Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Venice Film Festival 2011: Rirkrit's Lung Neaw, Passing through the Night

You've met Uncle Boonmee, now there's another Thai uncle to meet.

It's Uncle Neaw, in the feature documentary Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours, the debut film by Rirkrit Tiravanija.

An internationally acclaimed visual artist, Rirkrit's a Silpathorn Award-laureate who's perhaps best known for cooking meals for visitors of his exhibitions.

Lung Neaw is one of two Thai films announced today for the Venice Film Festival.

It's playing in the Orizzonti (Horizons) section.

The other is a 13-minute short, Passing Through the Night by Wattanapume Laisuwanchai.

The fest, running August 31 to September 10, opens with George Clooney's political drama The Ides of March. Rope of Silicon has more on the line-up.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gangstas, girls and ghouls in Gangcore Gud

Hip-hop mogul Joey Boy blends gangsta rappers with girls and ghouls for Gancore Gud (ก้านคอกัด) a low-budget horror-comedy that has his Gancore hip-hop collective stranded on a remote island where they hope to party with a bunch of bikini-clad Playboy models. They instead are confronted by zombies and other supernatural beings.

Being released in Thai cinemas on Thursday by Phranakorn film, Gancore Gud, literally "Gancore bite", is the feature-film directorial debut for Joey Boy, a.k.a. Apisit Opasaimlikit.

He previously wrote and starred in GTH's 2006 rock 'n' roll comedy The Possible (Kao ... Kao) and played a motor-mouthed monk in Phranakorn's Luangphee Teng 2 (The Holy Man 2). He won a Best Music Video prize in 2009 at the Seed Awards for directing a clip for the song "Ratree Sawad" by one of his Gancore rapper cohorts, Golf Sing Nuea.

In addition to Joey Boy and his hip-hop crew, the cast of Gancore Gud includes "Oum" Lakana Wattanawongsiri, the actress who raised eyebrows with her masturbation scene in last year's erotic movie Namtan Dang (Brown Sugar). She plays the Goddess of the Forest. There's also models "Atom" Pakjira Wisawawisut and Kumiko Sugaho.

You can read more about the movie in an article in The Nation. Watch the trailer at YouTube (embedded below).

On DVD in the U.S.: Bangkok Knockout

While Stateside English-friendly DVD releases of Thai movies seem to be pretty rare, Magnet Releasing continues with its practice of acquiring any action or fantasy title put out by Sahamongkol Film International, seemingly to the exclusion of any horror other-genre titles from other Thai studios.

Following last month's North American bow of the first two Naresuan movies as Kingdom of War, Magnet's upcoming release is B.K.O.: Bangkok Knockout, which is due out on August 30 on Blu-ray and DVD.

Since its release late last year Panna Rittikrai's stunt-spectacular Bangkok Knockout has enjoyed a run of the festivals, including the New York Asian Film Festival, North Carolina's ActionFest
and the Udine Far East Film Festival. It also screened earlier this year at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and recently at Philadelphia's Danger After Dark.

Several reviews have turned up, including Maggie Lee at the Hollywood Reporter, Twitch, The Jaded Viewer, Unseen Films, Chud and Movie Buzzers. Consensus seems to be mixed, with raves for the insane action and thumbs down for everything else about it.

(Thanks Logboy!)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Third Class Citizen presents Spark with Electric Eels

In the latest installment of its ongoing screening series, the Thai film-activist group Third Class Citizen offers Spark With Electric Eels, a retrospective on the short films by young filmmakers Wasunan Hutawach and Wichanon Somumjarn who are part of Electric Eel Films, the production company started by Mundane History director Anocha Suwichakornpong.

Shorts by Wasunan open the program: Small World (2008), Love Me Love My Dog (2010), This Way (2010), The Visitors (2011, made for Third Class Citizen's Postcard Cinema project) and A Railroad Engineer (2011). Her Love Me Love My Dog was featured at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Wichanon's shorts are W.C. (2005), A Brighter Day (2007), the award-winning Four Boys, White Whiskey and Grilled Mouse (2009), All That Remains (2010) and a teaser for his upcoming feature Like Raining at the End of April, which was recently previewed at the Paris Project Screenings.

The show time is at 4pm on Saturday, July 23, in the Eat@Double U Restaurant on the ninth floor of SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Admission is free.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shooting The Moon, biopic of '80s superstar singer Pumpuang Duangjan

One of the Thai film industry's most anticipated releases this year, Pumpuang (พุ่มพวง, a.k.a. The Moon) is a biographical drama about the revered 1980s superstar Pumpuang Duangjan.

One of 12 children from a hardscrabble farming family in Suphan Buri, the illiterate Pumpuang grew up singing in the sugarcane fields. She worked her way into show business and spearheaded the popularization of luk thung, a form of Thai country music that had mainly only been heard in the rural central plains. With disco beats added and the tempo pumped up, the soulful, lovelorn rural reveries crossed over to become pop hits in the clubs of Bangkok. She went on to become one of the biggest recording artists in Thai showbiz, and made a number of movies. She died from lupus in 1992 at the age of 31.

You can hear some of her music at the MonrakPlengThai blog.

She is portrayed in the movie by Paowalee Pornpimon, a 19-year-old luk thung singer, who, like Pumpuang herself, is from Suphan Buri. Paowalee makes her big-screen debut, and her first album is the soundtrack for the movie. Folks are already raving about her performance.

The director is Bandit Thongdee. He has partnered with producer Prachya Pinkaew on a number of projects, including Brown Sugar and Four Romances. He also directed the superhero action flick Mercury Man. Pumpuang sees Bandit getting back to the roots of his 2002 debut feature Mon Pleng Lukthung FM, a.k.a. Hoedown Showdown, a comedy about a music contest that featured an all-star roster of actual luk thung singers. Prachya and his Baa-Ram-Ewe shingle are producing the release for Sahamongkolfilm International.

The Bangkok Post had a story about the movie on Sunday and yesterday. The Nation has one in today's paper.

And you can watch an English-subtitled trailer at YouTube (embedded below).

The Moon is in Thai cinemas today.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kongdej, Wichanon, Sivaroj and Pramote pitch at Paris Project Screenings

Projects by Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, Wichanon Somumjarn, Sivaroj Kongsakul and Pramote Sangsorn were featured at the recent Paris Project Screenings at the Paris Cinema International Film Festival.

Kongdej had his latest project
P-047 in the post-production screening. Described as an "off-beat dramedy", Variety says it drew offers. An indie production from the director of such Thai-studio efforts as GTH's Handle Me With Care and Sahamongkol's Midnight My Love, P-047 is the story of a couple of guys who work at a shopping mall – a locksmith at a key-making booth and a clerk from the neighboring magazine stall – who hatch a plan to break into apartments and "borrow" things. Of course, this being a Kongdej film, there's more to it than that. Go read the synopsis at the movie website.

Wichanon, of Anocha Suwichakornpong's Electric Eel Films, previewed his debut feature Like Raining at the End of April (สิ้น เมษา ฝนตก มา ปรอย ปรอย). Described on the movie's Facebook page as a "very low-budget film", the story involves a guy named Nhum, who's a construction foreman working in Bangkok. Due to political instability, Nhum finds himself out of a job. He then decides to go back to his hometown in the northeast of Thailand to attend a high-school friend's wedding, which is taking place during the Thai New Year in April – the hottest time of the year. Anocha and Maenum Chagasik are the producers. You can see them in a behind-the-scenes video at YouTube.

Wichanon will show a one-minute clip of his movie with his short films, including the award-winning Four Boys, White Whisky and Grilled Mouse, on Saturday at SFW CentralWorld in Bangkok, as part of the Third Class Citizen: Spark With Electric Eels program.

And in the Paris Project Screenings roster from the 2011 Cannes Cinéfondation residency, there was Arunkarn, the sophomore feature from Eternity (Tee-Rak) director Sivaroj. According to Screen Daily (subscriber content only), Arunkarn attracted a co-production deal from Rotterdam Films in cooperation with Dutch distributor Contact Films.

“We’ve taken Benelux rights,” Rotterdam Films’ Dirk Rijneke is quoted as saying by Screen.

Arunkarn (or Arun Karn) was previously pitched at the Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum and is about "two soldiers whose last days are intertwined with their loved ones." There's a complete synopsis at the Pop Pictures website.

Also from the Cannes Cinéfondation residency was Pramote with his debut feature Tam Rasisalai, about the livelihoods of residents in the village in Si Sa Ket Province in the northeast of Thailand. The maker of many short films, including Tsu, which was shown in Venice, Pramote obtained a script-development award for Tam Rasisalai from the Asian Cinema Fund in 2009 and has also been supported by the Culture Ministry's Thai Khem Kang (Strong Thailand).

All the Cinéfondation classmates will get another chance to pitch their projects in the Open Doors section at next month's Locarno Film Festival.

Call for entries: Lifescapes Southeast Asian Film Festival, February 2012

After a memorable inaugural run earlier this year, the second Lifescapes Southeast Asian Film Festival is set for next February in Chiang Mai.

They have a call for entries. Here's more info from the festival website:

A lifescape is an expanse – life, livelihood, and reality – that can be seen in a single view. The Lifescapes Southeast Asian Film Festival screens contemporary films – documentary, docu-drama, or dramatized – to showcase thoughtful work with a social conscience. The festival hopes to raise awareness of film culture and filmmakers of mainland Southeast Asia who make meaningful social commentary with their work – showing the beautiful without flinching from grim reality.

Selected films will explore regional issues within mainland Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Lao, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The program will be interactive, offering directors, producers, media representatives, NGO representatives, and audience members the opportunity to join together in post-screening Q&A sessions, panel discussions, and evening social functions throughout the program.
The submission deadline is October 31.

The festival, set for February 2 to 5, is organized through the South East Asian Institute of Global Studies (SEAIGS) at Payap University in Chiang Mai. The fest takes place on the Payap University Mae Khao Campus, behind the former Carrefour, likely now a Big C, in the Sirindhorn Learning Resource Center. All activities on are free and open to the public

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thunska's Terrorists and Kisses at BACC

Thunska Pansittivorakul's latest controversial feature The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย, Poo Kor Karn Rai) will screen in Thailand after all.

Not in a commercial run at a cinema, because, with its mix of politics and penises, it would never be passed by censors for that. But it will be part of an exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

The Terrorists will show on the sidelines of the Dialogic exhibition at the BACC, which runs from Thursday, July 21 until September 25. The opening reception is at 6pm on Thursday.

Thunska will have video installation in Dialogic called KISS = ปี้, which looks at "farang-styled kisses" vs. "Thai-styled kisses", and, in the same vein as The Terrorists and his other recent features, will comment on politics and history and the treatment of homosexuals and "terrorists" – folks on the fringes of society.

You can find out more about Thunska's work at the Dialogic website.

Other artists taking part in Dialogic are writer Lom Penkaew, designer Pracha Suveeranon, visual artist Surasri Kusolwong, performance artist Pattarasuda Anuman Rajadhon, multimedia artists Mahasamut Bunyarak and Sedhawat Aoudha, architect Singh Intrachooto and singer Tul Waitulkiat of the rock band Apartment Khunpa. In the exhibition, the artists "interpret the cycle of birth, pain, and death and all that it entails, from eating to sleeping to having sex", according to an item in the Sunday Nation.

The Terrorists, also in competition this week at the New Horizons International Film Festival in Poland, screens at 3.30pm on Saturday, July 23 at the BACC.

The screening venue is a corner of the BACC's eighth-floor gallery, on a bare white wall where there are a handful of beanbag chairs strewn around. If you want a seat, get there early. It's on the sidelines of Dialogic as part of the Morbid Symptom screening series by Film Virus. See the DK Film House blog for the complete line-up.

Monday, July 18, 2011

King of the White Elephant at FCCT on Thursday

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.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On DVD in Hong Kong: Colic

Colic (โคลิค เด็กเห็นผี, Colic: Dek Hen Pee), the infant horror thriller that came out a few years back, is due out soon on DVD in Hong Kong.

Directed by Patchanon Thammajira and released by Sahamongkol Film International in 2006, Colic gained a lot of notice just for its gory posters, especially the one of the one-armed baby looking at the blender that's apparently just turned his missing limb into jelly.

The all-region Hong Kong disc is English subtitled, according to the specs. It's due out on July 21.

(Thanks Logboy!)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Unreal Forest and Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner in St. Petersburg fest

The Saint Petersburg International Film Forum is underway in Russia, where they have a Winds from the East program that includes Jakrawal Nilthamrong's Unreal Forest and Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, the pan-Asian compilation of shorts by three female directors, including Thailand's Anocha Suwichakornpong.

Unreal Forest, which Jakrawal made in Zambia under the International Film Festival Rotterdam's Forget Africa program, screened in Bangkok last year as an art installation. It's been featured in several other festivals, including Göteborg, the African, Asian and Latin American Film Festival in Milan, Singapore and in competition at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival in the Czech Republic.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, which also features segments by China's Wang Jing and Singapore's Kaz Cai, is also playing in Bangkok as part of Bioscope magazine's Indie Spirit Project. It's screening nightly until July 20 alongside Chira Wichaisuthikul's Muay Thai documentary Lumpinee.

St. Peterburg's program also includes The Tiger Factory by Malaysia's Woo Ming Jin.

The fest runs until July 15.

NYC's Thai Artists Alliance Siamese Connection 2011: Rediscover, July 28-31

New York City's Thai Artists Alliance has its second annual multi-disciplinary exhibition, Siamese Connection 2011: Rediscover, and in addition to painting, sculpture, photography, design and installation, the show will include film.

Among the films is the short Homework by Kanin Koonsumitawong, which tells the story of a Thai-American boy, who, having never set foot in Thailand himself, must rediscover his ethnic roots when he is given a school assignment to present an essay about his native country.

Other filmmakers taking part are Chananun Chotrungroj with Homecoming, Vorapat Chutrvachirakul and Bangkok's Labyrinth, Thitiwat Dumrak with New York Horror, Niramon Ross and Evolve and Manasrawee Wongpradu and Ruchupa Somsopa with Habits of Bodies.

According to the press release (PDF), this year’s theme of “rediscover” prompts the artists "to take another look at themselves, their identity and their surroundings, finding new meaning, significance and perspective in familiar or forgotten things."

Other featured artists include Intiporn "Inti" Rojanasopondist, who explores the body's rediscovery of space as it interacts with her site-specific, installation, Suspension, made of hand-crocheted rope. Another is photographer Udom Surangsophon with Self-Portrait, in which he rediscovers boldness and a sense of humor while confronting his life-long affliction with shyness by baring down to his briefs to re-create the packaging on a pair of Calvin Klein underwear.

The show will also feature works from special guest artists including the Siamese Connection 2011: Rediscover jurors: Goil Amornvivat (architect/interior designer), Sarasin Chatwichitkoon (mixed-media artist, president of Thai Artists Alliance), Prawat Laucharoen (professor, printmaker), Keith Schweitzer (independent curator, photographer), Sutthirat Supaparinya (video/installation artist), as well as the work of London-based illustrator, Pomme Chan.

A total of 31 Thai artists and designers are participating.

New York’s largest Thai arts showcase, Siamese Connection was first held last year, providing a platform for emerging Thai artists based in New York, many of whom have come to the Big Apple to work and study. Last year’s Siamese Connection, held in May 2010, drew more than 1,000 attendees throughout its four days.

This year's show takes place from July 28 to 31 at the Invisible Dog Arts Center in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. The opening reception is on Thursday, July 28, at 7pm with guest speaker Consul-General Piriya Khempon from the Royal Thai Consulate in New York, followed by a dance performance by Siras Nitithatsanakul and friends. Food and drinks will be served. The closing reception on Sunday, July 31 at 5:30pm features live music by a Thai-American performers: Napat Snidvongs and Friends, the Kris & Phueksachard Trio, Earth Science and Low Fat Getting High playing acoustic, jazz, punk and post-rock. Drinks will be served.

Tickets are a suggested $5 donation for admission. Visitors can also register for free entry to the event through the Thai Artists Alliance website.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lumpinee & Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner screening in Bioscope's Indie Spirit Project

Bioscope magazine kicked off its Indie Spirit Project last year by organizing a monthlong limited theatrical run of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives at SFX the Emporium. Having just won the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, it was one of the hottest tickets in town, with Bangkok's trend-followers flocking to see it.

The screening series continues this week two more independent films, showing nightly at Bangkok's SF World Cinema at CentralWorld for the next two weeks starting on Friday. They are:

  • Lumpinee – Director Chira Wichaisuthikul looks at the lives of youths in a Muay Thai camp in Trang, where they live and train from morning until night. Taking its name from the Bangkok boxing stadium where some bouts are filmed, Lumpinee screened earlier this year at the Salaya Doc Fest and premiered at last year's International Documentary Film Festival Rotterdam and was supported by the fest's Jan Vrijman Fund. Watch a trailer at YouTube.
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner – Female empowerment is the common thread running through this trio of short mealtime romances by three Asian female directors, China's Wang Jing, Thailand's Anocha Suwichakornpong and Singapore's Kaz Cai. It premiered at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.
and Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner are showing in back-to-back screenings nightly from Friday, starting at 7 at SFW CentralWorld. This week, Lumpinee is first, followed by BLD. Next week, the positions are reversed.

You can find out more about the movies at Bioscope's blog and in a recent Bangkok Post article.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thunska's Terrorists in competition at New Horizons

There was an election yesterday and as a result Thailand has a new prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who makes history has the country's first female premier. Despite that she's the sister of the PM who was ousted in a military coup five years ago and was backed by the "red shirt" protesters who became emblematic of the wide divisions in Thai society, there's hope for reconciliation.

Meanwhile, a film that comments on Thai politics, the disparity between the elite and the poor and people on the fringes of society, The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย, Poo Kor Karn Rai), is in competition in Poland's New Horizons International Film Festival.

Directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul, it's a magnum opus for the director, continuing with themes he explored in This Area Is Under Quarantine (banned in Thailand), Reincarnate and his various short films, which combine political commentary and male homosexual erotic fantasies.

Produced by Jürgen Brüning, best known for his work with director Bruce La Bruce, The Terrorists premiered earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival.

Since Berlin, The Terrorists has had some private screenings, allowing more folks to see it.

The New Horizons International Film Festival runs from July 21 to 31.