Sunday, October 31, 2010

9 Film Fest now set for May 28, 2011

Bangkok's 9 Film Fest is now set for Saturday, May 28, 2011.

Films can be up to 9 minutes in length and created specifically for the 9 Film Festival, and include the 9 signature object.

Here's more from the festival website:

9FilmFest was established to encourage production, not just exhibition. Our event is not just about "showing" films – it’s about "making" them. We aim to provide you with the opportunity to showcase your work to as wide an audience as possible, not only with the fantastic premiere your film will receive, but also by utilising a variety of distribution outlets following the festival.

9 Film Festival is similar to such Australian festivals as Flickerfest, Bush Film Fest, Janison Super Short Film Fest and Tropfest.

The signature object and other details about the 9 Film Fest will be announced in a press conference on February 9, 2011.

In the meantime, check out the festival's Twitter account and Facebook page.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mumbai Film Festival: Best Director for Anocha

Anocha Suwichakornpong continues to pick up prizes as she travels the world with her debut feature Mundane History (Jao Nok Krajok, เจ้านกกระจอก), most recently picking up the Best Director Award at the Mumbai Film Festival.

It's another busy month for Anocha and her film, which has also played in the East Meets West Film Forum and Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and is among a bunch of Thai films in Warsaw for the Five Flavours Film Festival, where there's a special program dedicated to her Electric Eel Films.

Mundane History was also featured this past week at the first Doi Saket International Film Festival in Chiang Mai.

It's also playing in the Sao Paulo International Film Festival and on Sunday, it will screen in Washington, D.C., at Freer and Sackler, the Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art.

Mundane History has previously picked up prizes in Rotterdam, Transylvania and Wroclaw.

Lekha Shankar was in Mumbai for Anocha's win, and she sent this report.

Story and photos by Lekha J. Shankar

Anocha Suwichakornpong won the Best Director award at the 12th Mumbai Film Festival, which concluded on Thursday. Anocha’s Mundane History was one of 14 entries from as many countries, in the International Competition, which focuses on the first films of directors.

The top award was won by Majority from Turkey, an award-winner from the prestigious Venice festival. Other award winners were R from Denmark and Blackfield from Greece.

The young group of filmmakers in the competition seemed to share a great camaraderie, and all agreed that it was the highlight of their one week’s stay at the fest. Anocha, the only woman in the group, was extra popular.

The Mumbai festival, popularly known as MAMI, because it’s organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI), has evolved into a mega festival after being supported by India's largest congomlerate, Reliance Industries, which has moved into film production.

This year, the festival boasted of a record 215 films from 60 countries. These included the award winners of top festivals like Cannes, Berlin and Venice, such as Certified Copy, Biutiful, Poetry, Somewhere and Faith.

Mundane History, which has been to nearly 30 festivals, evoked mixed responses from the Indian audiences as well as the jury.

"Interesting but strange," said a film student named Nitin. "I hear that the Cannes award-winning Thai film Uncle Boonmee is the same,” he added.

Festival Director Srinivasa Narayanan described Anocha’s film as “unique and excellent”, and said he hoped to screen more Thai films in the future.

Well-known Indian actress and director Suhasini Maniratnam who was on the jury confessed it was not her first choice.

But Oscar-nominated director Jane Campion, who was the president of the unique all-women jury, said she enjoyed "the sensitivity of the drama and the unique cinematic expression".

The other members of the Jury were Iranian actress-director Samira Makhmalbaf and South Korean actress Yoong Jeong-hee.

The latter fractured her arm the day she arrived in Mumbai, but that did not stop the vibrant actress from partaking in her jury duties.

Samira, from the famed Makmalbaf filmmaking family, confessed it was a tough time for her family, living in Paris, as they had to move from Iran last year, thanks to the restrictions clamped by tough new regime in the country.

As for Campion, she said she had enough film projects to last her the next 10 years! A long-time India-lover, the renowned New Zealand director said she had been to India many times. Infact she had even shot a film there, her 1999 drama Holy Smoke!

As for Thailand, she said "I was there many years back, when I was only 21 years old!"

India’s film festival circuit shifts into top gear after the Mumbai Film Festival.

The Third Eye Asian Film Festival, which is currently the only festival on Asian cinema in the country (the famed Osian's Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema was not held this year, although many hope it will be held next year), opened in the city immediately after the MAMI festival, and this writer is totally relishing watching some intense Asian films in the grand, old-world Plaza cinema complex. (I’m also serving on the NETPAC Jury of the Third Eye fest.)

The two Mumbai festivals are as different in size and character as the Bangkok International Film Festival and the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

The Kolkata film festival will be held from November 10 to 17, and will screen one Thai film – the hit of 2009, Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story.

The country’s biggest film festival, the International Film Festival of India, runs from November 22 to December 2 in the beach town of Goa.

The IFFI, which did a retrospective on Nonzee Nimibutr last year, has GTH’s Dear Galileo on its film list this year.

A major highlight of the IFFI will be a specially curated section on the best films of this year’s Cannes Festival, headed by the Palme d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Boonmee director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who is intensively travelling around the world, from Vienna to Buenos Aires to Dubai, with his film, will not be able to attend the Goa festival, but his editor Lee Chatametikool, may attend.

However, Joei will attend the Kerala International Film Festival, which will hold a retrospective of his films.

It will be the last festival of a tumultous year for Thailand’s most-talked-about contemporary director, who said he was looking forward to “relaxing and enjoying” Kerala, the Indian state often referred to as "God’s own country".

At the Mumbai fest, organized by Reliance Big Entertainment Initiative, gave Lifetime Achievement Awards to Hollywood director Oliver Stone and Bollywood hero of yesteryear, Manoj Kumar.

Stone told this writer that Bangkok was the best city in the world!

Indian actor Manoj Kumar said what he remembered most about Bangkok was a review of his 1975 film Roti Kapda Aur Makan in a Bangkok newspaper, describing him as the "Victor Hugo of the Indian masses"!

"I'm still trying to get a copy of this article. Can you help me?" asked the 76-year-old actor with his characteristic simplicity.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bangkok International Film Festival canceled

After the deadly and fiery end of the red-shirt political protests in April and May, plans for the Bangkok International Film Festival became uncertain.

Tentatively announced for November 19 to 29 and then cut to six days from November 19 to 24, the festival has now been canceled altogether, according to a three-paragraph sidebar in today's Bangkok Post.

I've heard that the festival organizers simply could not get together a budget to hold the festival.

There's been no official announcement or word whether the scandal-ridden festival will ever be held again.

But all is not lost for Bangkok film lovers. The eighth edition of the trusty World Film Festival of Bangkok runs from November 5 to 14, and the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee has a rundown of that festival's highlights.

Ong-Bak 3 U.S. teaser and rumors of a Wesley Snipes movie for Tony Jaa

Wesley Snipes has a wish list of talents he's hoping to line up in an Expendables-style action-comedy called Master Daddy, and among the names is "Jaa", which I guess means Tony Jaa, as in Tatchakorn Yeerum (ทัชชกร ยีรัมย์) , formerly Panom Yeerum (พนม ยีรัมย์).

Could this be the big Hollywood break Tony is waiting for? Maybe enough for him to come out of the monkhood?

Snipes, last seen in a critically well-recieved supporting role as a drug kingpin in the crime drama Brooklyn's Finest, has been battling tax problems, and looks to be pinning his hopes on Master Daddy as his big comeback as an action star.

Variety says Master Daddy will feature "cameos and performances from dozens of martial arts and fighting arts stars including Chuck Norris, Chiba, Frazier, Gracie, Hung, Inosanto, Jaa, Rhee, Kim, Lee Mosely, Bob Wall, Rampage, Anderson Silva and Ron Van Cleff. Musicians Rock Steady, Jabbawakkies and Quest Crew will also perform."

"This multi-racial action comedy is a mix of Kung Fu Hustle and Meet the Parents," Snipes is quoted as saying.

Though no director is named, production is slated for this autumn for release sometime next year.

There' s more talk about it at The Playlist, Joblo, Screen Rush, Live for Films, Empire and Kung Fu Cinema.

Meanwhile, the U.S. release of Ong-Bak 3: The Final Battle is being prepped by Magnet, which is doing a video-on-demand bow on December 3 and theatrical run starting on January 14.

The U.S. teaser (embedded below) looks great. It's got all the best bits.

Ong-Bak 3 made its North American premiere back in September at the Fantasic Fest in Austin, Texas. Among the reviews were Screen Junkies and Film School Rejects.

It's also out on DVD in the U.K.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Inseedang-a-rama: Reviews and political views on The Red Eagle

Still lots of strands in this old duder's head about The Red Eagle (Insee Dang, อินทรีเเดง).

Heck, I've seen it twice and still haven't counted the three Wilhelm screams director Wisit Sasanatieng says he's embedded his in his film.

The much-anticipated action thriller stars Ananda Everingham in a role made famous by screen legend Mitr Chaibancha in a series of Thai action films in the 1960s, and ending in 1970 when Mitr died in a fall from a helicopter while making The Golden Eagle.

The hyped superhero movie has been met with mostly negative or mixed criticism, mainly because the ultra-violent Dark Knight-style action flick is seen as a major departure from the colorful stylizations Wisit displayed in his earlier films, Tears of the Black Tiger and Citizen Dog. It's also being assailed for its 130-minute length. And there's the ending, which only briefly shows the much-hyped shot of Ananda dangling from a helicopter ladder to complete the stunt Mitr died for. It's a teaser for a part two, The Red Eagle: War of the Deadly Psychobots, which in all likelihood will never happen because Wisit says making The Red Eagle was such a struggle, creatively and budget-wise, that he's leaving the film industry.

A Nutshell Review and critic Stefan Shih, who came to Bangkok for the October 4 premiere, has already issued his review.

Oh, and Asian Cinema – While on the Road was stirred from dormancy to review The Red Eagle. A momentous occasion.

And since the movie had its international premiere at the Pusan International Film Festival, the industry press has weighed in.

Maggie Lee of The Hollywood Reporter saw it. Here's a bit from her review:

Visual wizard and fantastical yarn-spinner Wisit Sasanatieng seems to be flying with clipped wings in directing The Red Eagle?, the anticipated remake-cum-homage to the 1960s Thai superhero action series Insee Daeng. There is not a trace of the gloriously colorful retro camp of his debut Tears of the Red Tiger nor the flights of CGI fancy in his sophomore Citizen Dog. Had Sasanatieng's name not been attached, the project may qualify as technically high-end Asian genre fare but marketing to his cinephile fans would turn converts into skeptics. Locally, Insee Daeng's cult status would prompt Thais to see Red Eagle for old time's sake.

On to Richard Kuiper's review for Variety:

A Thai superhero is reborn with middling results in The Red Eagle. Reboot of a popular 1960s pulp franchise arrives with special effects galore and a Batman-like protag burdened with the now de rigueur psychological hang-ups, but aside from a few eye-catching setpieces, there's little excitement or cinematic flair on display. Souped up for young auds by usually super-inventive stylist Wisit Sasanatieng (Tears of the Black Tiger), pic underperformed on October 7 local release, casting doubt over whether its "to be continued" tag will come to fruition. Overlong actioner has modest regional claims and much stronger ancillary prospects.

Uh, yeah. About that box-office performance. It opened at No. 2, way behind Zack Snyder's 3D Australian talking-owl cartoon, earning 5.5 million baht, with the latest Box Office Mojo figures showing earnings of around 10.8 million baht. Before The Red Eagle opened, the No. 1 had been a Thai action-comedy, Yuthlert Sippapak's Saturday Killer, which at latest count had raked in around 17.6 million baht.

Meanwhile, The Red Eagle's place in history has been the subject of political pundits, with Asian Correspondent's Siam Voices posing the view that the movie is an allegory to the current Thai political situation.

The Nation got some guy on video and had him blather on a bit about the movie. I don't think he knows what he's talking about.

Whatever. The beauty of The Red Eagle is that could represent anytime, anyplace and any particular situation in its depiction of corrupt government and business forces running roughshod over the little guys. When you can't go to the cops, who ya gonna call? Insee Dang!

A couple other strands:

  • Wisit has always been known from his interesting and unique casting choices, which started with the Columbian-Italian model Stella Malucchi as his leading lady in Tears of the Black Tiger. In addition to TV-commercial actor Jonathan Hallman, who makes his big-screen debut as the Black Devil, there's TV host, musician and writer Wannasingh Prasertkul playing the brash young police detective Chart. The Nation had a profile of him. Even Lieutenant Chart's boss in the movie is played by a newcomer – it's veteran Nation Auto Talk columnist Pattanadesh Asasappakidj.
  • Singer Burin Boonsvisut claims he was the first choice for the role of Insee Dang that was taken by Ananda Everingham. He turned it down. Instead, the former Groove Riders frontman recorded a ballad that's used as the theme for The Red Eagle.

Update: Film Business Asia's Derek Elley has his review, summing it up as a "messy Thai superhero movie [that] sledge-hammers the viewer into submission."

Will I ever see Camellia?

On the mean streets of Silom the other night, I bumped into artist and actor Michael Shaowanasai. We exchanged pleasantries and our views on recent movies using the Mexican standoff, as well as the Falcon Crest days of Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston and the rising star of Karl Urban, recently seen holding his own against Bruce Willis in Red.

But my main question for Michael was "when will I ever see Camellia"?

That's the pan-Asian omnibus of three shorts also known as the Busan Project, commissioned by the city of Busan in South Korea and premiered earlier this month as the closing film of the Pusan International Film Festival.

In a segment directed by Wisit Sasanatieng, Michael reprises his role as the flamboyant cross-dressing secret agent Iron Pussy, most famously seen in a feature he co-directed with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, but has also been featured in a number of shorts.

Iron Pussy: A Kimchi Affair has been highly anticipated just for the sheer energy that could come from a collaboration by Wisit and Michael, two of Thailand's top creative talents who share sensibilities that keep in mind Thailand's rich cinematic history, and, specifically, the movies of 1960s and '70s leading lady Petchara Chaowarat, who the beehive-coiffed Iron Pussy is modelled after.

A review by Elizabeth Kerr in The Hollywood Reporter whets my appetite further. Here's a bit:

In Iron Pussy: A Kimchi Affair, Thailand's Wisit Sasanatieng (The Red Eagle) resurrects the great satirical, transvestite superspy Iron Pussy for another mission that begins in 1979 and concludes with some time travel to 2010 ... Sasanatieng brings some typical and much needed Iron Pussy humor to Camellia (check out Iron Pussy getting drunk on perfume in response to her romantic dilemma) and laces the film with his signature irreverence. He's come a long way from Iron Pussy's early shorts, but the cheekiness that made the character played by writer Michael Shaowanasai, possibly one of the world's homeliest drag queens, so much fun is still there. But working outside his native Bangkok doesn't always work; Busan lacks the gleefully kitschy vibe Iron Pussy adventures so desperately need.

I think they were all just cold, filming in Busan.

The other segments are A Day on the Planet by Japan's Yukisada Isao and Love for Sale, by South Korea's Jang Joon-hwan, all filmed in Busan.

Not surprisingly, Michael says the Camellia short by Wisit has more of Wisit's colorful and playful style than his feature, The Red Eagle, the making of which was such an exhausting ordeal that Wisit has said he's not going to make any more studio movies.

And it's true, Michael says. "There's not going to be a part two of Red Eagle." At least not from Wisit.

As for Camellia's chances of being seen, Michael says he thinks it's going to hit the festival circuit for the next year or so.

But as for when it will be shown in Bangkok, that's a big unknown.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The first Thai 3D movie is an Academy Fantasia concert film

The first Thai 3D movie comes not from any of Thailand's thrifty film studios but is rather a concert documentary from Thailand's major cable broadcaster TrueVisions, featuring the past six winners of the seven-year-old Academy Fantasia reality-TV talent-search series.

La-Fa-Fun: Confession of the Winners (ล่า ฝ่า ฝัน คอนเฟสชั่น ออฟ เดอะ วินเนอร์ส) has footage from the Victory of the Winners concert that was filmed back in August at Bangkok's Huamark Indoor Stadium, using 3D technology and expertise from Ocean Mango of South Korea, and actually involved the audience having to wear 3D glasses to experience the effects.

According to a Bangkok Post story, the 90 minutes of stereoscopic concert footage is padded out with 30 minutes of background interviews with each of the AF winners, which was filmed in 2D and converted to 3D.

The stars are Pacharapon "Vit AF1" Jantieng, Supanat "Aof AF2" Chalermchaichareonkij, Kiatkamol "Tui AF3" Latha, Nat "Nat AF4" Sakdatorn, Nat "Nat AF5" Thewphaingam and the first female winner, Nipaporn "Zani AF6" Thititanakarn.

The trailer (in 2D) is at YouTube and you can watch it here too, no glasses necessary.

Confession of the Winners is in cinemas on Thursday.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another ghostly girlfriend in Fan Mai

Piyapan Choopetch, the director of last year's ghostly girlfriend revenge thriller My Ex (Fan Kao, แฟนเก่า), is back with another tale of a girlfriend who won't let go, even when she's gone to the gave.

October Sonata sweetheart "Koy" Ratchawin Wongviriya stars in Fan Mai (แฟนใหม่ ). She's an actress who breaks up with her boyfriend (Thongpoom Siripipat) after she sees him with another girl (Marion Affolter). Then this other woman turns up dead and strange spooky stuff starts happening to Koy's character.

Released by Film R Us and produced by "Uncle" Adirek Wattleela, it's in cinemas this Thursday.

There's a trailer at YouTube and it's embedded below.

(Poster via

Pongpat does The Dog with Mario, Boy and Kohtee

For his third directorial effort, the paternal-minded entertainer Pongpat Wachirabanjong shifts to comedy after directing two romantic dramas, Me ... Myself and Happy Birthday.

His latest, Ching Mah Kerd (ชิงหมาเถิด or simply The Dog), has the hijinks of a mismatched trio of hoodlums, teaming the young heartthrob actors Mario Maurer and "Boy" Pakorn Chatborirak with veteran comedian Kohtee Aramboy.

They've somehow become roped into a scheme to kidnap a prize show dog ("I think it's a Pomeranian"). For their troubles, they have a mystery gunman after them.

Kowit Wattanakul also stars, along with young actress "Yok" Nattapaphas Thanathanamaharat making her big-screen debut.

I'm not sure who that mystery gunman is.

There's a trailer at YouTube, embedded below.

Released by Motif+, The Dog is in cinemas on Thursday.

(Poster via

Monday, October 25, 2010

PIFF 2010: Great showcase for Asian and Thai cinema

Thai films again had a strong presence at the 15th Pusan International Film Festival, with Sivaroj Kongsakul's Eternity (Tee Rak) premiering in the New Currents competition, Aditya Assarat's sophomore directorial feature Hi-So making its bow, as well as The Red Eagle and The Little Comedian and Wisit's Iron Pussy short with Michael Shaowanasai making its debut as part of the Busan Project a.k.a. Camellia. Anocha Suwichakornpong came away a winner at the Pusan Promotion Plan for her in-development feature The White Room. Thai studios shopped their wares at the Asian Film Market. Leading man Ananda Everingham posed for photos with fans and hit the parties. Panit Jirawattananunt took part in the Asian Film Academy. And there was a Thai princess gracing the festival, presiding over a gala presentation of a 10-minute preview of an action film she starred in.

Lekha Shankar was there for all that, and she sent this report.

Story and photos by Lekha J Shankar

There’s no doubt the Pusan International Film Festival is one of the best showcases for Asian cinema, and in particular, Thai cinema.

In addition to the festival exposing them to filmmakers, programmers and distributors from around the world, the other sections of the festival have also benefited Thai filmmakers greatly, namely the Asia Cinema Fund, the Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP) and the Asian Film Academy.

It was exciting to meet and interact with the large Thai contingent at the festival, which almost distracted one from the dazzling range of Asian films and film personalities on view, in particular from the host country South Korea.

One met all the big names from Asian cinema – Zhang Yimou from China, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-liang from Taiwan, Ann Hui from Hong Kong, Mani Ratnam from India, Abbas Kiarostomi from Iran, not to mention Park Chan Wook, Im Kwon Taek from South Korea, as well as lots of exciting filmmakers from Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and even Kurdistan.

Not to forget big international names like Oliver Stone, Juliette Binoche and Carlos Saura.

Juliette Binoche easily stole the show, with her easy charm, spontaneous gestures and superb articulations. It was then, easy to see why she could be so effortlessly trilingual in her film Certified Copy, which won her the Best Actress Award at Cannes this year and which brought her to the Pusan festival.

Juliette set the festival on fire when she danced with wild energy at the farewell party of Kim Dong-Ho, the brilliant director of the Pusan festival who was retiring this year after a superb 15-year tenure with the festival.

Kim was proud of the many Thai directors who had been "discovered" by the festival, in particular Aditya Assarat, whose first feature Wonderful Town won the first of many international awards at Pusan.

Aditya premiered his second feature Hi-So at Pusan this year starring Ananda Everingham and two new actresses, Cerise Leang, an American actress from Singapore and Sajee Apiwong, a Fine Arts student from Chiangmai Varsity, both of whom have steamy love-scenes with Ananda.

In fact, Sajee looked quite besotted by the actor, and the two wandered around the town together.

Ananda cakewalks through his role in Hi-So, where he does little else but play himself – an "outsider" who returns to his country, works at becoming a movie star, indulges in two relationships, but finds himself always an "outsider".

"It’s Aditya's story, not mine!" laughed the actor.

Director Aditya said the film was about "disconnections".

"When I was studying in America, I was considered a Thai, and when I returned to Thailand, I was considered an American," he said.

He felt that with rapid globalisation, many individuals would soon lose this "one country" fixation.

The film is noted more for its style than substance, and Aditya's sense of visualisation is still his strength.

Hi-So was scheduled to be the opening film of the Bangkok International Film Festival in November, but one has just heard that the festival has been "postponed" to early next year.

However, the World Film Festival of Bangkok will unspool as scheduled, on November 5, with the debut film Eternity, of indie director Sivaroj Kongsakul, which was premiered at the Pusan festival too.

Sivaroj has worked earlier with Aditya Assarat (and also Apichatpong Weerasethakul), and so, it was his "mentor" Aditya who produced the film and presented the director at Pusan .

Eternity was in the competitive New Currents section, with arresting films from first and second-time directors .

Eternity moves at a slow pace, especially the opening sequence which is word-less for 15 minutes. Sivaroj uses images and sound patterns more than words, to etch out a simple tale of love, which he said was a homage to his father.

"I didn’t know him well when he was alive, and I try to re-create him in this film," said the director.

He said it was "an important first step" to screen the film at the Pusan festival, but it was also "very special" for him to screen it at the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

I want to share my film with my Thai friends, colleagues, and especially my mother," he said.

The other Thai films screened at Pusan festival were GTH’s The Little Comedian and Five Star Production's The Red Eagle.

Both these companies partook in the Asian Film Market, as well as Kantana, Oriental Eyes and others. There were many market screenings of Thai films too.

The closing film Camellia had three stories from three countries, including Thailand , which were all shot in Busan. In spite of the cold weather, a huge audience watched the open-air screening, together with a bevy of top Korean stars

The Thai segment was called Iron Pussy: A Kimchi Affair and was directed by Wisit Sasanatieng, with Michael Shaowanasai revelling in his Iron Pussy role again. It was a lively, colorful thriller, with many welcome Wisit touches that one found missing in Red Eagle.

At the post-film dinner, Wisit confessed that he did not enjoy making Red Eagle and would never make a studio film again.

Michael flaunted his designer Jim Thompson handbag, fitted with a silk Iron Pussy poster cloth!

Meanwhile Ananda confessed to his Korean audience that The Red Eagle was the toughest film he had done.

"The toughest part was shooting in the tight leather pants, in the hot weather of Bangkok," he laughed.

And after all that hard work he had put into the film, the actor still had not found time to see the film since he was busy shooting his next film, a road-movie set in Tibet.

"We may have to shoot the film in Ladakh, as it won’t be easy to shoot in Tibet," said the actor. who this writer bumped into at Seoul's Incheon airport. A huge group of Thai tourists who had travelled with this writer to Seoul by the new, budget Thailand-Korea airlines Business Air were very excited on seeing Ananda at the airport, and the actor willingly posed for pictures with them.

"All I want to do is sleep," he said on the Seoul-Busan flight as he played some wonderful meditative music on his iPad and went into a slumber.

But the Pusan festival is hardly the one where you can slumber, considering how packed with events and parties the festival is, the last one often starting at midnight.

Ananda attended the Thai Night hosted by the Ministry of Culture, where Princess Ubolratana addressed the audience, and where the trailer of her new film My Best Bodyguard was screened.

Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai spoke about Thailand's numerous film location sites to the large film gathering.

Among the more interesting parties, was a spectacular one at the Busan Aquarium, where the sharks and other huge fish floated over the guests’ heads, as they cooly sipped wine below. Ananda made a late-night entry at this party, with Hi-So actress Sajee, and then, with Nonzee Nimibutr (who jetted into Busan for a couple of days) went out to eat at the town’s best-known fish restaurant.

"The fish in this aquarium have made me very hungry!" he quipped.

Director Anocha Suwichakornpong, film editor Lee Chatametikool and producer Soros Sukhum, who are regulars at the Pusan festival, were seen interacting at the parties every day. Anocha won another grant of $10,000 from the PPP for the script of her new film The White Room.

The Thai Film Foundation's Chalida Uabumrungjit was on the selection committee of the Asian Cinema Fund.

A perky Thai youngster who seemed to be enjoying the festival thoroughly was Panit Jirawattananont, who had been selected for the Asia Film Academy. He said he had enjoyed every bit of his three-month stay there.

Meanwhile, at a seminar on film funds, addressed by a wide range of companies, they all said they were looking foward to getting more scripts from Thailand.

"So far I’ve got only one script from Thailand – Apichatpong’s wonderful Uncle Boonmee," said Sonja Heinen, of the Berlin festival’s World Cinema Fund. "I'd like to check out more.'

"Me too," said Santhosh Daniel of the new Global Film Initiative from the US.

Ulf Sigvardson of Sweden's Goteburg festival also said they had a cinema fund.

Are the ‘new’ Thai directors listening?

There certainly should be more Thai names in the Pusan festival's New Currents section next year

There’s no doubt that this Asian festival is the perfect springboard for young, new talents.

Agrarian Utopia wins top audience award at Asian Hot Shots

Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia (สวรรค์บ้านนา, Sawan Baan Na) has added a Green Chilies Award to its harvest of accolades.

It won first prize in the feature film category, voted on by the audience at the Asian Hot Shots Film Festival in Berlin.

Second prize went to White Days by Lei Yuan Bin (Singapore).

In the short film category, first place went to Thread by Lilium Leonard (India) and second prize when to Madam Chan by Wilson Yip (Singapore).

Asian Hot Shots ran from October 20 to 24.

(Via Extra Virgin)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: The Red Eagle (Insee Dang)

  • Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng
  • Starring Ananda Everingham, Yarinda Bunnag, Pornwut Sarasin, Jonathan Hallman, Wannasingh Prasertkul
  • Released in Thai cinemas on October 7, 2010; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 5/5

Perhaps the most Hollywood-like movie yet made by the Thai film industry, The Red Eagle (Insee Dang, อินทรีเเดง) is a big, loud and brash superhero action flick that is mostly relentless in its pace and hyper-stylized violence.

Wisit Sasanatieng directs this much-anticipated reimagining of the 1960s action franchise that starred the legendary Mitr Chaibancha, which was originally based on a series of crime novels by writer Sake Dusit.

Fans hoping for the colorful camp and dry wit of Wisit's previous films like Tears of the Black Tiger and Citizen Dog might come away disappointed with the director's latest effort. He was disappointed too, and creative differences and budgetary pressures have prompted Wisit to say this will be his last studio film.

Restrained as he might have been stylistically, there's still loads of Wisit's cheeky brand of satiric humor. I think he had the most fun with the over-the-top product placements in this film, covering just about everything from a local roasted-chicken chain to an energy drink. Villains fight to the death atop a life-insurance company's billboard. And copious amounts of certain local beer is consumed, surely all with the knowledge that the labels on those little brown bottles will be blurred out by censors when the movie airs on Thai TV, because of restrictions on alcohol advertising.

There's also health advisories built in, like when a man smoking a cigarette has his head lopped off by Red Eagle's sword, and as the still-puffing noggin is rolling on the ground, there's the warning, "smoking is hazardous to your health."

And, in a nod to the in-jokes and cliches of Hollywood action filmmaking, Wisit's even included a few Wilhelm screams (there are three, he says) – characteristic painful yelps by random henchguys who are disposed of in various diabolical ways. I don't know where Wisit got the idea to include the Wilhelms.

Thailand's current top leading man, Ananda Everingham, capably steps into Mitr's role. The Red Eagle he portrays is a much darker and brooding character. Instead of the fun-loving drunken playboy lawyer that was Mitr's alter ego, this Rome Rittikrai is an angry loner – a former special forces operative who was betrayed on the battlefield. One cool customer, he lives in the basement of an icehouse, and takes morphine because of a bullet wound to the head.

Fueled by pain and self-loathing over his addiction, he strikes out with great vengeance and furious anger those dark and corrupt forces who are poisoning and destroying Thai society. Cool gadgets at his disposal include a sword with a collapsible blade, a powerful big motorcycle, bullet-resistant clothes, infra-red goggles built into his mask, rubber masks so he can disguise himself and an arsenal of firearms.

But the sides are closing on him.

Squeezing him from one direction is a shadowy organization known as the Matulee, whose members dress all in black, meet in dark rooms and wear scary black masks. (It's said this is a nod to the traditions of khon dance theater and the Thai saying that if you wear a khon mask you are acting in a role different from your true self.) The Matulee control the government and the big-business interests, and they have tasked a fierce killer to go after the Red Eagle – the Black Devil, a Dr. Doom-like hooded character with a wild curved blade, who pounces from the rooftops. Black Devil and his alter ego are played by Jonathan Hallman, a model who's acted in TV commercials – another new find by Wisit and his casting director.

Crowding Red Eagle on another side is a brash and impatient young police lieutenant, Chart Wutthikrai (Wannasingh Prasertkul). A stock character if there ever was one, if he were older, he could easily say "I'm gettin' too old for this shit." Here, the character's conceit is that whenever he gets ready to smoke a cigarette, he never gets to light it – also a possible nod to planned TV airings of the movie, in which cigarette smoking will be blurred out.

As it turns out, Chart is actually an old army buddy of Rome, and yet even he can't see that it's his friend's face behind that high-tech red mask.

The breathless pace of the action – spurred on by a fast-paced recurring orchestral theme – only lets up for tender moments between Ananda and his leading lady, the folk singer and actress Yarinda Bunnag, who previously appeared in the GTH romantic drama Best of Times. She's the socialite ex-fiancee of the Thai prime minister – played with quiet menace by Pornwut Sarasin, the Thai Coca-Cola executive who previously acted in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy.

Politics has changed the former grass-roots activist, and he's now in bed with the powerful interests that want to build a nuclear power plant in Thailand. And she's taken over his role as the leader of the anti-nuclear grass-roots NGO.

So the Red Eagle becomes her protector.

There's been much talk about the political message of The Red Eagle, but I don't see anything that's specific to the current Thai situation. Maybe it's just because I'm not Thai. Sure, there's relevance, but the message about big business and politics colluding and being corrupted by power is universal. The Red Eagle could take place anywhere. He could be a hero to anyone.

And I hope he will be, even if the teased part 2 of The Red Eagle never does actually happen.

Related posts:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Saturday Killer (Meu Puen Dao Pra Sao)

  • Directed by Yuthlert Sippapak
  • Starring Choosak Iamsuk, Sirin Horwang
  • Released in Thai cinemas on September 30, 2010; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

An assassin named Tee Rifle situates himself in Bangkok's loftiest perches, overlooking boardrooms. He points his weapon and fires. Red mist fills the room and his targets are dead.

But this powerful gunman has a problem. He's suffering from just about every form of erectile dysfunction known to man.

That's the killer kernel of the plot of Saturday Killer (Meu Puen Dao Pra Sao, มือปืน /ดาว /พระ /เสาร์, literally "Saturn killer") yet another Yuthlert Sippapak joint – a jumping, jiving insane blend of genres that just doesn't let up.

Choosak "Nong Chachacha" Iamsuk, a comic-relief character actor who is typically the butt of jokes for his TV-comedy cohorts Pongsak Pongsuwan and Mum Jokmok, stars as Tee Rifle. It's another meaty lead role for the comedian and actor, who previously hefted the dramatic weight in Yuthlert's crime comedy Pattaya Maniac (Sai Lor Fah).

From wearing an boundless variety of wigs and disguises, jogging around the city, aiming his rifle, taking long, lonely drives down a mysteriously empty highway and writhing on the floor in agony and ecstacy, Nong fills the bill and carries the movie with ease.

He's helped by his leading lady, Sirin "Cris" Horwang, an actress and model who has rocketed to huge success and a string of product endorsements since her role as the winsome leading lady in last year's No. 1 box-office hit romantic comedy Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story.

Here, Cris falls back on her experience as bikini-clad magazine model, vamping it up in a tight-fitting female assassin's uniform and donning the cut-off jean shorts of a coyote dancer to show off her long, toned legs. She even gets to display her prowess as a trained ballet dancer (in real life, Cris runs a dance studio).

With Tarantino-like flourishes (including a score that closely mirrors the cues from Kill Bill – a nod to old-time Thai cinema, which liberally lifted Hollywood scores), Yuthlert jumbles the narrative up, beginning the film with Nong aiming his rifle and casing out Cris in her apartment. Her jerk-off boyfriend has invited himself in for coffee. But who is Tee Rifle aiming for?

He takes hit assignments to pay for an increasingly complicated and superstitious regimen of treatments for his erectile dysfunction, from a Chinese herbal medicine seller (whose shop he burns down), to an African witch doctor and finally to an Indian guru who has our hero drinking urine – just like, it's noted, in The Last Moment, the cancer-stricken romance that Yuthlert directed. Our hero director just couldn't let a chance for cheeky self reference slip by.

Pundits are making a big deal about fellow Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng's Red Eagle and the politics they believe are involved with that, but Saturday Killer more overtly and explicitly references the current Thai political scene.

Among Tee Rifle's targets is the leader of a color-coded political movement – green or purple, I can't remember which. Plus, on one of Tee's jogging rounds, he runs past the actual bamboo-and-tire barricades the red-shirt political protesters set up at Lumpini Park back in April or May.

It's that political target (played by veteran actor Suchao Pongvilai) that puts Tee on a collision course with Cris, the dance instructor and secret assassin he encounters in a bar and develops a friendship with.

Saturday Killer is part of Yuthlert's Meu Puen 3 Pak (มือปืนตรัยภาค), a Killer Trilogy that pairs veteran comedians with young actresses. Fans will notice direct tie-ins with the other entries in the trilogy, Sunday Killer, starring May Pitchanart and Kohtee Aramboy, likely the next release, and Friday Killer, with Ploy Jindachote and Thep Po-ngam, which was screened at the Phuket Film Festival earlier this year but has been moved to last in the series because of its more-dramatic tone.

Related posts:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

1st Doi Saket International Film Festival ready to roll

More an 100 shorts and features from around 20 countries will be screened in the 1st Doi Saket International Film Festival, set for October 23 to 30 in various locations around Chiang Mai's Doi Saket District and Chiang Mai city.

The schedule is at the festival website, and there's the list of films and many special programs. You can also check the Thomat Chiang Mai Film Blog.

The line-up has a lot more going on than what I teased back in September. A lot more.

Among the highlights is Nok Ka Mhin (Four Seasons), the short by Chaisiri Jiwarangsan that premiered earlier this year at the Venice festival. It'll also be playing in next month's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Special programs include Anocha Suwichakornpong's award-winning social drama Mundane History (Jao Nok Krajok), a retrospective on director Supamok Silarak (maker of the migrant-worker drama Colors of Our Hearts) and CalArts Shorts: Portrait Documentaries from a Woman's Perspective, which screened at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Other interesting films are Pan Fah by veteran cult short-film director Hamer Salvala, a trio of shorts from Malaysia's Edmund YeoLove Suicides, Kingyo and The White Flower, Monkey Love by Royston Tan and Supergirl, directed by Juliette Sales and Fabien Suarez from France.

Wat Doi Saket, high up on a mountain in rural Chiang Mai Province, is one of the venues for the film festival, including the Saturday opening ceremony at 5.

Organized by "Art" Patavee Viranuvat, the festival aims to be a grass-roots event, providing a platform to directors who struggle to find venues, and for audiences who wouldn't ordinarily attend film festivals or go to the theater at all.

"It's often been said that non-mainstream or independent films are not suitable for Thai people," Art told the Bangkok Post recently. "What we seem to have forgotten is that a lot of Thai people simply don't have the money to travel to a movie theater to watch a film. That's why there's a gap in communication – and the filmmaker misses out, too, because his work won't be seen by people who live in more remote areas."

There's also a competition, with awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Editing and Best Actor.

The festival will also see the presentation of two Lifetime Achievement Awards, one to historian Dome Sukawong, founder and director of the Thai Film Archive, and posthumously to the late Sitthipong "Sam" Kalayanee, an activist and filmmaker who was an associate producer of Burma VJ.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vietnam International Film Festival has Big Boy, Agrarian Utopia

The hip-hop dance drama Big Boy (บิ๊กบอย) is in competition in the first Vietnam International Film Festival, which starts today in the 1,000-year-old city of Hanoi.

There's also Uruphong Raksasad's brutal rice-growing documentary Agrarian Utopia, playing in the documentary competition. In light of recent news about rice exports, the Vietnamese might be smacking their lips over this film, seeing the state of Thai rice farming against their own.

Directed by Monthon Arayangkoon and starring Toni Rakkaen, veteran entertainer Setha Sirachaya and Rattanarat Eertaweekul, Big Boy is a coming-of-age drama about a young boy named Po who "fails at every turn in achieving his dreams." He goes to see his ballroom-dancer granddad, who looks down on his grandson's "lack of spirit and sees him as a loser". But the kid wants to be a B-boy dancer, and the granddad realizes that the boy's dream is also his from long ago.

It's in competition with the Break Up Club by Barbara Wong (Hong Kong), Ice Kacang Puppy Love by Aniu (Malaysia), The Lieutenant by Ha Son (Vietnam), The Fate of A Songstress in Thang Long by Dao Ba Son, Sandcastle by Boo Junfeng (Singapore), Hanamizuki by Nobuhiro Doi (Japan), The Dreamer by Riri Riza (Indonesia), Lao Wai by Fabien Gaillard (China) and The Red Shoes by Raul Jorolan (Philippines)

The Vietnam fest, making its debut in partnership with the Pusan International Film Festival, runs from October 17 to 21 in the capital city of Hanoi.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Natee Utarit: After Painting and Thai films in Singapore

Thai artist Natree Utarit has an exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum called After Painting,
and accompanying the exhibition are Thai films in the museum's Moving Image Gallery at 8 Queen Street.

There are three features: Agrarian Utopia, The Convert and Mekhong Full Moon Party, and a package of short films, including the recent R.D. Pestonji top-prize-winner at the 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival, Cherie is Korean-Thai.

"Depicting contemporary Thai experience, and featuring many locally specific preoccupations and daily practices, these films tackle topics such as political struggle, folkloric belief, religious schism, and cultural amalgamation. This screening programme highlights the work of young-up-and coming Thai directors," says the museum.

Agrarian Utopia screens tonight (Friday, October 15) at 7:30. Uruphong Raksasad's prize-winning documentary chronicles two rice-farming families as they work a shared plot of land and struggle against the elements, spiraling debts and land seizure. It won the Unesco award at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and been awarded prizes in Toronto, Brussels and Rotterdam.

Short Films from Thailand is on Saturday, October 16 at 3pm. Leading off the line-up is a new short by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit Panatipata. "Trouble ensues when Kai seeks out unusual remedies to heal a painful leg. A comedy about food, families and belief." Made for TV3 in Thailand, the short features four prominent actresses: stage actress Sawanee Uthumma, Apinya Sakuljareonsuk from Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy, Nantarat Sawaddikul from Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century, Anchalee Saisoontorn from Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town.

Others in the line-up are Nawapol's Cherie is Korean-Thai, about a soaps actress interviewing two construction laborers as research for a role; Man and Gravity, Jakrawal Nilthamrong' 11-minute short about an overburdened motorcycle; Immortal Woman, by Jakrawal, which I previously viewed in Bangkok as part of an art installation; I Did Not Dream Last Night / Looking in God’s Eye by Taiki Sakpisit, described as "a series of tableaux exploring the gaze of people immersed in time and space"l Culture and Nature, by Prap Boonpan ("Thailand prepares to celebrate the father on his special day.") and The White Short Film / The Candle Light, also by Prap, which won top prize at the 13th Thai Short Film & Video Festival. With young couple having a conversation about Thai politics, I think it's the first time it'll be shown with English subtitles.

The Convert, showing on Friday, October 22 at 7.30, is the 2008 documentary by Panu Aree, Kaweenipon Ketprasit and Kong Rithdee about "a young, fun-loving Buddhist woman living in Bangkok, who marries Ake, a Muslim man from southern Thailand", and undergoes conversion to Islam and moves to the South, where "she encounters a variety of joys and disenchantments".

Mekhong Full Moon Party (15 ค่ำ เดือน 11, Sib ha kham doan sib ed), closes the series on Saturday, October 23 at 3pm. Jira Maligool's now-classic 2002 comedy-drama chronicles the phenomenon that occurs every October along the Mekong at Nong Khai, when mysterious fireballs shoot out of the river and are thought to be the work of the supernatural naga serpents. It was the winner of nine Subhannahongsa Awards and the 2003 FIPRESCI award at the Hong Kong fest.

(Thanks Stefan!)

PIFF 2010 notes: Green for White Room, Aditya returns early, market talk and AFA

Pusan Promotion Plan – Anocha Suwichakornpong is getting some green for her White Room, which was among the winners of awards from the Pusan Promotion Plan. Film Business Asia has the full rundown. The White Room, produced by Anocha and Japanese producer Kousuke Ono, received $10,000. It's a story that's set in the U.K. and Japan and is among at least two projects Anocha has going. She's also at work on her Bangkok factory-worker drama Dao Khanong (By the Time It Gets Dark).

From Busan to Bangkok – Aditya Assarat was back in Bangkok yesterday, leaving behind his Pop Pictures crew to return from Busan early. He was wearing his figurative producer's hat yesterday afternoon at the press conference for the 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok. He took the stage in the Paragon Cineplex's Enigma theater to chat with festival director Victor Silakong about the festival’s opening film Eternity (Tee Rak), which premiered in the Pusan's New Currents competition. Aditya also introduced the main cast for Eternity, actress Namfon Udomlertlak and actor Wanlop Rungkumjad. Like many Pop Pictures productions, crew members often find themselves in front of the camera. Wanlop works as an art director, and he was chosen to star in Eternity on the basis of his appearance. "Just look at him," Aditya said. "He's the most handsome guy in the company!" Eternity is directed by Sivaroj Kongsakul, who was "stuck in Busan", presumably awaiting the result of the New Currents awards.

Good reception – In addition to Eternity, Pop Pictures also has Aditya's sophomore feature High Society in Pusan. Both were well received when they were shown last weekend, Aditya says, with the theaters packed and loads of autograph seekers mobbing the bemused indie filmmakers and crew. They are bigger stars in South Korea than they are back home in Thailand.

Asian Film MarketFilm Business Asia has a summary of the action at the Asian Film Market, with a look at three first-time exhibitors from Thailand. They included the new company Charisma, which was getting a few bites for its upcoming film Venom (อสรพิษ) (correction) company co-founder Jarunee Thamyu. Another Charisma project is O.T., directed by Sick Nurses co-helmer Piraphan Laoyont. Charisma made its debut in January with the children's film Panya Renu. GMM Tai Hub made its first appearance in AFM, and it sold the Korean-set romance Hello Stranger (กวน มึน โฮ) to a Taiwanese company. Kantana was also there, reporting good interest in its upcoming films.

The Class of 2010 – The Asian Film Academy has a new Thai graduate, Panit Jirawattananunt. He was among 24 fellows accepted into the AFA this year. He helped with cinematography on the AFA production Ignorance.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

World Film Festival of Bangkok 2010: Eternity, Insects among premieres

Two indie arthouse dramas, Eternity (ที่รัก, Tee Rak) and Insects in the Backyard, will make their Thai premieres at the 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok next month.

Eternity, by Sivaroj Kongsakul, will be the WFFBKK's opening film on November 5. The drama, which is a highly personal, haunting reflection of Sivaroj's thoughts about his father's death, is in the New Currents competition this week at the Pusan International Film Festival. It's the debut feature by Sivaroj, a well-known fixture on the Thai indie scene, whose short film Silencio won many awards. Eternity is produced by Aditya Assarat's Pop Pictures.

Insects in the Backyard makes its Thai premiere as part of the World Film Festival's Asian Contemporary line-up. Directed by indie darling Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, the katoey filmmaker also stars as the lewd-and-crude cross-dressing "big sister" to a pair of troubled teenagers. The three form an unconventional family unit and deal with all sorts of relationship problems. Insects premiered in the Dragons and Tigers competition at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Another noteworthy Asian Contemporary world premiere is Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, a compilation of shorts by three Asian female directors. Mundane History director Anocha Suwichakornpong directs Lunch. The other two directors are China's Wang Jing and Kaz Cai from Singapore. The project has long been in the works and at one time had Peng Shan and Eva Tang attached to direct the China and Singapore portions. It's produced by Bee Pin Tay and Wormwood Films of Singapore.

Here's the Asian Contemporary program:

There's also a bunch of Thai and other Southeast Asian shorts in the Short Wave and Guts Nouveau programs, which I aim to get into later.

Other highlights of this year's festival include a Retrospective on French director Jacques Doillon and the Lotus Award for Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan and a package on New Turkish Cinema.

More about the fest is
in The Nation today.

The World Film Festival of Bangkok runs from November 5 to 14 at Paragon Cineplex and at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai).

On DVD in Hong Kong: Dear Galileo

Nithiwat Tharatorn's travel drama Dear Galileo (Nee Tam Galileo, หนีตามกาลิเลโอ) hits English-subtitled DVD tomorrow in Hong Kong.

You can order it at YesAsia.

Released last year by GTH, the movie stars Chutima Teepanart and Jarinporn Joonkiat as friends who travel to Europe to escape their problems in Thailand. Ray MacDonald puts in an appearance as a streetwise Thai guy, squatting in a vacant warehouse with Parisian artists.

Here's the synopsis from YesAsia:

Ever thought about putting everything in your life down and going away? The director of the hit Thai teen film Seasons Change shows why that might be easier said than done with the coming-of-age adventure Dear Galileo. The film follows the journey of Noon and Cherry, two university students with respective troubles to run away from – one an on-and-off boyfriend, and the other a suspension from school for forging a teacher's signature on a school document. Vowed to be best friends forever, the girls decide to head off together to three cities in Europe – London, Paris, and Venice. Even though the girls run into the risk of deportation, cultural alienation, and facing their own troubles at home, director Nithiwat Tharatorn tells the story in a light, enjoyable tone. Dear Galileo is as much about the girls discovering new place as it is about the girls discovering their places in the world. With universal messages of friendship and self-discovery, Dear Galileo was a critical and commercial hit in Thailand.

The DVD comes after Dear Galileo had a theatrical run in Hong Kong earlier this year.

Released by Kam & Ronson, the Region 3 disc is NTSC format.

(Thanks Logboy!)

The program for the Luang Prabang Film Festival

Twenty-three movies from nine countries will screen over eight days in the Luang Prabang Film Festival, running from December 4 to 11 in the historic former royal capital of Laos.

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

Countries represented are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Among the lineup is Wonderful Town, the acclaimed 2008 debut feature film of Thai indie director Aditya Assarat.

There's also the Lao-Thai co-productions, Sabaidee Luang Prabang and director Sakchai Deenan's prequel made this year, Sabaidee 2: From Paxse With Love.

The late Malaysian director Yasmin Ahmad will be paid tribute with a two-film package, Mukhsin and Talentime.

Festival founder and director Gabriel Kuperman notes that some countries have stronger representation than others.

The selection was made through the festival's Motion Picture Ambassadors program, in which filmmakers and film experts from each country were sought and encouraged to make suggestions about what films should be shown.

"From the list of films recommended to us, we chose the ones we thought best fit within our program to go on to the National Censorship Board," Kuperman explains. "However, even before that process, we contacted all of the distributors and filmmakers to see if they were interested in taking part in this project.

"Because we are a non-profit entity, with little funding, operating a developing country with little infrastructure for film, we asked the distributors to kindly both waive their screening fees and allow us to screen via DVD. Understandably, not all of the companies were able to do that, largely because of corporate restrictions. So, many films recommended to us became ineligible at that point. (This was the case with many of our Thai films, for example.) So, this factor, alongside the censorship issue which came to play in a few different countries where their films did not pass the Board, narrowed down the list of films able to be screened.

"This being said, I am quite pleased with the final films which will be shown in December. They represent the broad spectrum of quality creative filmmaking that is happening in the region."

2010 Luang Prabang Film Festival Program

Saturday, December 4

  • 6:00pm – Opening Ceremony
  • 7:00pm – Today is Better than Two Tomorrows (Laos)
  • 9:00pm – Adrift (Vietnam)

Sunday, December 5

  • 6:00pm – Sabaidee Luang Prabang (Laos)
  • 8:00pm – The Maid (Singapore)
  • 10:00pm – Karaoke (Malaysia)

Monday, December 6

  • 6:00pm – Sabaidee 2: From Pakse with Love (Laos)
  • 8:00pm – About My Father (Cambodia)
  • 10:00pm – 18 Grams of Love (Singapore)

Tuesday, 7 December

  • 6:00pm – Papadom (Malaysia)
  • 8:00pm – The Photograph (Indonesia)
  • 10:00pm – Adela (Philippines)

Wednesday, 8 December

  • 6:00pm – When the Full Moon Rises (Malaysia)
  • 8:00pm – Only Love (Laos)
  • 10:00pm – At Stake (Indonesia)

Thursday, 9 December

  • 6:00pm – Mukhsin (Malaysia)
  • 8:00pm – Talentime (Malaysia)
  • 10:00pm – Shadows of the Past (Myanmar)

Friday, 10 December

  • 6:00pm – Bombhunters (Cambodia)
  • 8:00pm – Love for Share (Indonesia)
  • 10:00pm – Flower in the Pocket (Malaysia)

Saturday, 11 December

  • 6:00pm – 881 (Singapore)
  • 8:00pm – Wonderful Town (Thailand)
  • 10:00pm – Little Heart (Vietnam)

The schedule is subject to change.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mindfulness and Murder wins three awards at Thrill Spy

Back in June, DeWarrenne Pictures producer-director Tom Waller told me about his new project, Mindfulness and Murder, a mystery thriller featuring a monk detective.

Well, it's done, and it's already making the rounds of film festivals.

DeWarrenne Pictures e-mailed a press release this morning, with the latest news about the "controversial new Thai monk movie". Here's the press release:

A murder mystery set in a Bangkok temple has won three awards for its filmmakers at an international film festival in the United States earlier this month.

Satit-suek-sop (Mindfulness and Murder) is based on a book by Bangkok-based writer Nick Wilgus, who puts a new spin on the clerical detective genre with his "Father Ananda mystery" novel series.

Starring Vithaya Pansringarm in his first lead role, the Thai language film also features veteran Thai actor Jaran "See Tao" Petcharoen, Prinya "Way" Intachai of Thaitainium, Charina "Kaew" Sirisinha (ZaZa), Natalie Glebova (Miss Universe 2005) and Abhijati "Muek" Jusakul in his last Thai film role. The veteran actor died on September 6 at the age of 54.

Selected to show as a special preview for the Closing Film at Thrill Spy, a festival dedicated to the thriller/spy genre, Mindfulness and Murder won a Best Actor Award for lead actor Vithaya Pansringarm and Best Director for Tom Waller.

Born in Bangkok to a Thai Buddihst mother and Irish Catholic father, producer/director Tom had a unique dual perspective on the story. "When I received the script from Nick I was immediately excited about making a film version of this gripping story - after all, how often do you see a film about a monk detective!"

"Pu" Vithaya, who had worked with Tom before playing King Saryu in the Hollywood production of The Prince and Me: The Elephant Adventure, was at first reluctant to take on the lead role after hearing about the story, which deals with organized crime in the monastery, fake monks, corrupt cops, drug-dealing and other taboos. But after reading the script, Pu was immediately excited about taking on the challenging role of Father Ananda, a former homicide detective. "I saw this project as an opportunity to send a message and make people realize how Buddhism in Thailand is being abused. By solving the crimes and finding the murderer, Father Ananda is protecting the Buddhist Sangha".

Shot in 2.35:1 cinemascope, the film also won Best Cinematography for Bangkok-based Australian DP Wade Muller, who went on to work with Ong-Bak Thai director Prachya Pinkaew on his English language debut Elephant White earlier this year.

Later this month, Mindfulness and Murder will be shown at the first Cambodia International Film Festival in Phnom Penh.

Both Tom and Pu hope that Thai audiences will get to see the film soon. "Nick wrote a trilogy of novels, so we hope that if audiences like the first film, Father Ananda will also return for a sequel!"

PIFF 2010: Ananda Everingham in South Korea

Among the official guests at the 15th Pusan International Film Festival is actor Ananda Everingham. Thailand's leading leading man is there to support the international premiere of The Red Eagle, directed by Wisit Sasanatieng, who's also on the guest list.

But he's also starring in another film at Pusan, Hi-So by Aditya Assarat.

He was interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter's Jonathan Landreth, and talked about The Red Eagle, Hi-So, Eternity (and the other indie Eternity).

In Hi-So, he explains that he plays himself (his character is called Ananda) "but the dilemmas of the character are the dilemmas of the director" as the movie deals with the complications of love in an increasingly cosmopolitan Bangkok. As Ananda say: "We’re not Western and we’re not totally Asian either."

Hilariously, he skipped out on last week's Red Eagle gala premiere in Bangkok. He explains:

For me, if you know anything about the history of the film, well, you can understand that the role [originally played by Mitr Chaibancha] felt like it was big shoes to fill. I haven’t even seen the finished film. I couldn’t see the world premiere [in Bangkok, October 4]. There was too much pressure to march into the theater, in front of all the people you care about, and sit down and watch. It was a mixture of nervousness and pride. After the film opens in Thailand cinemas, I plan to go buy a ticket and see it on my own.

Somehow he'll have to find the time to get to the cinema before jetting off to Tibet to make a road move called Shambala, which he mentioned in his interview last week with Stefan of A Nutshell Review.

And there's also Palung, his directorial debut, which is in development at Aditya's Pop Pictures.