The Thai government's controversial film-funding plan under the Thai Khem Kaeng (ไทย เข้มแข็ง, Strong Thailand) "creative economy" campaign was the subject of an opinion piece in The Nation on Saturday.
Guest columnist Panu Boonpiputtanapong voiced the same concerns that Bangkok Post critic (and indie filmmaker) Kong Rithdee has about the scheme, in which half of the 200 million baht will go to one project: veteran director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's historical epic The Legend of King Naresuan 3 and 4. Earlier, the Naresuan sequels had been given 330 million baht from the Commerce Ministry, the column says. He continues:
The authorities claim that these films were being made to showcase Thailand's history, culture and the legend of a great king. However, they have refused to acknowledge that 430 million baht could have been used to support the entire industry, with students and young filmmakers using the funds to make hundreds of small-budget films. It is not fair that this opportunity be given to a man - who has already made a name for himself -- to make a film about a person who lived hundreds of years ago.
The Commerce Ministry ponied up money for Naresuan? I thought it was the Culture Ministry.
Anyway, the apparent plan all along has been under that assumption that the Naresuan sequels will be such cash bonanzas like the first two that Prince Chatrichalerm will be able to repay the 100 million baht or however much and that money will be used to bankroll future films under the Strong Thailand program.
At the end of The Nation piece, the paper printed a response from Chatrichalerm, who is an active poster on the Pantip.com forum under the name Cinephile. They translated the following from this thread:
It's like the government owns this movie. They will have the right for every kind of product, including DVDs, souvenirs etc and will be able to get returns on their investment very soon.
"I don't know how they decided which movie they should fund, because I'm not on the committee. However, I think they chose my movie because they studied my past successes with films such as Legend of King Naresuan [Parts 1 and 2] as well as Suriyothai. They obviously believe that I can produce a hit, which would ensure that they get returns from their investment. That's why they decided to give me the funds.
"They have also funded outstanding small and independent filmmakers such as Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
"I don't think you should look upon me as a bully, because I have spent 30 years fighting with the government -- not for myself but for the industry and the young people. I know I have to pay back what I've got, even though I still have to bargain over some conditions. I am definitely not selling my house to pay back the government."
Pen-ek and Apichatpong are two of the most recognized names in Thailand's filmmaking scene. Independent yes, but not small in terms of worldwide recognition. Deserving and needing support, but not unknowns.
Again, this is probably because the government is banking on name recognition as it gets its film-funding mechanisms up and running.
Hope to hear more about the other projects being funded.