Friday, July 30, 2010

Wet Nana Dreamscape to premiere at Bangkok IndieFest

One night in Bangkok, as the song goes.

And a guy is hanging out on Soi Cowboy.

Photographer, writer and visual conceptualist Jimmie Wing, making his debut film Wet Nana Dreamscape, tells what happened next.

Wet Nana Dreamscape was conceived and created around Oscar Wilde's famous quote "We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars".

While drowning his sorrows in an outdoor café, a despondent young man perks up when he sees two alluring models eyeing him from across the way. Inevitably the chemistry of mutual attraction brings them all together and they board a passing 3-wheeled Thai taxi [a tuk-tuk]. With a gorgeous model on either side of him, the young man is overjoyed, but just as he is anticipating double happiness, everything changes ...

Awake, day-dreaming or in the throes of a nightmare? Sometimes people are not who we expect them to be and things do not always go as planned.

Double happiness. Double rainbow.

There's also a trailer, embedded below.

Wet Nana Dreamscape is comprised 90 percent of DSLR stills brought to life through multi-layered composite editing by British visual effects wizard, Phil Claffey.

The original music score was created in Taiwan by Lim Giong (林強), winner of multiple awards for soundtracks on movies created by some of Asia's pre-eminent directors. He is also a leading figure in the Taiwanese experimental electronic music scene. Lim Giong has just won best film score at the 2010 Shanghai International Film Festival for Deep in the Clouds.

Wet Nana Dreamscape has previously been in the official selection for 2009's LA Shorts fest, Giggleshorts in Toronto and a semi-finalist for the ACTION/CUT 2009 Short Film Competition.

It makes its Asian premiere at Bangkok IndieFest, set for August 6 to 8 at Hof Art Gallery, off Ratchadapisek Road.

The 4-minute short is playing as part of the Area 51 program, on August 7 at 8.45pm and August 8 at 8.30.

Giong and Wing are expected to attend.

Check the Bangkok IndieFest website for the complete lineup and the schedules.

The fest also offers Movie Sidebar space with room for an Open Movie Jam, and invites anyone to bring their short films for screening – within certain limits – no pr0n or commercials allowed.

Phobia 2 in Toronto After Dark

Phobia 2 is heading for Toronto.

The slick package of horror shorts is among the titles announced yesterday for Toronto After After Dark.

Phobia 2 (Haa Phrang, 5 แพร่ง, literally "five crossroads") is the work of five directors at GTH studio: Paween Purijitpanya (Body #19), executive producer Visute Poolvoralaks making his directorial debut, Songyos Sugmakanan (Dorm) and one each from the Shutter/Alone duo of Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun.

Here's more from TADFF:

From the same group of filmmakers that scared fans out of their seats with Toronto After Dark audience hits Alone (2007) and Phobia (2008) comes this highly anticipated sequel. Phobia 2 brings back three of the directors from Phobia, and adds two new ones, presenting five new terrifying and gruesome tales from Thailand. A delinquent youth seeks refuge in a rural monastery, only to anger the local Gods. A young man admitted to hospital finds himself in the room of a near-dead cult leader who has other plans for his soul. A teenage couple attempting to hitchhike to the city finds themselves on the run from drug-running zombies. A shady used car saleswoman finds herself alone at night and under attack. And three young filmmakers attempt to keep their cool when one of the cast members comes back from the dead to finish the movie. A sure classic from the current golden age of Thai horror.

Phobia 2 recently screened at the just-wrapped Fantasia fest in Montreal and the Asian Film Festival of Dallas.

Toronto After Dark runs from August 13 to 20.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Two Thai shorts at 67th Venice International Film Festival

Woman I
by Nuntanat Duangtisarn and Four Seasons by "Teem" Chaisiri Jiwarangsan are among the selection of medium-length and short films in the Horizons (Orizzonti) section of the 67th Venice International Film Festival.

Revamped for this year, the Orizzonti section is the festival's "laboratory", open to all “extra-format” works, with a "broader and more dynamic overview of the latest forms adopted by the expressive languages used in cinema".

There are four new awards: the Orizzonti Award for full-length films, the Special Orizzonti Jury Prize for full-length films, the Orizzonti Award for short films and the Orizzonti Award for medium-length films.

The Orizzonti jury is chaired by Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, with a panel comprised of Tunisian writer-director Raja Amari, Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz (a previous Orizzonti winner for Death in the Land of Encantos, a 2007 special mention, and 2008's Melancholia), Austrian Film Museum director Alexander Horwath and Italian director Pietro Marcello.

The full list of Horizons films is at Variety (cache).

Four Seasons, an 11-minute short by Chaisiri is described as "a portrait of a migrant construction worker on her days off. She goes to a waterfall to rest and let her mind drift." It also portrays "a construction site at night with illuminating lights from the heavy machinery."

Chaisri's previous short My Mother and Her Portrait was featured at the World Film Festival of Bangkok and in Rotterdam. He worked as a stills photographer for Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Primitive project, photos that are subsequently featured in Apitchatpong's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

The maker of Woman I, Nuntanat Duangtisarn, is a young director of music videos, commercials and documentaries. He's trained at editor Lee Chatametikool's Houdini Studio. The 20-minute Woman I features actor Nophand Boonyai with Apichatpong's frequent actress, Jenjira Pongpas.

The Venice International Film Festival runs from September 1 to 11.

Update: Film Business Asia has a list of all the Asian films at Venice.

Teaser poster and Thai release date for Red Eagle

Red Eagle is really happening.

The much-anticipated reboot of the Thai action-movie franchise by Tears of the Black Tiger director Wisit Sasanatieng has a Thai release date of October 7.

Red Eagle (Insee Dang, อินทรีเเดง ) stars Ananda Everingham as a masked vigilante crimefighter.

Ananda steps into a role most famously played by Thai screen legend Mitr Chaibancha from the 1950s to 1970, when Mitr took a fatal fall from a helicopter while filming Insee Tong (Golden Eagle).

The release date of Red Eagle is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Mitr's death on October 8, 1970.

Musician and actress Yarinda Bunnag, who previously starred in Best of Times (Kwaam Jam San Dtae Rak Chan Yaao, ความจำสั้น แต่รักฉันยาว), co-stars.

During the Mitr Chaibancha era, Red Eagle was backed up by screen siren Petchara Chaowarat, making for one of Thai cinema's most popular pairings.

The plot of the new Red Eagle goes like this:

A nuclear power plant is about to be commissioned upon the signing of corrupt and power hungry politicians. The citizens are in frenzy, as they oppose this plan but they cannot do a thing about it. And so, a hero was born, chasing down the criminals and the corrupt, killing of whatever threatens the city's well being. He leaves a card with his name simply as "THE RED EAGLE". However, the hero becomes the hunted, when the politicians send out their best defense, known as “THE BLACK DEMON”.

A teaser trailer will coming soon.

I hope to be among the first to see it.

Meanwhile, there's also Wisit's Iron Pussy: A Kimchi Affair, a short that Wisit did with Michael Shaowanasai as part of Camellia, a.k.a. the Busan Project, due to premiere at this year's Pusan International Film Festival.

It's going to be a busy October for Wisit and his fans.

Update: Oh, check this out.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eternity, Departure Day receive Asian Cinema Funds

The Pusan Film Festival’s Asian Cinema Fund has announced that two Thai projects are among the 27 feature films and documentaries it is supporting this year.

The fund gives support in three categories: script development, post production and documentaries.

Departure Day, a feature by Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, received script-development funds. According to Variety, it's an $8,300 award, new this year, for Asian Film Academy graduates.

Eternity (Tee-Rak), the feature debut by Sivaroj Kongsakul, gets post-production funds. Eternity, produced by Pop Pictures, was previously shown in the Paris Project screenings. It has also been named among the recipients of Strong Thailand funds from the Culture Ministry.

Film Business Asia has a complete list of the recipients.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dear Galileo in Hong Kong, Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story in Singapore

Fans of the GTH studio's cute romantic comedy-dramas will likely be in luck with last week's Hong Kong release of Dear Galileo and this week's Singapore opening of Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story.

Both countries are more English-friendly than Thailand, and so the movies' release there will likely mean there'll be an English-subtitled DVD release in a few months.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tak didn't take it off in Pop Star

The drama Pop Star (ดวงอันตราย, Duang Antarai) may have been a star vehicle for musician Jay Montonn Jira, but the big talk about the movie is a supposedly nude scene for Jay's co-star, actress "Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai (บงกช คงมาลัย).

It's been controversial, because in the extremely conservative Thai entertainment industry, actresses are required to maintain a veneer of respectability, and so while they might model bikinis and strike sexy poses for magazines, they will rarely ever do nude scenes.

And though the trailer for Pop Star seems to show a nude Tak undressing in front of a mirror, Tak insists that it's all movie magic.

The Bangkok Post's Mae Moo Sunday gossip column has more:

She actually wore a flesh-colored stocking over her body as she filmed the scene.

"The special effects people edited it out. They also redrew the line of my breasts and my bottom. I was impressed – my breasts look good and firm."

The screen siren, whose previous films include Ai-Fak, Tom Yum Goong, Chai Lai Angels and Burn, goes on to maintain that the bare breasts glimpsed in Pop Star "are not mine." Those are a body double, another common trick in Thai cinema, so a leading actress can claim her dignity is intact.

Pop Star, meanwhile, practically disappeared from Bangkok cinemas after less than a week since opening on July 15. In my scan of the cinema-listings last week, I saw it was only playing at some, not all, Major Cineplex branches. I didn't get the chance to see it. It didn't make the top 10 at the Thai box office on its opening weekend.

Seems that nudity or not, Pop Star wasn't attracting the crowds.

Apichatpong to serve on jury for YouTube Play

Apichatpong Weerasethakul has been named to serve on the jury of YouTube Play, a "a Biennial of Creative Video" that's collaboration between Google's video-sharing website and the Guggenheim Museum, presented by HP and Intel.

Here's more from Google's blog:

YouTube Play jurors include musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson; musical group Animal Collective; visual artists Douglas Gordon, Ryan McGinley, Marilyn Minter and Takashi Murakami; artists and filmmakers Shirin Neshat, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Darren Aronofsky; and graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, with Guggenheim Chief Curator and Deputy Director Nancy Spector serving as jury chairperson.

Over the course of the next few months, these jurors will watch countless hours of videos submitted by the international YouTube community and select the most creative and inspiring work to showcase at the Guggenheim museums in October.

The deadline for entries is fast approaching: July 31.

The winners will be presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York on October 21, with simultaneous presentations at the Guggenheim museums in Berlin, Bilbao and Venice. The videos will be on view to the public from October 22 through 24 in New York and on the YouTube Play channel.

(Via Jon Russell/Asia Correspondent)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Newly promoted Thai Film Archive director dreams of a cinematheque

Dome Sukwong, Thailand's hard-working film archivist and historian, recently got a promotion as director of the Film Archive Public Organization of Thailand (Fapot).

Formerly chief archivist of the National Film Archive, Dome's unit in the Fine Arts Department was elevated last year to public organization status, which moves him to a higher rung on the bureaucratic ladder and in theory puts him in closer reach of much-needed funds for film preservation.

His budget is still limited, though, and he receives a pittance that doesn't come close to adequately funding the gargantuan task he's been working his whole life to get a handle on.

The Thai Film Archive compound in Salaya, though tidy and well maintained, is still under-equipped, with a film-storage facility that is bursting at the seams, the Sri Salaya theatre that will only hold a small audience and Thai Film Museum that is overflowing with artifacts and icons.

Shipping containers are being converted for more storage, library and office space, but these are only temporary.

Dome his bigger dreams – he wants to build a proper cinematheque, a massive 800-million-baht facility that would include a cinema, film school, libraries, exhibition space and film-restoration lab.

His plans are detailed in an article in today's Bangkok Post by Kong Rithdee:

We already have a blueprint, we already have a piece of land," says Dome. "A cinematheque is necessary just as libraries and museums are necessary in any nation. I believe that a Cinematheque – or Film House, if you prefer – is a boost to the cultural image of our country. It's a weapon for promoting intelligence and wisdom. When Thailand buys aircraft carriers or fighter jets, they have to be powerful, expensive and formidable because they would send a message to other countries. Likewise with cultural weapons, we have to invest, because it will show the world how we're seriously developing our citizens to become intelligent people."

The Fapot website for details on upcoming special events, including a discussion on July 31 of all the Mae Nak films including a screening of Pimpaka Towira's 1995 short. There are daily screenings, including a series on the movies by the six directors of the 2003 hit childhood comedy Fan Chan and Malaysian films, as well as weekly Sunday matinee screenings of The Adventure of Sudsakorn.

Bioscope's Indy Spirit Project to show six shorts by Apichatpong

Six short films by Cannes Golden Palm winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul will be presented by the filmmaker himself on Tuesday, July 27 (Buddhist Lent Day, a major Thai public holiday) at SF Cinema City MBK as part of Bioscope magazine's Indy Spirit Project.

The six shorts are:

  • Luminous People, a 2007 segment for the State of the World project, which depicts a family spreading a father's ashes during a boat trip on the Mekong. It was also featured at 2008's Traces of Siam Smile exhibition at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre in 2008.
  • My Mother's Garden, a 2007 work commissioned by Christian Dior.
  • Windows, from 1999.
  • Ghost of Asia, from 2005, part of the Tsunami Digital Short Films that was curated by Apichatpong and screened at the World Film Festival of Bangkok. It's co-directed with Christelle Lheureux and stars Sakda Kaewbuadee as a "ghost" being controlled by seaside urchins.
  • Emerald (Morakot), a haunting 2007 work featuring Sakda and Jenjira Pongpas as they inhabit the abandoned Morakot hotel on Bangkok's Soi Thonglor. It was part of the Tomyam Pladib exhibition at the Jim Thompson Art Center in 2008.
  • Vampire, a chilling piece done in 2007 for Louis Vuitton, about a hunter tracking a blood-sucking bird. It was featured at last year's Bangkok ... Bananas!! art festival

The show time is 5pm.

Tickets are 150 baht, available by calling (081) 357 2716.

(Via Bioscope)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Apichatpong-a-rama: It's not gay zombie porn, but Uncle Boonmee is in Melbourne

The Melbourne International Film Festival starts today, with the surprise addition of this year's Cannes Golden Palm winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives to the lineup.

It's playing alongside a companion short in director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Primitive project, A Letter to Uncle Boonmee.

Of the feature film, Apichatpong says:

More than my other films, Uncle Boonmee is very much about cinema, that’s also why it’s personal. If you care to look, each reel of the film has a different style – acting style, lighting style, or cinematic references – but most of them reflect movies. I think that when you make a film about recollection and death, you have to consider that cinema is also dying – at least this kind of old cinema that nobody makes anymore.”

Interestingly, the 59-year-old festival has been hit with the first time a film has been "banned". The controversial L.A. Zombie by Bruce LaBruce was refused a rating by Australia's Film Classification Board. It's the followup to LaBruce's Otto: Or Up With Dead People, which was actually screened at the 2008 Bangkok International Film Festival, much to the shock, disbelief and weirded-out delight of anyone who saw it.

L.A. Zombie is described by festival director Richard Moore as a "video art zombie film". It stars French adult-film star Francois Sagat as a man convinced he is an alien zombie sent to Earth to roam the streets of Los Angeles in search of dead bodies and gay sex.

The Canadian director had this to say to the Sydney Morning Herald:

My first thought was ‘Eureka!’ I’ll never understand how censors don’t see that the more they try to suppress a film, the more people will want to see it. It gives me a profile I didn’t have yesterday."

Yeah, nobody seems to get that.

The Melbourne International Film Festival runs until August 8. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives shows on the last day.

Meanwhile, lots of other stuff happening with Apichatpong:

  • He was interviewed on CNN Talk Asia. "Thailand's ghost-friendly filmmaker" talked about his big win at Cannes and facing Thailand's censors. Here's another link to the CNN Talk Asia story.
  • Apichatpong and "princess" actress Wallapa Mongkolprasert are interviewed in Cannes at Independencia, with Christelle Lheureux on camera. There's three parts, 1, 2, 3.
  • He's participating in the Sao Paulo Biennale, which runs from September 25 to December 12.
  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives ends its limited Bangkok run on Sunday. Talks are under way to bring it to Khon Kaen and Phuket, and maybe Chiang Mai.
  • There's a French poster for Oncle Boonmee. The film is due for release in France on September 1. French rights are held by Pyramide Distribution.
Update: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives has been added to the New Zealand International Film Festival and will open the Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival.

Review: Kao Rak Thee Korea (Sorry Saranghaeyo)

  • Directed by Poj Arnon
  • Starring Noh Ah-joo, Haru Yamagushi, Ratchanon Sukprakob, Sarun Sirilak, Thanya Rattanamalakul
  • Released in Thai cinemas on July 8, 2010; rated 13+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Maybe Poj Arnon should make more movies in South Korea?

Because the latest effort by the prolific producer-director, Kao Rak Thee Korea (เการัก ที่เกาหลี) or Sorry Saranghaeyo, is uncharacteristically brisk and coherent, marking a major departure from previous efforts that were sprawling, indecipherable messes.

Kao Rak Thee Korea is a broad parody of the Korean trend that has inundated Thai culture in recent years, with Thais eagerly glomming on to South Korean soap operas, pop music and hairstyles.

The movie focuses on a family that runs a dry-cleaning business – middle-class Thais with a big house, a garish wardrobe of winter clothing and enough disposable income to afford a winter package tour to South Korea.

The main character is the teen daughter Kana. She's played by Haru Yamagushi, a enthusiastic bundle of energy in a kewpie-doll-size package. She's obsessed with all things Korean, especially the pop star Ajoo.

Her sister, Mara (Thanya Rattanamalakul), also follows the Korean trend, and wants to visit one of Seoul's vaunted cosmetic surgery clinics to reshape her ghost-face looks, which prevent her from having any success on a string of blind dates.

Along for the ride are a pair of Kana's young suitors, Won (Sarun Sirilak), who wants to be a K-pop dancer, and the brooding Chai ("Guy" Ratchanon Sukprakob), as well as Kana's BFF, effeminate guy Sayan (Patrick Paiyer). There's also mom and grandmother, and pair of effeminate male tour guides (one played by hoarse-voiced DJ "Moddam" Kachapa Tancharoen).

Kana is quickly deposited in a Seoul clinic for her treatments, but bizarrely turns back up during the tour in various states of ongoing repair, with the bandages on her face increasing with each visit, until even her eyes are swaddled over with gauze.

Kana, along with goofball mom and grandma and the effeminate tour guides, serve as comic relief and the source of parody. They are all rather shallow, vain and annoying.

Meanwhile, teenybopper Kana and her effeminate male friend Sayan have snuck away from the tour, taking a train to find her idol Ajoo.

This portion of the film is more melodramatic in tone and is boosted by the appearance of pop star Ajoo, smoothly and confidently playing a version of himself.

The set-up has him feeling overworked and depressed after a break-up with a girlfriend. It's a comment on the pressure-cooker that is the South Korean entertainment industry, where stars are precision-manufactured money machines, and they pay a high price if they break down.

Kana's visit is just the distraction he needs, and his stern taskmaster manager allows him to take a few days off to get his head right.

The concern is whether this star genuinely likes Kana or is just taking advantage of her, and how far is he going to go.

Chai has Ajoo's manager's phone number (they speak English to each other) and he uses it to track down the star and his gal pal. He and Won eventually turn up and keep a close eye on Ajoo.

One humorous scene has all three guys soaking together in a tiny hot tub, and the appearance of someone in the doorway makes them all hug each other tight in order to cover up their private parts. The other person just shakes their head, wondering what the heck that was all about.

Gorgeous snow-covered landscapes are captured lovingly, and when Kana's heart is indeed broken – Ajoo couldn't help it after all – she tearfully traipses through the winter wonderland, sobbing like she's in a music video. Second-stringer Chai is there to hug her.

The cohesiveness of the narrative starts to fall apart once the family returns to Bangkok for a frenzied ending that culminates at a K-pop concert.

They all should have stayed in South Korea.

Related posts:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Phobia 2 reviewed in Montreal, headed for Dallas

The five-segment horror shorts anthology Phobia 2 has been playing at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal, where it's received decent buzz.

It's been playing alongside Jija Yanin's Raging Phoenix and Sompote Sands' Giant and Jumbo A.

Phobia 2 (Haa Phrang, 5 แพร่ง, literally "five crossroads") is the work of five directors at GTH studio: Paween Purijitpanya (Body #19), studio honcho Visute Poolvoralaks making his directorial debut, Songyos Sugmakanan (Dorm) and one each from the Shutter/Alone duo of Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun.

It next heads to the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, where it's making its U.S. premiere.

Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia is also playing Dallas.

Row Three's Kurt Halfyard saw Phobia 2 in Montreal and gave it a glowing review:

It is rather nice to see [a] sequel that not only has the production values improved, but the stories are across the board solid whilst keeping the spirit of the enterprise unchanged. In short, the collective of directors has successfully raised the bar [with] a solid mixture of organically tones and stories interspersed with comedy grace notes.

Ain't It Cool's Quint gave it a mixed review, saying "2 of them are great [Songyos' Backpackers and Banjong's In the End, 2 of them are okay [Visute's Ward and Parkpoom's Salvage] and one is mediocre [Paween's Novice]."

I liked Novice. A lot.

The Asian Film Festival of Dallas runs from July 23 to 29.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tukky, Thai comedy's princess, kisses a frog

"Tukky" Sudarat Butrprom got her start in showbiz as a wardrobe assistant and now she's a star.

Surely her true-life story will have parallels with her latest movie, which opens this week.

The comic actress, who's a fixture in the lineup of comedians in films by Poj Arnon and Mum Jokmok, as well as Workpoint TV shows, takes the lead in Tukky Jao Ying Khai Kob ตุ๊กกี้เจ้าหญิงขายกบ, roughly, "Tukky, the frog princess").

It's directed by Pornchai Hongrattanaporn, better known as Mr. Pink, who jumps over to Sahamongkol Film International for this comedy after co-directing the romantic comedy-dramas My Valentine and Before Valentine at Five Star. He debuted in 2004 with the colorful cult-hit comedy Bangkok Loco (ทวารยังหวานอยู่), which was done at RS Film.

In Tukky, the little leading lady is an unattractive girl who magically becomes the princess of an isolated fairytale realm, where she is the heiress to the throne.

She's supported by her chief aide, singer-actor Louis Scott, the buddy of Ananda Everingham who's featured in the Sawasdee Bangkok. short Bangkok Blues. He acted in the 1998 Five Star feature Wildest Days back in his teenage years, and performed in the boyband rap duo Raptor with Joni Anwar.

Tukky also has the usual cast of clowns, including Choosak "Nong Chachacha" Iamsuk, Teng Terdtheng and Kom Chuanchuen.

Plenty of parody of the European-style royal culture is in store from the looks of the trailer, embedded below.

NETPAC-FCCT Asian Film Festival in Bangkok

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, in association with the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) will screen six NETPAC award-winning films over the next three months. The movies are from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

NETPAC, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is a group of Asian filmmakers, screenwriters, festival programmers and academics. The organization is perhaps best known for its special jury panels at 23 film festivals, including the Bangkok International Film Festival.

It has previously organized conferences on Asian Cinema Heritage and Culture in New Delhi in 2007 and Kuala Lumpur in 2008.

NETPAC also holds the annual Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival in Indonesia.

In collaboration with Australia's Asia Pacific Screen Awards, there's the APSA NETPAC Development Prize, worth US$5,000 to an emerging Asian filmmaker.

NETPAC was also instrumental in the development of, a digital film library that streams artistic and culturally significant films from Asia and the Pacific.

NETPAC has also supported books on Asian cinema.

Many of these now-classic NETPAC award-winning films in the FCCT series will be screened during NETPAC's 2010 Imaging Asia conference in New Delhi from August 19-22. It includes a great line-up of films, among them Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia (2009) and Nonzee Nimibutr's ghost romance, Nang Nak (1999), both NETPAC award winners.

The FCCT's film series starts on Thursday, July 22 with Mr. and Mrs. Iyer from India.

The opening was to have been in April, but was postponed because of the red-shirt protests that took place at the Rajprasong Intersection near the FCCT's penthouse club in the Maneeya building at the Chitlom skytrain station.

Full details are over at the supplementary blog, Bangkok Cinema Scene.

Meet That Sounds Good's Elly Nguyen

In the Thai road-trip romance That Sounds Good (เรา สองสาม คน, Rao Song Sam Khon), the driver played by Jay Montonn Jira has brief encounter with a young Vietnamese woman who's running an art gallery.

The bespectacled woman in a tight pink tank top has a very small role but the 1.68cm model and actress can't help but make a big impression with her 37-25-34 measurements.

She is Elly Tran Ha, credited as Elly Nguyen. She is also known as Elly Kim Hong (阮金紅) and is famous as a Vietnamese "net idol".

Half Vietnamese and half Chinese, the 23-year-old Elly was born in the U.S.A. but is among the new crop of Vietnamese returnees.

One of the behind-the-scenes videos for That Sounds Good (embedded below) features Elly. She's in the trailer, which features pretty much the extent of her appearance in the movie.

She's there to provide confusion for the other bespectacled young woman in the movie. Jay is talking about Elly, but the girl think he's talking about her. It's a minor bit of confusion that is spun into a bigger issue later on as the love triangle between driver Jay and his two young-lady passengers.

Jay is starring in Pop Star (ดวงอันตราย, Duang Antarai), which opened last week, as That Sounds Good fades from cinemas.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sorry, this TV commercial is banned in Thailand

A television commercial that shows news footage from the red-shirt political protests at the Rajprasong Intersection and the May 19 military crackdown and arson attacks has been banned in Thailand.

The commercial, We're Sorry, Thailand (ขอโทษประเทศไทย, Kor Thod... Pra Thet Thai) is by a media consortium called Positive Strength to Change Thailand.

It was banned by the Television Station Joint censorship Committee, which deemed the message and pictures too extreme, and believed there was a risk of defamation, The Nation reports.

But it can still be viewed on YouTube. And Thai101 has provided an English-subtitled and annotated version. It's embedded above.

The commercial asks rhetorical questions: "Have we done something wrong? Have we been too violent? Have we done our duty? Have we thought of the public? Have we cheated? Have we taken advantage? Have we edified the public? Have we degraded ourselves? Have we cared more about money than what's right? Have we just waited around for help?"

The commercial also shows a clip from a nightly soap opera, of two women fighting, as well as the yellow-shirt political protesters.

And then it switches to idyllic scenes of Thai culture – Buddhist temples, monks making the morning alms rounds, a rice farmer with his water buffalo and citizens reading in the library.

The score is a solo piano rendition of "Auld Lang Syne".

"If someone is to blame, that someone is all of us. We're sorry, Thailand. And if these problems are to be fixed, then it is us Thais who must stand up and fix them. Let's engrave these losses in our hearts and turn them into strength."

Prime Minister's Office Minister Ong-art Klampaiboon denied his office was responsible for the the ban, and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he thought the commercial was okay and saw no reason for it to be banned, but told Thai Rath, "I won't intervene".

Another irony is that the Center for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), the body keeping order under the State of Emergency, has the video on its website.

As Veen_NT has pointed out, the censorship of such seemingly innocuous images is similar to the censorship of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's film, Syndromes and a Century. In that case, censors deemed six scenes inappropriate, including a monk strumming a guitar, monks playing with a flying saucer and doctors drinking whisky in the hospital.

These are scenes that contain social commentary, reflections on contemporary Thai society, which were deemed inappropriate and disrespectful of various institutions.

In the case of the TV commercial, the depictions of violence are shown nightly on television, in soap operas and action movies. But because the footage is real, and is framed as social commentary, the cultural minders deem them inappropriate.

The censorship is an attempted whitewash of the issue, which backfires because of the Streisand effect, which has caused more people to view the video and comment on it than if it hadn't been banned.

Update: Of course the ad itself is a whitewash, as On_Off_Course comments on Twitter. Meanwhile, the censorship committee has called a special meeting.

Update 2: The censors explain, according to The Nation:

Some parts of the commercial could be the basis for legal action by a third party, while some others could be in violation of other people's rights and freedom, the committee said in a statement.

To allow the commercial on air, the panel has ordered that six scenes of the 150-second commercial, involving images deemed legally and morally improper such as the burning of buildings, soldiers pointing guns, nudity, monks being arrested and violent protests, be taken out.

"The committee's consideration of the radio and television commercials are based on the opinions and concerns of all parts of society. However, its mission is to create professional standards on the basis of creativity, social responsibility and peace of the people and the country," the statement said

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Variety reviews Ong-Bak 3

Variety's Richard Kuipers caught a recent U.S. screening of Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak 3 and had this to say (cache):

Too much contemplation and not enough demonstration sends Thai-socky Ong-Bak 3 slumping to the canvas. Latest and reportedly final installment lacks the emotional clout that would compensate for the meager footage of martial-arts superman/co-helmer Tony Jaa beating the daylights out of all comers.

The lackluster box-office performance (which wasn't helped by the red-shirt protests at the time) is also mentioned, as is Tony's ordination as a Buddhist monk.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Apichatpong-a-rama: Happy birthday Joei!

On this day, 40 years ago in Bangkok, Apichatpong Weerasethakul was born.

At 40 years old, even if he hadn't won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the filmmaker Thais know as Joei (or just plain Joe to Westerners), could still claim to a list of amazing achievements, if he wanted to.

But he's the kind of guy who just wants to keep working. On to the next thing. Whatever it may be.

Critics, cinephiles and scholars are all discussing Apichatpong and his work.

At the recent 6th Annual Southeast Asian Cinema Conference in Ho Chi Minh City, no less than two papers were presented on Apichatpong and his films. Philippa Lovatt from the University of Glasgow offered a look at last year's Primitive exhibition in Liverpool in Here Lies Memory: the Haunted Landscape of Nabua in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Primitive. Dianne Daley from RMIT University, Melbourne, offered An Empathetic Analysis of Time and Space in Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, a thought-provoking look at how Apichatpong's films seek to fill space, observe it or even transform it, as opposed to the commercial, Hollywood approach of simply devouring space and eating up time. They are like science fiction, without the lasers. Though a spaceship does turn up in A Letter to Uncle Boonmee.

Apichatpong's name is being lumped in with such cinematic titans as Andrei Tarkovsky, Michelangelo Antonioni, Eric Rohmer, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Terrence Malick and Robert Bresson, among a movement of directors mood-heavy movies, known as "contemplative cinema", "slow films" or even, in the words of Tony Youngblood, "Cinema Anima". In a recent piece on The Film Talk, Youngblood writes:

If most films race through the rapids and plunge over the waterfall, Weerasethakul’s movies float lazily down a quiet brook, occasionally meandering down side streams and getting caught in tangles of vines. Like all of the directors in this list, Weerasethakul knows how to pluck an inconsequential detail and imbibe it with all the life and emotion of the characters. One such moment happens in Syndromes and a Century when a classical guitarist plays a piece at an outdoor concert. It is the most moving musical performance I have ever seen in a fictional film.

Film School Rejects' Culture Warrior offers more about slow movies in Why You Should Know Slow Joe. Landon Palmer takes a look at Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady and Syndromes and a Century, and then says:

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is simply one of many contemporary filmmakers who use the deliberate pace to achieve something unique and challenging. For whatever its motivation or outcome, slow cinema is still one of many formal choices that challenge cinematic convention, and films like Joe’s stand as evidence of the potential achievement slow cinema can encounter.

There's more being said about Apichatpong in a recent Newsweek article. There's even quotes from the man himself:

Raised in the northern Thai city of Khon Kaen, where his parents were doctors, Weerasethakul credits a grade-school teacher for encouraging his interest in art. “He gave us free time and lots of creative materials to play with,” he recalls. After finishing an architecture degree from the local university in 1994, he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving his M.F.A. in film in 1997. In the U.S., where he stuffed envelopes to make money, he experienced the same kind of freedom he enjoyed in elementary school—“[but] this time, freedom of cinema,” he says.

Freedom of cinema has often eluded him in Thailand. When he made Syndromes and a Century, a tribute to his parents’ courtship, authorities ordered him, oddly, to cut scenes of a monk playing guitar, doctors boozing at a hospital, and a doctor making out with his girlfriend – changes he unsuccessfully fought for two years. Frustrated, Weerasethakul began work on Uncle Boonmee, part of a larger multimedia project called Primitive ... The title refers to “going back to when we lived in caves,” as well as “how we live here in Thailand, politically [and] psychologically,” says Weerasethakul.

It's a great article.

I'm kicking myself that I didn't go see Primitive when it was staged in Paris, Munich or Liverpool. Hope I get to see it someday soon.

Meanwhile, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is still having nightly screenings at the SFX Emporium cinema in Bangkok. I've heard it's still packing in audiences and is on track to earn an even 1 million baht.

That seems like a pretty good birthday present.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pop stars, nude starlets, prisoners and big-breasted drag queens

Nude starlets and large-breasted drag queens fill the big screens of Thailand this week, with the release of two Thai films, Pop Star, about a pop singer, and 8E88 Fan Lanla, a prison comedy.

Actress "Tak" Bongkote Kongmalai takes it all off in Pop Star (ดวงอันตราย, Duang Antarai). You can catch a glimpse of her(?) nudity in the English subtitled trailer (thanks to Deknang), embedded above.

The movie stars musician "Jay" Montonn Jira, star of the road-trip romance That Sounds Good (เรา สองสาม คน, Rao Song Sam Khon), which is still playing in cinemas.

In Pop Star, Jay makes a big stretch as a pop singer named Jay. As he looks to "go inter" and take his recording career to the U.S., he's struggling with family and mental problems as he's confronted by a past he thought he'd hidden.

Tak plays a young woman named Nui and veteran actor Nirut Sirichanya (Ong-Bak 3) plays Jay's father and manager.

The director is Robert La Force. The movie, long in production, was initially under Sahamongkol. Tak and Nirut are part of the Sahamongkol stock-company players. But it's now being released by the T Movie label.

There's probably a juicy story behind all that, but I don't know the details.

As for 8E88 Fan Lanla (8E88 แฟนลั้ลลา ), Wiroj Thongsiew (วิโรจน์ ทองชิว, Teng's Angel) directs this comedy about a guy named Kun (Jaturong "Mokjok" Ornnorm) who is thrown in prison for a crime he didn't commit. There, the stripe-suited inmates perform a parody of the Thai Life Insurance commercial with the kids-singing "Que Sera, Sera" that surely must now annoy the heck out of everyone who sees it.

And somehow a gang of cross-dressing criminals fits into the story, even if one of them barely fits into "her" dress because her breast implants are so freakishly huge. Along with the usual comedians who act in these Thai comedies, Atthama Chiwanitxaphan also stars as Kun's suffering fiancee Busaba.

The trailer is at YouTube and it's embedded below.

8E88 is the first release from a new production shingle, Saga Studio.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: That Sounds Good (Rao Song Sam Khon)

  • Directed by Leo Kittikorn
  • Starring Montonn Jira, Ramita Mahapreukpong and Rattanrat Eertaweekul
  • Released in Thai cinemas on June 24, 2010; rated 13+
  • Rating: 3/5

What's essentially an extended music video, the road-trip romantic comedy That Sounds Good (เรา สองสาม คน, Rao Song Sam Khon) looks good, with its stunning backdrops of Vietnamese tourism hotspots. And, it sure sounds good with its rousing Thai rock and pop soundtrack. But it's underpowered when it comes to substance.

Musician "Jay" Montonn Jira stars as Somchu, the good-natured driver of a four-wheel-drive rig on an Indochinese road rally, honking and grinding their way through the Central Highlands.

Along for the ride are two young women, Ter and Soontri (Ramita Mahapreukpong and Rattanrat Eertaweekul). Ter wears a pair of thick Harry Potter-style eyeglasses that keeps her in a perpetual state of ab baew (cute pose) while her friend Soontri has impaired hearing and wears hearing aids.

Soontri takes the shotgun seat. She dramatically lifts a ski mask off her face and introduces herself to Somchu, who is immediately captivated by her.

She likes him too, but even under the best of circumstances, people will have difficulty clearly expressing their thoughts to each other. Throw in hearing problems, poor eyesight and general thick-headededness, and well, then there are real troubles.

In the confines of their vintage orange Suzuki Caribbean the three get to know each other, sharing easy-going, good-natured banter.

Soontri explains that she can read lips and can understand what people are saying if they look directly at her and speak clearly. Until she locks on people's speech patterns, she perceives their voices as if they have inhaled helium. Sounds pretty funny.

A drunken night out by glasses girl, and a walk down a dark alley by her and the driver sparks friction between the two women.

The girls go wandering off alone, taking lonely walks over the sands of the deserts of Mui Ne. "Oh, they're in a music video," says somebody at the campfire.

It really is a music video.

And that's about all there is to it.

She likes him. He likes her. And so they spend the rest of the movie bumbling around trying to come out and tell that to each other.

Just like the trip they are on, they are driving in circles, not really going anywhere.

Related posts:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sawasdee Bangkok to make broadcast premiere

The nine-segment short-film anthology Sawasdee Bangkok (สวัสดีบางกอก) is set for broadcast on Monday, July 12 on TV Thai, the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (TBPS).

Commissioned by TPBS, the shorts are by an all-star roster of Thai directors: Bhandit Rittakol, Ruethaiwan Wongsirasawasdi, Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Wisit Sasanatieng, Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, Prachya Pinkaew, Aditya Assarat, Chookiat Sakveerakul and Santi Taepanich.

The series leads off with Maha Nakorn (มาหานคร), the last film by veteran director Bhandit Rittakol. The short premiered at last year's Bangkok International Film Festival on the eve of his death on October 1. Maha Nakorn stars Supakorn Kitsuwan and Intira Charoenpura as a country couple visiting the city.

Wisit directs Sightseeing (ทัศนา), which stars "Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai as a blind woman who lives under a bridge. She's given a unique tour of the city by an imaginative fellow who makes her think the mundane modern city is actually a fantastic mythical land.

Ruethaiwan, the director of Wai Onlawan 4, aka Oops, There's Dad, recalls nostalgic memories of Bangkok's Chinatown in Lost But Not Forgotten (หลงแต่ไม่ลืม), which has musician-actor "Pe" Arak Amornsupasiri and singing star Winai Bandurak encountering each other on the No. 40 ordinary bus to Yaowarat Road.

Silence by Pen-ek follows a young woman (Diet Pills singer Ploy Horwang, the little sis of Cris) on a rough night out. She suffers car trouble and gets help from a strange street character played by Pen-ek's Nymph star "Peter" Nopachai Jayanama.

Aditya's Bangkok Blues stars the comedy team of Ananda Everingham and Louis Scott, who deadpan their way through a segment that has Louis dealing with girl problems while Ananda encounters a young woman in a wrecked urban playground.

Bangkok Stories (เสนห์บางกอก) by Prachya is a lively series of short observations about city life, including traffic-light countdown clocks, food courts, censorship and a tip on using the toilet when there's no toilet paper – a frequent occurrence in Bangkok.

Chookiat's Sisters (พี่น้อง) is a childhood drama about an awkward little girl struggling in the shadow of her swan-like gymnast older sister.

Perhaps my favorite segment is I Love BKK (กรุงเทพที่รัก) by Santi Taepanich. It's a fast-paced documentary look at Bangkok that focuses on various colorful characters, including Chuwit Kamolvisit, the wild-eyed former massage parlor king who became a crusading politician and unsuccessful candidate for governor of Bangkok.

Finally, there's Pi Makham (ผีมะขาม) by Kongdej. The story, which turns out to be a rather dark thriller, is about a young man's night with a woman he picked up in Sanam Luang.

Aside from BKKIFF '09, the Thai PBS broadcasts are the only way to see all the shorts, which each run about a half hour. A package of four, comprising the shorts by Wisit, Pen-ek, Aditya and Kongdej, have previously been featured at various other film festivals.

The entire package of nine shorts, running about 4.5 hours in all, will be broadcast over two nights on July 12 and 13 at 8.20pm. And then each short is scheduled to be shown again over the
course of July and August.

Update: The July 12 broadcast wasn't the full versions of the films. Rikker tweets that the broadcast consisted of "spoilery synoptic trailers". Seems to me like a pointless waste of airtime.

Update 2: The shorts will be aired individually, at 8.20pm as follows: July 19, Mahanakorn; July 20, Sightseeing; July 26, Lost But Not Forgotten; July 27, Silence; August 2, Bangkok Blues; August 3, Bangkok Stories; August 9, Sisters; August 10, I Love BKK; August 16, Tamarind Ghost; August 17, A Look at the Nine Shorts. Kong Rithdee in the Bangkok Post has more.

(Via Deknang)

Slice, In Space in Asian American International Film Festival

Kongkiat Komesiri's bloody serial-killer thriller Slice and Vistra Vichit-Vadakan's short In Space are playing in New York's Asian-American International Film Festival.

Slice, with a story written by Wisit Sasanatieng, plays on Friday, July 16, at the Chelsea Clearview Cinema, as does In Space, which is part of the Oh Family Where Art Thou? Shorts Program.

AAIFF10 runs from July 15 to 24.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Apichatpong-a-rama: Monkey ghosts haunt, Boonmee busts moves at box office, Joei hangs up

The red-eyed monkey ghosts of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives make an appearance on the index page of Cinema Scope's online magazine. The drawing by Vanesa Mazza declares "Apichatpalme" and points to plenty of Cannes coverage of Apichatpong Weerasethakul and his Palme d'Or-winning movie.

Some of the Canada-based film journal's coverage has been covered here earlier, such as the Cannes interview with Apichatpong by Mark Peranson and Kong Rithdee.

Peranson offers more thoughts in "Cannes 2010: The Year We Made Contact":

That Apichatpong Weerasethakul got his passport and visa and showed up in time for his technical check is, by now, public knowledge, and soon became the stuff of history. On May 23, 2010, when, to great applause and eye-blinking befuddlement, he got on stage in borrowed shoes and a splendid white smoking jacket to raise Thailand’s first Palme d’Or for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives — the score, for those who are counting, would be Thailand 1, Canada 0 — it was Joe who had beaten the Volcano, and “we” were all with him. You could say it was our Independence Day.

Read the rest. It's ripping.

In Bangkok, Uncle Boonmee is in its third week of a limited run at SFX the Emporium, and crowds are continuing to pack in.

The travel website CNNGo Bangkok has a review of Uncle Boonmee. Writer Nick Satraroj wedged his way into a recent show:

On Monday evening, the only seats left for the single nightly screening of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives are in the neck-cramping first row. The audience is a mix you don’t normally see at a film here in Bangkok; students still in school uniforms, young couples, loners, professionals and expatriates pack the Emporium shopping mall's SFX Cinema. When the credits roll, few leave their seats. Are they mesmerized by what they have just seen? Savoring the final moments of the rather sudden and unexpectedly uncensored local release? Or just asleep?

Box Office Mojo has the figures, with Boonmee earning $6,529 (about 211,000 baht) in its first weekend of release on June 24-27, when it debuted in 11th place. The top three that week were Knight & Day, The Karate Kid and Rao Song Sam Khon (That Sounds Good). From July 1-4, Uncle Boonmee moved up to eighth place, with total earnings of $15,000 (about 485,000 baht), with The Twilight Saga: Eclipse taking over the No. 1 spot.

Meanwhile, there are certain media outlets that can't just let things ago, and like the red-baiting of the McCarthy era in the U.S., painting entertainers with a red brush is a favorite activity of Thailand's yellow press.

Bangkok Pundit has a rundown of some of the entertainment figures being branded as sympathetic to the red-shirt anti-government cause. They include actress-singer "Mint AF4" Mintita Wattanakul and her father, veteran actor Kowit Wattanakul, as well as singer Thongchai "Bird" McIntyre and a current Academy Fantasia contestant, Mark Thawkumlue, whose outspoken remarks on the reality-TV talent search have driven up ratings.

And Apichatpong has come under attack by the yellow media, in reaction to his comments in Cannes.

The Nation's Soopsip column had an account of Joei being interviewed in Manager Media's radio show “Beautyful Music”.

Host Suchat Chawangkul, the singer, suggested that Joei was being too frank with foreigners, and thus perhaps damaging Thailand’s reputation.

“Why should we feel embarrassed – I just told the truth!” Joei retorted. “I just can’t accept it when everyone twists things and says there is no class conflict when they talk about the red-shirt protesters!”

Joei insisted he wears no color, and yet people try to paint him red.

Suchat tried to get the conversation back to Boonmee, but Joei was too far gone.

“I don’t want to say anything, because once again I feel I’ve been given a shirt to wear. That’s so bad!”

And he hung up.

Being frank is not welcome in Thailand, and now, at least in certain quarters, neither is Joe.

Get your Wisit fix with the star-packed music video, Rao Pen Khon Thai

National reconciliation can be fun.

While waiting for Wisit Sasanatieng's Iron Pussy short film for the Pusan film festival or Red Eagle, feast your eyes on his star-packed music video for singer Petch Osthanagrah, "Rao Pen Khon Thai" ("เราเป็นคนไทย" , "We R Thai").

The celebrities come from all stripes of the entertainment biz. See how many famous directors you can pick out.

(Via Veen_NT)

Sudsakorn screening every Sunday morning at Film Archive

In memory of the late Thai animator Payut Ngaokrachang, the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom will screen his feature The Adventure of Sudsakorn (สุดสาคร) at 11am every Sunday from July 11 until October 3.

For now, it screens on Thai DVD only, with no English subtitles.

The story is based on an episode from Phra Aphai Mani, a 30,000-line epic poem by Sunthorn Phu, and depicts the fantastic adventures of the young son of a mermaid and a minstrel prince. The boy hero tames a dragon horse and encounters various characters in his travels.

Thailand's first animated feature, most of the intensely detailed work on it was done by Payut single-handedly, damaging his eyesight in the process.

It was his only feature film, and remains Thailand's sole cel-animated feature film.

Yet Payut's legacy is strong. The Ngaokrachang Prize for Animation at the annual Thai Short Film & Video Festival is a silver medallion designed by him, and dutifully presented to the winners up until last year.

Payut died on May 27 of this year at the age of 81.

For more details, call (02) 482 2013-14, ext 111.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Luang Prabang Film Festival set for December 4 to 11

The Luang Prabang Film Festival is set for December 4 to 11 with plans to present more than 30 films from Southeast Asia.

Marking the 35th anniversary of the Lao PDR and Luang Prabang's 15th year on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, the free screenings will take place in two outdoor venues in the old royal capital of Laos.

After the festival, four films will tour other provinces in Laos, with screenings held over two-night stops in each city.

Project goals include encouraging and celebrating filmmaking in Southeast Asia, stimulating a film industry in Laos, educating Laotians about the art of film and also media literacy, inspire young Laotians to enter the film industry and support the local economy through tourism.

Check the website over the coming months for more about the films.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Poj Arnon went to South Korea and all he brought back was a movie

Poj Arnon's South Korean movie Sorry Saranghaeyo looks like it's gone through a few changes since it was first mentioned earlier this year.

In an early trailer, it appeared to be a romance that was (mostly) heavy on the melodrama, with lots of crying in the snowy mountain landscapes.

A new trailer (embedded below) has a solid dose of comedy added.

The movie has a rejigged name too, Kao Rak Thee Korea (เการัก ที่เกาหลี), though from what I can tell, Sorry Saranghaeyo (Sorry ซารังเฮโย) remains in the title.

The story has a Thai family going to South Korea to visit the locations of their favorite TV dramas and movies.

One sister Kana (Haru Yamagushi) hopes to glimpse her favorite pop star, Ajoo (Noh Ah-joo). She's in for heartbreak while her guy pal Chai ("Guy" Ratchanon Sukprakob) is there to comfort her but secretly loves her.

Meanwhile Kana's sister Mara (Tanya Ratnamalakun) wants to indulge in another favorite activity of Thai hi-so's: She wants cosmetic surgery, for reasons that are obvious to anyone who can relate to being shallow, vain and image conscious.

During production, there was behind-the-scenes drama between Poj and Guy, who's one of the young actors in his talent-agency stable. Guy had asked to return to Thailand early so he could take a role in a soap opera on Channel 7. Poj saw that as a good opportunity for his star.

But then it emerged that Guy had signed a contract with Exact, another production company, which made Poj unhappy.

Anyway, words were exchanged, and Guy said that was the reason he was demoted from the lead role in Sorry Saranghaeyo to a supporting player, though Poj denies that was the reason.

Or maybe it was the reason. Or maybe the whole "argument" was stage-managed to drum up publicity for the film?

I don't understand what it was all about. Guy is still in the movie, is featured prominently on the posters, in the production stills and in the trailer, and his name is mentioned in the synopsis.

Sorry Saranghaeyo opens tomorrow.

Apichatpong-a-rama: Uncle Boonmee picked up for U.S. release by Strand

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives has been secured for U.S. distribution by Strand Releasing.

The release is set for spring 2011.

The deal was struck between Strand's Jon Gerrans and Michael Weber of Germany's the Match Factory, which is Boonmee's world sales agent.

"We're thrilled to be working on this film and am so happy to continue our long and on-going relationship with both a colleague and friend that we call Joe," Marcus Hu of Strand Releasing is quoted as saying in a statement on IndieWire.

The Match Factory has previously closed deals for Boonmee in around 20 territories, including the U.K. and Canada. Film Business Asia has a rundown of all those.

Strand has previously released three of Apichatpong's films in the U.S.: 2002's Blissfully Yours, 2004's Tropical Malady and 2006's Syndromes and a Century.

Apichatpong's first feature, 2000's Mysterious Object at Noon, was released in the U.S. by Plexifilm.

Los Angeles Times blogger Steven Zeitchick offers his view of how much Uncle Boonmee might earn in the U.S., where previous Cannes Palme d'Or winners have generally made around $4 million:

Strand released several of Weerasethakul’s previous movies, including Syndromes and a Century, to very minimal commercial effect. And although this film is more accessible than some of his earlier work, it has a less marketable conceit than some of the previous Palme winners. Strand, God bless it, may nonetheless be in a tough spot to push it; one could have imagined another distributor coming in and spending (marginally) more money.

One hope that I have for the Strand release of Boonmee is that the company will take care in how it presents the English subtitles. The Strand release of Syndromes is marred by the subtitles, which are hard-burned and presented in an extremely large, obtrusive type. Great for reading, but horrible for the watching the film.

Before next year's U.S. release, which film festival in North America will be the first to have Boonmee?

(Via Chaisiri)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bangkok IndieFest announces lineup, features the Last Elephants in Thailand

The first Bangkok IndieFest, set for next month, has announced its lineup, with around 80 shorts and features planned.

Among the films will be The Last Elephants in Thailand, a documentary by Donald Tayloe and Michelle Mizner on sad welfare of Thailand's pachyderms.

"Elephants have been used to promote tourism in Thailand, but little have they been helped," says Soraida Salwala, of Friends of the Asian Elephant and founder of the world's first elephant hospital.

She appears in the trailer at YouTube. It's embedded below.

Other films in the IndieFest lineup include Drown by Nottapon Boonprakob and Suck 3/2 Seed by Siwawut Sewatanon.

Bangkok IndieFest 1.0 runs from August 6 to 8 at HOF Art.