Down in Phuket over the weekend attending the film festival, I missed the big goings-on up in the Bangkok area – the historic coming-home party for Palme d'Or-winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhom Pathom.
Around 250 people attended Sunday's San D-Jai event – likely the biggest crowd yet for the Film Archive compound.
Joei walked a red carpet up to the Sri Salaya Theatre with his cast and Kick the Machine crew, including actress "Pa Jane" Jenjira Jansuda, actor "Tong" Sakda Kaewbuadee and actress Wallapa Mongkolprasert.
There was a ceremony for Pa Jane and Tong to put their hands and feet prints in the "lan dara" – the Walk of Stars outside the theatre. Two of the one-meter-square chunks were prepared. Joei and other cast members got to sign the wet cement. Since Joei is not primarily a film actor, he cannot yet put his hand and footprints in the pavement, despite his winning one of cinema's most prestigious awards.
There was a press conference with Joei inside the cinema, with Bangkok Post film writer and critic Kong Rithdee leading the interviews and having Joei talk about the moment when he won the Palme d'Or.
Back outside, the grounds took on the ambiance of a temple fair, with an outdoor movie screen showing short films, among them A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and the Moderndog music video shot as part of the Primitive art project. Fluorescent light tubes were set up, just like in Joei's films. Like a scene out of Tropical Malady there was karaoke singing, with Tong Sakda taking the mic to belt out the number from that movie.
Filmmaker and musician “Madiew” Chookiat Sakweerakul also took a turn on the stage.
Fellow filmmakers and artists gave testimonials, among them Citizen Juling co-director Manit Sriwanichapoom, who's joined Joei in protesting the Culture Ministry's film-funding scheme under the Thai Khem Khan (Strong Thailand) campaign. He's quoted by The Nation:
I deeply appreciate his courage in fighting the government agencies that have tried to destroy the beauty of art. Joei has so much spirit. He’s used his prizes to advance the independent film business in Thailand. He is basically the representative of all Thai independent moviemakers.”
Everyone at the party wanted to see the prize-winning film, but it wasn't shown and plans for a release are uncertain. For a select number of lucky press and invited guests, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives will have one screening this week.
The Nation explains:
Unfortunately, the director’s cut version is only open to members of the press and special guests, because the movie hasn’t been through the censorship process. I still hope it will go on public release soon,” Joei added.
Will winning the Palme d’Or help the film pass the censors?
“I won’t be pressuring or lobbying the film censor board. Let them work freely through the normal process,” he replied.
Update: Bangkok Post columnist Steve Graham recalls last year's Cannes "win".
Update 2: IndieWire has an interview with Tilda Swinton on her "next passion project", which she is developing is in collaboration with Apichatpong. "They’ve known each other for years."