Borders are breaking down in indie filmmaker Aditya Assarat's sophomore feature, Hi-So (ไฮโซ), which finally opens in Bangkok this week after screening for the past year on the festival circuit.
Inspired by Aditya's own life – he was raised in Thailand but spent half his life going to school in the U.S. – Hi-So is a bifurcated look at a melancholy man who doesn't fit in either place.
Ananda Everingham stars. He plays a Thai actor who's recently moved back to Thailand after years in the States. While making a movie on location in Phang Nga Province (the same setting as Aditya's 2008 debut Wonderful Town), he's visited on set by his American girlfriend (Cerise Leang) and is having trouble connecting to her. Later he's back in Bangkok and has a Thai girlfriend (Sajee Apiwong), and can't relate to her either.
It's a movie of halves, with the first in English and the second in Thai.
"By the nature of the structure, the two halves always reflect each other, and I always thought it would be like the same movie being played over again," Aditya told The Nation last month. "Even some of the conversations are the same, except one is in English and the other in Thai."
Aside from getting a highly personal project out of his system, Aditya says the aim of Hi-So is to depict a modern Thailand that's been changed by globalization.
"It's a contemporary Asian film. It's about what it's like to live in Thailand now and what it feels like to live in Asia now, where there's a breakdown of culture and borders. We're all becoming one Asian culture," he says. "A hundred years ago, to be born in Thailand meant something. It meant that you spoke Thai and you never left the country and you were Thai. Now it could mean anything. You can speak English or Japanese and you don't eat Thai food. You watch Korean TV shows or French movies and you wear your hair the way people wear it in Brazil."
Enthusiasts of contemplative cinema, as well as as fans of Ananda and indie Thai films will probably enjoy Hi-So, which despite all the brooding by its lead actor, has its entertaining moments, thanks in large part to the two fabulous female stars and a colorful supporting cast.
Hi-So premiered a year ago at the Busan International Film Festival and his played the circuit, hitting Tokyo, Berlin and recently Singapore, among other fests. It also had a limited run in New York.
Part of the Extra Virgin Director's Screen Project, Hi-So is in limited release for the next month at three SF cinemas: CentralWorld, Central Lat Phrao and SF Cinema City at the new Terminal 21 mall at the Asoke intersection.
Find out more about the movie at its Facebook page. There's also an official YouTube channel, which includes the trailer (embedded below), cool clips from the soundtrack and a couple of short films by Aditya that are closely linked to Hi-So – 6 to 6 (part 2 here) and Bangkok Blues (part 2 here).