If you look at the lineup of logos of sponsors along the bottom of the poster for Kru Bannok, you'll see the emblem for Thailand's Ministry of Culture, second from the right. The little logo hasn't gone unnoticed by sharp-eyed observers in Thailand's film community, leading them to ask the question: how much money did the Culture Ministry give Sahamongkol Film International -- the country's biggest movie studio -- to make this film?
The answer is no money was given, but there is still "support", according to a story by Kong Rithdee in yesterday's Bangkok Post. An official from the Ministry's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture explains:
"We give them support in the form of promotion. Our minister will be present at the film's opening, and we arranged the cast to meet up with the prime minister for a photo-op. This is to boost the profile of the film, which we believe to carry good messages. The studio did ask for financial support to use in the promotional campaign, but we haven't approved it."
I recall that last year's schoolboy drugs drama Samchuk also had the Ministry's logo on some posters -- maybe the Ministry's support of that film was similar to this -- but I don't remember hearing anything about a controversy over that. Of course Samchuk wasn't produced by the giant Sahamongkol, and was not aiming to be a huge commercial hit, and, indeed, it wasn't.
Kong also has details on a kitty of money being made available to filmmakers as part of the government's "creative economy" program. There are more questions than answers with regard to transparency over how the millions of baht will be divvied up. Will the money go to help struggling independent filmmakers, or will it go to established industry types who make only commercially viable films?
Kru Bannok Ban Nonghi Yai, ครูบ้านนอก บ้านหนองฮีใหญ่, literally the "the country teacher of Ban Nonghi Yai" , is directed by Surasee Patham, and is a remake of the veteran director's 1978 social drama about an idealistic teacher at an impoverished rural school. Many regard it as a classic. Surasee explained why he's remaking his beloved film in an article in The Nation a couple weeks ago:
"I want to complete it like I intended the first time. Today, I have more experience and much better technology to hand. I want to fix the mistakes we made the first time 'round."
The new movie stars Pichet Kongkarn as the teacher. Bringing star power to the project is popular comedian Petthai Wongkumlao, aka Mum Jokmok, who portrays the school's headmaster. Stunt guru Panna Rittikrai has an appearance as the village's hermit. It's opening on Thursday. The trailer, also with the Culture Ministry logo, is at YouTube and it's embedded below.
The English title is To Sir, With Love. I don't know what to think about that.