Thursday, January 21, 2010

Apichatpong update: Uncle Boonmee online, Spanish producer added, Phantoms in poll

A flurry of news about Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the biggest of which I guess is that his short film A Letter to Uncle Boonmee made its online premiere on Tuesday at The Auteurs. For now anyway, it's free, and it can be viewed anywhere, though you still need to register to watch.

Here's what The Auteurs has to say about it:

If 1990s world cinema was ruled by Abbas Kiarostami and Hou Hsiao-hsien, will the 2000s be remembered as the age of two younger Asian masters, Jia Zhangke and Apichatpong Weerasethakul?" asked Mark Peranson in Moving Image Source last April. The occasion of the piece was the publication of the anthology Apichatpong Weerasethakul, coinciding "not with a new film but rather a multiplatform project titled Primitive," which "investigates the memory of a specific place in the northeast of Thailand, where the bulk of his work is shot. A chance meeting with a monk not far from his home inspired the project. With a recently developed interest in reincarnation and Buddhism since the death of his father, Apichatpong was drawn to the small book the monk gave him that detailed the many lives of Uncle Boonmee, including as an elephant hunter, water buffalo, cow, and wandering ghost -- always reincarnated in Thailand's northeast."

Apichatpong's search led him to the village of Nabua. Mark Peranson: "Beginning with the onset of a famous gun battle between farmer communists and the totalitarian government on August 7, 1965, Nabua was occupied by the Thai Army from the '60s into the '80s to suppress communist agitators. The only thing similar to the story of Boonmee is that, in Apichatpong's words, 'the village is also full of repressed memories.... It is a place where memories and ideologies are extinct.'"

A Letter to Uncle Boonmee screened at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok, as well as the Pusan, Toronto and Obserhausen festivals.

It's a tantalizing taste of what Apichatpong's Primitive exhibition has to offer. I wish I knew if another exhibition of Primitive was happening this year, because I was unable to make it to Munich, Liverpool or Paris to see it last year.

The feature-film component of Primitive, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, meanwhile, has picked up a Spanish producer, Eddie Saeta S.A., Variety reports. Here's what the company has to say:

Weerasethakul meshes avant-guard inspiration and traditional Thai culture in a very personal fashion," said Eddie Saeta producer Luis Minarro.

"I want to introduce Weerasethakul to Spain, where he is practically unknown," he added.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the sixth feature from Apichatpong, "turns on the last 48 hours of Uncle Boonmee, who recalls six of his past lives on his deathbed. The reincarnations play out against a jungle bristling with spirits and animals."

As is typical for Apichatpong's Kick the Machine shingle, the production adds the Barcelona-based Eddie Saeta to a patchwork of overseas support that has so far come from Simon Field and Keith Griffiths' Illuminations Films in the UK, Charles de Meaux's Anna Sanders Films, Hans Geissendoerfer's Fernsehproduktion, and Michael Weber's Match Factory in Germany.

Production started last October and is set to wrap up in February.

Lastly, another Primitive component, Phantoms of Nabua found its way into the poll of the best online videos of 2009 by Sight and Sound. A further explanation:

Was there any consensus, any common ground? Not much: three votes for Weerasethakul’s Phantoms of Nabua and related Primitive videos, and three in total for Adam Curtis’ It Felt Like a Kiss video and his multimedia blog more broadly. There were also two votes for David O’Reilly’s Berlinale-winning dysmorphic animation Please Say Something and two for street animators Blu and David Ellis’ collaboration Combo. I count 50 other unique votes, making for less a bell curve than a barely rippled line. Welcome to the wide-open cyber sea!

Phantoms of Nabua can be viewed at Animate Projects.

(Thanks to Animate Projects and The Auteurs Daily)

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