Monday, March 14, 2011

Nang Nak at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival

The 29th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival got under way last Thursday.

There's only one Thai film in the line-up this year, and it's a classic: 1999's Nang Nak, a lush reworking of the famous old Bangkok ghost story by director Nonzee Nimibutr with a script by Wisit Sasanatieng.

Inthira Charoenpura stars as Mae Nak of Phra Khanong, who died giving birth to a stillborn boy while her husband Mak (Winai Kraibutr) was away fighting a war. He comes back and doesn't realize she has died.

It's part of a program called After Death: Horror Cinema from South East Asia, which also features Afflication by Richard Somes from the Philippines and Malaysian indie director Jame Lee's first Malay film (and his first stab at commercial cinema), Histeria.

The fest also had the Vietnamese action drama Clash, starring Veronica Ngo and Johnny Tri Nguyen. It only screened once over the weekend at the Castro, so if you missed it, too bad, because it's worth seeing on the big screen.

Nang Nak already screened once over the weekend, but there's another showing on Thursday at the Pacific Film Archive.

Later this year, the "Mae Nak" story will get its umpteenth cinematic telling in a 3D version by Bangkok Inter Group Film that stars "Tak" Bongkote Kongmalai.

I have a feeling that Nonzee's Nang Nak will remain the definitive contemporary version of the tale for many more years to come.

The SFIAAFF runs until March 20.

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