Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History was screened at the just-wrapped 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival. While I missed seeing Mundane and "Mai" Anocha in Hong Kong, I did come across a question-and-answer session with her in the festival's daily newsheet.
She talks about the film's original English title, Sparrow, which is still the Thai title, Jao nok krajok (เจ้านกกระจอก) as well as the film's experimentalism.
Here it is:
The film's Thai name is still the original name, which was Sparrow. Why did you decide to keep the Thai name and change the English name to Mundane History?
Yes, in Thai the title translates to Sparrow, but "sparrow" has a few meanings in Thailand. One is obviously the name of the actual bird. But another meaning is "cheap", or something insignificant. The second meaning is derivative of the first meaning, because in Thailand the sparrow is a very common bird -- people never pay attention to them. So nowaways, it's not even a slang anymore that when you say "sparrow", it means you look down on something. But when you just say "sparrow" in English, it just means the bird; it doesn't have this other layer of meaning. It's almost a little bit like "mundane", the Thai word for sparrow. So I decided to keep the Thai title.
In the film, there are effects that resemble experimental filmmaking ...
There are effects that you find when you shoot on film, not stuff that you find when you shoot digitally [the film was mainly shot on Red camera]. Everything is very clean when you shoot digitally. That part was shot on 16mm. And when you get dirt onto the camera, or when the light gets in, then it does all these kinds of effects. That's natural and I like that filmic quality because it's unpolished. Plus, the main character want to be a filmmaker. So in some ways, you could view this little segment as his own experimental filmmaking technique. Actually I wanted to make it look not so sophisticated because I'd like to suggest that this section could be made by the young man himself -- like a student film.
I still think about Johnnie To's Sparrow, about a group of light-fingered pickpockets flitting through the streets of Hong Kong. I guess that's the language of film.
Mundane History is still on the festival circuit. It's in competition in Singapore and is also in competition at the Open Doek Film Festival in Turnhout, Belgium.