case.

So place your order now, if you don't want to wait for the eventual U.S. release by Magnet or whatever labels are releasing it in other English-speaking territorities.

Or you can get the Thai DVD and do your own subtitles. Bangkok 1080 has details on fansubs.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ekachai to be knighted by Italy

Director Ekachai Uekrongtham has received many honors over the years, and next month he'll get another from the Italian government, which will decorate him with an order of merit.

The theater and film director will receive the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella Solidarieta’ Italiana on May 6 at Rome’s embassy in Bangkok. The ranking is the third-class (knight) Star of Italian Solidarity, which is given to foreigners.

The honor is thanks for helping Italy’s cinema industry as an active participant in film festivals there, according to an item by Soopsip in today's Daily Xpress.

Ekachai made a big splash with 2003's Beautiful Boxer, a biopic of the transgender Muay Thai fighter Nong Toom. In Italy, Beautiful Boxer won the best film prizes at the Milan International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the Torino International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in 2004.

And Ekachai has been a fixture at the gala-opening parties for the Italian Film Festival in Bangkok.

Aside from Beautiful Boxer, his Singapore red-light-district docudrama Pleasure Factory and last year's horror thriller The Coffin (including a director's cut), Ekachai's most recent work is the hit Singaporean romantic comedy, The Wedding Game.

This Area Is Under Quarantine, Middle-Earth in Torino

With the theme "From Sodom to Hollywood", the 24th Torino International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is on from April 23 to 30 and it has Thunska Pansittivorakul's This Area Is Under Quarantine in the Documentary Competition.

Additionally, Thunska's short film Middle-Earth will be part of the festival's Voice Over special section.

And there's another Thai short, The Honeymoon Suite by Papkoom Treechairusmee. It's playing in the Panorama section.

(Via ThaiIndie)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pramote retrospective on Friday at Jim Thompson House

Actor-turned-filmmaker Pramote Sangsorn will have a retrospective of six of his short films at 7pm on Friday, April 24, in the William Warren Library at the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok.

The works will include Tsu (สึ), Pramote's contribution to the Tsunami Digital Short Films project in 2005. It was the first Thai short film to be selected for the Venice Film Festival.

There will also be Observation of the Monk (เมืองนิมิต, Muang Nimit), which premiered last year at the fifth Bangkok Experimental Film Festival. It features well-known playwright and performance artist Wannasuk "Kuck" Sirilar as a monk, lost in the city.

He'll show his debut film Fish Don't Fly from 2002, Full Length from 2003 and two more works from last year, Bharramanuh (ปรมาณู) and The New Regime (อำนาจใหม่, Amnaj Mai).

There’s also be a poetry reading and discussion with the director -- a teen idol in the 1980s and '90s (he starred in Romantic Blue).

The screening is organized by the Third Class Citizen, which holds monthly short-film screenings at the library, which is part of the Jim Thompson House complex at the end of Kasemsan Soi 2, opposite National Stadium.

(Thanks Pramote! Cross-published at Bangkok Cinema Scene)

This week is 'Serious Week' for the Week of Siam

The second monthly Week of Siam series of classic Thai films starts on Thursday, April 23, at House cinema on Royal City Avenue in Bangkok. This month's theme is "Serious Week", devoted to social realism.

Among them will be three films by Permpol Choei-arun: Muang Nai Mok (A Town in Fog, เมือง ใน หมอก, 1978, on 16mm), Cheewit Budsop (ชีวิต บัด ซบ, 1976) and Muang Khorthan (Beggar’s Town, เมือง ขอทาน, 1978).

There's also Khon Klang Dad (คน กลางแดด 1987), Laa (ล่า, 1977) and Theppajao Baan Bangpoon (เทพ เจ้าบ้าน บาง ปูน, 1980) by Pakorn Prompitak.

None of the films will have subtitles, as far as I can tell.

And another thing, House cinema's website might be having difficulties, and in case you encounter trouble, try their backup, the House cinema blog at Exteen.

The Week of Siam film series continues on the last week of each month until August.

Japan catches Jeeja fever

Following up on a previous post about Chocolate in Japan, star Jeeja Yanin Vismitananda has been in Japan promoting what's known as Chocolate Fighter, which opens on May 23 at the Shinjuku Picadilly.

Nippon Cinema has more:

While a lot of the PR has understandably been centered around the involvement of veteran TV and film star Hiroshi Abe in a supporting role, the film's impressive main star, "Jeeja" Yanin Vismitananda, has gotten the bulk of the attention for her rare combination of "idol looks", charisma and willingness to perform dangerous stunts.

On April 14th, a special preview screening was held at Space FS Shiodome. As is pretty typical for these things, a manzai comedy duo called Zabunguru was brought in along with the stars to offer some goofy side-entertainment. Kato came in dressed as a Muay Thai kickboxer while his partner Matsuo acted as the straight man/host as they did a little martial arts-style William Tell re-enactment.

Head on over to Nippon Cinema for many more photos, as well as details of the interesting relationship Chocolate director Prachya Pinkaew has with Fuyuhiko Nishi, director of another recent movie about a petite young woman who kicks ass, High Kick Girl (watch how adorable Rina Takeda kicks her director).

Also, if you're lucky enough to see Chocolate in Japan, you might get a set of adhesive bandages, which are being given away as a promotional item -- ideal for dressing those cuts and bruises as you try to fall off a building or get punched full-contact in the face like Jeeja and Chocolate's stuntmen did in making the movie.

Oh, one other thing: What the heck is up with Jeeja's hair? Didn't she crop and dye that Chocolate mop for her new project Du Suay Doo (stubborn, beautiful and fierce)? Maybe for the promotional tour in Japan, she's wearing a well-glued-on wig or hair extensions, just to keep up appearances for Chocolate fans?

(Via MMadnessTiff)

Mae Nak to burst out in song

The musical theater revival in Thailand continues unabated, with Thailand's most-famous ghost story, Mae Nak Phra Khanon, about to get the song-and-dance treatment in a slick-looking production.

Produced by Scenario, Mae Nak Phra Khanon -- The Musical (แม่นาคพระโขนง เดอะมิวสิคัล) will be staged from May 20 to June 7 at the Muang Thai Rachadalai Theater at the Esplanade on Ratchadaphisek Road.

Some performances will have English surtitles, according to

Nat Myria Benedetti stars as the titular ghost -- a woman who dies in childbirth while her husband is away fighting the war with the Burmese. So strong is her love and devotion to her husband Mak (Anuttaphon Sirichumsang), when he returns from battle, she appears to be alive, even as the rest of the village around her is decaying and neighbors are all keeping their distance and acting strangely.

The cast also includes Suda Chuenban, Tik Shiro, Pakhachon Wo-onsri, Tong-Tong Mokjok and Ood Pentor. It's directed by Takonkiet Viravan.

Mae Nak's story has been depicted on film and on television many times, with the best-known contemporary iteration being 1999's Nang Nak by Nonzee Nimibutr. There was also 2005's Ghost of Mae Nak, which had the ghost wife haunt a young couple in modern-day Bangkok. It's pretty good too. And last year there was Nak, an animated featured that made the ghost a kid-friendly superheroine battling foreign-horror-movie demons. Oh, and don't forget about Pimpaka Towira's 1998 short, Mae Nak, which I'd like to see someday.

The story was also adapted by composer Somtow Sucharitkul into the 2003 opera, Mae Naak.

It's supposedly based on actual events that took place sometime during the 1800s, and there's a shrine to Mae Nak in Phra Khanong, a district in Bangkok that is an actual place. So it must be true, right?

And, I'm told that there is another Mae Nak musical planned by the rival M Theatre. Thailand's musical revival is boundless. I hope to find out more about that soon.

Monday, April 20, 2009

MC Chatrichalerm recovering after fall

Filmmaker MC Chatrichalerm Yukol slipped and fell at his residence on April 14, was treated at Bangkok Hospital and is now recovering, according to a report yesterday by the National News Bureau.

NNB states that a close aide to the prince said physicians found fractures in the right malar (cheek) and nasal bone of Chatrichalerm, whose popular nickname is "Than Mui".

His Serene Highness Prince Chatrichalerm, 66, has been at work at the third part of his Naresuan trilogy, which is due to be released on December 5.

The much-acclaimed veteran filmmaker's other works include 2003's Suriyothai, which was edited by Francis Ford Coppola -- a UCLA classmate of Chatrichalerm's -- and released in the U.S. as The Legend of Suriyothai. Four of Chatrichalerm's films have been submitted by Thailand to the Oscars: The Elephant Keeper in 1989, Song for Chao Phya in 1990, Daughter 2 in 1997 and King Naresuan Part II: Reclamation of Sovereignty (King of Fire) in 2007.

(Via Siam Daily News; photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Deep in the Jungle, Coming Soon open in Malaysia

Speaking of giant snakes, Phranakorn's fantasy-action-romance Deep in the Jungle (Patiharn Rak Tang Phan, ปาฏิหาริย์รักต่างพันธุ์) has opened in Malaysia, where it's playing as Naak.

It's opened alongside GTH's multiplex horror thriller Coming Soon.

Deep in the Jungle stars Jesdaporn Pholdee as a special-forces sniper who goes rogue to protect a young woman (Ploy Jindachote) who is sought by a rival black-ops soldier (Pasin Ruengwut). Sakda Kaewbuadee stars as the woman's protective brother. The siblings are from an ancient tribe of snake gods who can live in human form. Coherent storytelling and decent special effects made Deep in the Jungle an okay effort from Phranakorn and director Teerawat Rujeenatham.

In Malaysia, reviews are starting to come in, including At the Movies with Lim Chang Moh and Cinema Online.

Coming Soon (โปรแกรมหน้า วิญญาณอาฆาต, Programme Na Winyarn Arkhad), meanwhile, hits Malaysia after theatrical runs in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The directorial debut by Shutter and Alone screenwriter Sophon Sakdapisit, it's the story of a multiplex projectionist (Chantavit Dhanasevi) who is roped into pirating a newly released horror film, and then people connected to the film and to the piracy scheme end up dead.

Lim Chang Moh has a review of Coming Soon as does Cinema Online.

I was pretty was pretty creeped out by watching the movie about a horror movie playing in the cinema, and the hanging-woman standees used to promote the fictional horror movie in the film were the same ones used in actual cinema lobbies to promote Coming Soon. After watching the movie, walking through the lobby of the darkened, getting-ready-to-close multiplex was pretty scary.

So without those hanging hair ghosts to face after the movie, I don't know how effective Coming Soon is going to be on home video or at film festivals. But we'll see. Something to Sing About has a DVD review, and Coming Soon is set for Horror Day at the Udine Far Film Festival.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another giant snake in The Scout

The giant snake from Pleo Sirisuwan's crazy jungle fantasy-horror Vengeance returns in the writer-director's upcoming Boy Scout adventure, The Scout, and 24 Frames Per Second has dug up a teaser clip (embedded below).

Now in post-production, the project has been kicking around for awhile. It was shopped around earlier this year at the European Film Market, according to Variety, and the Film Catalogue has it listed.

Golden Network Asia is handling sales and the producer is Monnasich Tadaamnuaychai.

The cast includes Thailand-based Japanese actor Yano Kazuki, recently seen in Taew Te Teen Raberd and Palatip Namkhang.

Here's the synopsis:

Scouts visit an ancient temple to witness a lunar eclipse. Hearing campfire stories of the legendary god who protects the temple, they decide to go on a treasure hunt. Finding themselves lost in a parallel universe, they must find the way back before the end of the eclipse traps them.

Where does that giant cobra fit in? We'll just have to watch it and see.

Meanwhile, what's happened with another project mentioned for Pleo last year, The Follower?

(Via 24 Frames per Second)

6 Degrees of Separation: Capsule reviews part 1

On Saturday afternoons since March 7, the 6 Degrees of Separation short-film series at Kiosk Cafe in the Thailand Creative and Design Center at the Emporium in Bangkok has given me a chance to see several recent works by independent filmmakers -- films I'd missed or I never imagined I'd ever see. Here's a look at the first three filmmakers in the series.

Michael Shaowanasai (March 7)

A great way to kick off the series, the always entertaining, multi-hyphenate Michael was on hand after the screening for a fun-filled Q&A session. Four works by the artist, writer, actor and filmmaker were shown, spanning from 1999's Bunzai Chaiyo, Episode II, The Adventure of Iron Pussy to three titles from last year: Observation of the Monument, Long Night -- Short Film and Le Cirque de l'homme. Michael left the room for the screening of his Iron Pussy short. He didn't want to watch. He was just learning filmmaking then, and it shows -- the acting is laughably amateurish, the lighting sloppy and the makeup is atrocious -- oh, the perspiration! Yet the credits read like an all-star roster of Thailand's independent filmmakers, and today all are accomplished. Episode II makes up for its shortcomings with sheer exuberance. Of his most famous character -- thanks to a 2004 feature film co-directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul -- Michael says he's bored with doing the transvestite secret agent Iron Pussy. She may be dead, but her spunky spirit lives on -- with much improved makeup and wardrobe -- in other characters portrayed by the cross-dressing actor, such as the regal matron caught in a circular loop in Observation of the Monument, a sex-starved vamp in Long Night -- Short Film and the mysterious chameleon clothes horse in the epic-feeling 18-minute Le Cirque de l'homme.

Uruphong Raksasad (March 14)

I'd seen Stories from the North about a year ago, and back then I thought this collection of vignettes from rural Thailand was pretty special, so I was happy to see them again. For this repeat viewing, I was struck by an emotional theme that runs through it -- that of lost innocence, a sadness that the simplicity of childhood in a bygone era will never be regained. I also noticed an intimacy of the camera to the subject. People are front and center, but a tabby cat, a water buffalo or a dog, even the way a motorcycle peels off the pavement onto a dirt road -- all are given equal, loving attention. Seeing Stories from the North again really makes me curious to see Uruphong's forthcoming Agrarian Utopia, which is making its way around the festival circuit now. There's still hope that it will be shown in Thailand at some point this year. I wonder if there's anything in it that the Thai censors would deem objectionable?

Sompot "Boat" Chidgasornpongse (March 21)

Four shorts by young filmmaker Sompot "Boat" Chidgasornpongse were shown. The first, To Infinity and Beyond (ลอยฟ้า or Loy Fah) and the last, Diseases and a Hundred Year Period were documentary-type shorts that bookended two largely experimental works. To Infinity and Beyond -- yes, the title is taken from Toy Story -- uses footage from northeastern Thailand's bang fai rocket festival of people looking up into the sky. Text about space exploration, including facts about Laika the dog and Yuri Gregarian is interposed between scenes. Perhaps if To Infinity had been made recently, it might include a word or two about "Space Bat" (video). At just over minute, Physical Therapy went by in a blur of blond hair. Yesterday, from 2007, was made while Boat was attending Cal Arts, and it's document of a young filmmaker finding out what's possible when directing a cast, as he spends time with a group of Thai university students who are studying in California. Diseases and a Hundred Year Period, is of course, Boat's reaction to the Thai censorship of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century. Similar to Infinity, he takes the six censored scenes from Syndromes, cropping and zooming them at weird angles, and alternates the scenes with text about Thai history and culture. I really enjoy this documentary technique and am not sure anyone else does things quite like that. Boat's given me a stack of DVDs of his films that I can watch at leisure. I'm grateful for that. And I look forward to Boat's forthcoming documentary feature, Are We There Yet?, which is shot on a train. Boat showed me a huge stack of photo contact sheets of frames from the film, which he's using as a key to help him in the editing process. Looks great so far.

Three more filmmakers remain in the series. Animator Boonsri Tangtrongsin showed seven of her shorts on March 28, and Jakrawal Nilthamrong's films were featured on April 4.

The sixth and final session with Anocha Suwichakornpong, showing her Graceland and Like. Real. Love., was scheduled for last Saturday, April 11, but due to an extended Songkran holiday (enacted because of the red-shirt protest), that session was postponed, and plans now are to hold the screening at 5.30pm on Saturday, April 25.

I hope to be there, and wrap things up with three more filmmakers for a part 2.

Big-name directors in nine-segment omnibus, Charming Bangkok

While Once Upon a Time in Bangkok, an omnibus by 17 indie directors, recently premiered, and following other city omnibus films like Paris je t'aime, New York, I Love You and Tokyo!, there's another Bangkok omnibus project in the works featuring more-established directors.

It's called -- tentatively -- Charming Bangkok or Saneh Bangkok, and is being produced by Saksiri Chantarangsi for public-television station TV Thai, formerly known as Thai PBS.

Kong Rithdee has more about the project in yesterday's Bangkok Post

Saksiri has invited nine film directors to each create a 20-minute short about Bangkok as they see, dream, reflect, or imagine it. TV Thai plans to air the episodes in late June, and the possibility of releasing them in the cinemas is very likely.

What makes the ensemble a fine catch is the unprecedented gathering of nine filmmakers whose credits are largely formidable. Their mere names would actually spark interest even among international film distributors: Prachya Pinkaew (Ong-Bak, Tom Yum Goong); Wisit Sasanatieng (Tears of the Black Tiger, Citizen Dog); Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Invisible Waves, Ploy); Aditya Assarat (Wonderful Town); Chookiat Sakveerakul (Love of Siam); Kongdej Jaturanrasamee (Handle Me With Care and screenwriter of Me ... Myself and Happy Birthday); Bandit Rittakol (the Boonchu movies); Ruethaiwan Wongsirasawas (Wai Olawon 4); and Santi Taepanich (Crying Tigers, Bangkok Time).

Wisit's short, Sightseeing, stars "Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai as a blind women who lives under a bridge who's helped out by a man (Tantai Prasertkul). Aditya has real-life friends Ananda Everingham and Louis Scott recalling their memories of Bangkok and New York City. And Pen-ek is working on a short with the star of his upcoming feature Nymph, "Peter" Noppachai Jaiyanama.

Given last weekend's violent "Black Songkran" clashes between the government and the red-shirt protesters in Bangkok, the filmmakers and the producer are all pretty wary of the project being used as a commercial fluff piece to burnish the damaged city's image. The majority of the pieces, I think, will be pretty gritty and true-to-life. So yeah, maybe there's a better English title than Charming Bangkok.

Read the rest of Kong's story for many more details.

He also has a sidebar interview (cache) with Thai PBS managing director Thepchai Yong about TV Thai's history and its possible future.

Buppha Rahtree 3.1 slices up box office

Buppha Rahtree 3.1: Rahtree Reborn opened as the No. 1 movie at the Thai box office for the weekend of April 9-12, according to Box Office Mojo, which states that the blood-soaked slasher-ghost-comedy-romance earned US$405,435 (about 14.3 million baht).

Yuthlert Sippapak's latest installment in his comedy-horror series, released by Sahamongkol Film International, bested the previous week's No. 1 Fast & Furious and the rival new releases, including Race to Witch Mountain and the animated Monsters vs. Aliens (it's at Bangkok's IMAX!).

Rounding out the top five was Kantana Animation's Khan Kluay II, which was in its third week of release. And Phranakorn's two-week-old gay-katoey sports comedy Taew Te Teen Raberd (Sassy Players) was in sixth place. The two films had been in second and third place the previous weekend.

Bangkok1080 has a positive review of Buppha Rahtree 3.1. Head on over and have a look.

Buppha Rahtree 3.1, meanwhile, is set to make its international premiere at next week's Udine Far East Film Festival.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Revisiting The Iron Ladies

On Monday, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand resumes its Contemporary World Film series with a screening of The Iron Ladies (Satree Lek).

Released in 2000 in the midst of the Thai New Wave, Youngyooth Thongkonthun's debut feature was one of the first Thai films to be an international smash-hit.

The story of a gay-and-transgender men's volleyball team, the comedy played at dozens of festivals (both gay and straight) and won many awards.

Picked up for international sales by Fortissimo Films, the film remains widely accessible, thanks to DVD releases in North America and elsewhere.

Among the recent slew of offbeat sports comedies from Hollywood -- yes, Dodgeball, Talladega Nights and Balls of Fury, I'm looking at you -- The Iron Ladies still stand tall.

And it's also arguably the best Thai sports movie, with a heartfelt, inspiring and entertaining story that's based on actual events.

Youngyooth is expected to be present for a Q&A after Monday's night's screening, along with members of the cast, including Chaicharn Nimpulsawasdi (Jung) -- winner of the Subhanahongsa Award for Best Supporting Actor -- Kokkorn Benjatikul (Pia) and Phomsit and Sutthipong Sitthijamroenkhun and Anucha Chatkaew (April, May and June).

The showtime is at 8pm -- arrive early if you want a seat. Admission for non-members is 150 baht. And they're serving wine from the GranMonte Company (Thailand) for 100 baht a glass.

(Via FCCT Bulletin; cross-published at Bangkok Cinema Scene)

Thai-American romance Bitter/Sweet to premiere at Houston's WorldFest

The coffee-infused romantic drama Bitter/Sweet was filmed in Thailand last year, with a mixed cast of Hollywood players and top Thai talent. The brewing is complete and it's ready to drink, writes guest blogger Lekha J Shankar.

Story by Lekha J Shankar

Bitter/Sweet, a Thai-American production with a big Thai-American cast, is to have its North American premiere at the 42nd WorldFest-Houston International Film & Video Festival on April 24.

The film will be released in Thailand later in the year, and Bangkok-based Swiss producer Urs T Bruner says he hopes it can be shown at the Bangkok International Film Festival.

American co-producer Jon Karas of Capitol Motion Pics will coordinate the film’s sales in the US.

The film has an impressive Thai-American cast, with a brief, guest appearance by singer Tata Young. But watch out for her in the very first scene of the film, or you’ll miss her totally!

"Mamee" Napakpapha Nakprasitte (Art of the Devil 2 and 3, Mae Bia, Butterfly Man) plays Ticha, a no-nonsense public-relations executive in Bangkok. She has no time for any distractions apart from her job -- until young American coffee-buyer Brian (Hollywood actor Kip Pardue) is sent to check out coffee beans in Thailand, and crosses her path.

Or rather, she is forced by her parents (1970s Thai cinema stars Sompop Benjatikul and Viyada Umarin), who sell coffee beans in Krabi, to cross his path, and lure him to buy the beans from their community.

Ticha is outraged, but is told that the struggling community would be thrown a lifeline by the coffee baron, and so she agrees to play the perfect PR woman.

Accompanied by her friend (Kalorin Nemayotin) and the latter’s garrulous, flirtatious Austrian boyfriend Werner (Spencer Garret), Ticha travels to Krabi, and plays "guide" to Brian, who, like most foreigners to the Kingdom, is totally smitten by the countryside. He’s smitten by Ticha too, and she finds herself weakening as well. Just as he bends forward to plant a kiss on her, his LA-based fiancee Amanda (Laura Sorenson) lands in Krabi.

More drama takes place, when Brian’s boss Calvert Jenkins (James Brolin) decides to suddenly fly down too. But instead of testing the coffee beans, he wanders on his own, checking out the boxer-boyfriend (Akara Amarttayakul from Muay Thai Chaiya) of Ticha’s perky sister Mint (Pakkaramai Potranan).There’s a big confrontation, and the Thai actor impressively holds his own against the thespian Hollywood star.

In the final reckoning, the coffee beans of Krabi triumph, and the American coffee-team forge a permanent link there, in more ways than one.

The film was shot in the little-seen coffee plantations of Krabi, with a total Thai crew.

American director Jeff Hare was so impressed by their high levels of proficiency, that he already plans to shoot his next film here.

As for first-time producer Brunner, he plans to continue making films, with a multi-national cast, targetting the international market, but they would all be shot in Thailand.

The reason - superbly good locations, facilities, superbly low prices.

Lekha J Shankar is a Bangkok-based journalist and world cinema maven.

See also:

(Thanks Lekha!)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review: 5 Minute War

  • Directed by Achira Nokthet
  • Starring Sattawat Sethakorn, Panada Wongpoodee, Teerawut Hiranwattanangkroon, Theerawat Hiranwattanangkroon
  • Premiered in December 2008 at the first Pai International Film and Animation Festival; also in competition at the seventh Human Rights Film Festival in Donostia-San Sebastian, April 23 to 30, 2009; reviewed on screener DVD
  • Rating: 3/5

In 5 Minute War, a man in a yellow track suit severely beats a woman in a red dress.

Merely coincidental or not, it's difficult not to watch 5 Minute War without seeing some symbolism of Thailand's political scene, which is divided by factions of Bangkok's urban elite (yellow) and the largely rural working class (red).

And given that there's a pause after skirmishes in central Bangkok between the red shirts and the forces of the government (which was ushered to power by the yellow mob), the time seems apt to review this 28-minute short from Thailand-based Benetone Films.

The story is simple: Twin boys (Teerawut and Theerawat Hiranwattanangkroon) are compelled to enter the boxing ring and beat the snot out of each other, or else their young mother (Panada Wongpoodee) -- the lady in red -- will be killed by the man in yellow (Sattawat Sethakorn).

The short is a showcase by first-time director Achira Nokthet for Benetone Films, a company that primarily makes television commercials and provides services to foreign film productions.

At the center of 5 Minute War is a 10-minute Steadicam tracking shot -- a dizzying sequence that moves around the boxing ring, the primary attraction of an underground club for gambling and prostitution, as people mill about waiting for the main bout. There's also stylized lighting -- the kind that makes everything a sickly but cool green and highlights that red dress. And there's lots of good-looking fake blood, running out of the nose and cuts on the face. Other technical specs -- clear sound and a decent score -- show the competence of the production.

The actual fight by the boys isn't a large component -- they throw a few knee-kicks and roundhouse punches -- but don't expect to be seeing Ong-Bak 2-scale martial arts, or even Power Kids-style beat downs.

Actually, the fighting between the mother and her brutal ex-boyfriend is more frightening, fierce and bloody.

Hey, that could be more symbolism. But you'll have to catch 5 Minute War at a festival screening somewhere or many online someday to figure it out.

Related posts:

(Many thanks to Rachwin at Benetone Films for the screener DVD!)