Friday, May 14, 2010

Pen-ek, Anocha among the Strong Thailand projects

The Nation's Parinyaporn Pajee had a story yesterday about indie filmmakers protesting the Culture Ministry's film-funding scheme, which has been covered here previously.

The article lists nine of the 47 approved projects, among them Fon Tok Khuen Fah by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, who sought 20 million baht and received 8 million baht.

Anocha Suwichakornpong sought and received 1.5 million baht for a project called Dao Kanong, also known by the working title of By the Time It Gets Dark. A drama about a factory worker in suburban Bangkok, By the Time It Gets Dark also received €15,000 (about 600,000 baht) in support from CineMart at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Others include E-Nang Ei (White Buffalo), which received 5.2 million baht. In development by Prachya Pinkaew's Baa-Ram-Ewe production house, it's about women in the northeast of Thailand with white foreigner husbands.

And Ruthaiwan Wongsirasawas received 1.2 million baht in conditional funding for Sai Num Look Phuying (A River's Tale). Her previous films include Waiounlawon 4 (Oops, There's Dad) and the Chinatown segment of last year's Sawasdee Bangkok short-film anthology.

To recap the issue, the filmmakers, led by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Manit Sriwanichpoom, reason that it's not fair to give 100 million baht -- half of the Culture Ministry's Strong Thailand (Thai Khem Kaeng, ไทย เข้มแข็ง) "creative economy" stimulus money -- to one movie project, the big-budget epic, The Legend of King Naresuan Parts III and IV. The other 100 million baht is split between 48 projects. Another 246 that applied for funding are unsupported.

Thai indie filmmakers, who have traditionally sought funds from such places as the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam or the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum, have been waiting decades for the Thai government to acknowledge them and support their efforts.

The Nation quotes Apichatpong:

It's the first time the government has paid attention to the movie business and look at how it's panning out. How will we feel when we talk about that support in the next 10 or 20 years - ashamed or full of pride?"

Apichatpong stands to receive 3.5 million baht in unconditional funds from the scheme, but says he won't accept it.

Manit, who submitted a project but did not receive any funding, says "if the film board insists on going ahead, we may seek justice in court".

The filmmakers have also complained about a lack of transparency and have questioned the expertise of the funding subcommittee and the structure of the funding.

However, one of subcommittee members, is film expert Ajarn Kittisak Suwannaphokin, who tells The Nation "the problem is that the public doesn't know our working details so they are suspicious about transparency."

Kittisak further explains that projects with economic value have priority, because the film fund has an aim of stimulating the economy.

Also, some of the films are receiving funds with a "return" condition, with Naresuan expected to return 50 million baht.

Other projects, such as Apichatpong's, Pen-ek's and Anocha's, are funded unconditionally.

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