Screening this week at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, The King of the White Elephant (Phra Chao Chang Pheuak, พระเจ้าช้างเผือก) is a rare film for at least a couple of reasons.
First, the black-and-white historical action drama is one of the few Thai films made in English. And second, the 1941 film is one of the oldest surviving complete Thai features.
Produced by statesman Pridi Banomyong, The King of the White Elephant was an anti-war propaganda piece in the months leading up to the Japanese invasion of Thailand.
Not long after the film was released, Thailand became a defacto ally of Japan and Pridi had joined the Seri Thai resistance.
With elephant battles and palace intrigue, as well as lots of humor, it's the story of a peace-loving king who finds himself having to go to war when his borders are attacked.
The cast are all non-actors, students and faculty from Thammasat University, which Pridi founded.
Though the 35mm prints were lost, a 16mm print was found in the U.S. Library of Congress and efforts were undertaken by the Thai Film Archive to make a restored 35mm print with the generous assistance of Kodak and Technicolor Asia. The restored film was presented at the 2007 Phuket Film Festival.
The FCCT's screening (on DVD) will be introduced by the archive's deputy director, Chalida Uabumrungjit. And there will be a ranad (Thai xylophone) performance by Thaweesak Akarawong of the Office of Performing Arts. Pridi's daughter Dusdi Banomyong will be a special guest.
Admission for non-members is 150 baht and 50 baht for anyone wanting to eat the Thai snacks.
The show time is at 8pm on Thursday, July 21.