Giving voice to Thailand's diverse ethnic groups, Friends Without Borders' fourth Fly Beyond the Barbwire Fence Festival in Chiang Mai is set for March 29 to April 1 at Chiang Mai University Art Museum.
The lineup of films and schedule are still coming together, but it's looking pretty solid, with the opening and closing, special programs and a competition. More than a film festival, it's a cultural celebration, with an art exhibition, food, crafts, traditional dance performances and a world music concert. The last one I attended was the second edition back in 2009, and I had a blast.
The opener this year will be Pimpaka Towira's My Father, which won the Special Jury Prize at last year's Vladivostok International Film Festival. It's about the small-town master of a train station who loses his job over a letter he wrote, demanding justice. He then heads to Bangkok and joins a protest rally.
A highlight will be The Assembly of Samurais, the new film from Colors of Our Hearts director Supamok Silarak and the Friends Without Borders team. Samurais is a semi-documentary following the journey of a young Lahu and his experiences making his first film. There's a trailer and it's embedded below.
Another special screening will be Frame by Aroonakorn Pick, a 22-year old CMU student. It aims to question the "frame" we're living in.
The closing film will be the Chiang Mai premiere of Enemies of the People, the extraordinary documentary by Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath and co-director Rob Lemkin about Sambath's decade-long effort to gain the trust of the Khmer Rouge's Brother No. 2, Nuon Chea.
There's also a competition, featuring shorts by students and young filmmakers. Here's the lineup so far:
- Uau-Jao, directed by Pranpriya Kamchadpai – Made by film students from KMITL and inspired by a song of the same name, it's about a city man who's a teacher of Hmong children on Phu Hin Rong Kla who learns that the little school will be closed down, according to the new government's policy.
- Flesh and Blood directed by Taviras Amatyakul – The short by a junior director of commercial film at Maison Film and Production in Bangkok, is dedicated to those who lost loved ones during the bloody May 2010 incident in Bangkok. It's about two brothers who walked on the paths of their beliefs, which are in the opposite directions.
- The Farmer, directed by Natpakal Khemkao – A story, told by a director who is a farmer's son, is about a farmer who is trapped in teh vicious circle of debt.
- Pre-attitude directed by Panu Saeng-xuto –
- Three "misters", a village headman, a soldier and a Muslim student, have chosen to live their lives happily as "misses". It received Young Thai Artist Award 2010 from the Siam Cement Foundation.
- Pals Beyond Borders, directed by Tanupong Polpaiboon – Boys from different ethnic backgrounds need to prove their friendship before their parents can accept it. It's made by a student director from Mae Sai-Burma border and his friends.
- Tamula, directed by Saw Day Day – His girlfriend decides to seek freedom in a third country and his grandfather wants to return to his homeland in Karen State. But, Tamula, a young refugee, flies out of the refugee camp's barbwire fence with just his imagination in his painting. It's made by a young Karen director from Mae Sot.
- The Six Principles, by Abhichon Rattanapayon – The principles declared by the People's Party in the 1932 revolution have been forgotten and undermined during the past 78 years.
- A Comb and a Buckle, directed by Ja Bue (premiere) – The 17-year-old ethnic Lahu filmmaker looks at a day in the life of a stateless mother and her son.
- The First Human Couple in the Boundless Narrative – He needs to get away from the truth; the one he has been suffering with. Yet, his dream makes him naked in front of all strangers. The short is by a fine arts student whose inspirations are from a young man from the mountain and memories of one ethnic community.
- 3 Gens, directed by Panu Saeng-xuto – Views on politics are expressed by three generations.
- Ja Daw's Choices, directed by Mo Tha – This romance is inspired by true stories from border areas. A young man tries to find dowry to marry the girl he loves, but choices are so limited for a man who is denied citizenship like him. It's by a young Lahu director who wishes to tell stories of his people who are forgotten.
- The 110th Year of Pridi Banomyong, directed by Sorayos Prapapant – The world keeps moving and changing, and so does democracy. The documentary celebrates the life and work of Pridi Banomyong through a stage play and the political atmosphere of Thailand in 2010.
- When the Sky's Color Changes, directed by Insree Khampeepanyakul – The comedy by a Hmong director is about a new deputy district chief who, on the way to his new post in a remote highland area, happens to travel through time into the year 2460 AD (not BE!) where city folks have become refugees in the highland areas.
- The Dam, directed by Nattan Krungsri – Whenever the flood covers the central Thailand, the campaign for the Kang Sue Ten dam restarts. A young man who has fought to keep his home and the last golden teak forest since his teenage time now feels exhausted. He is not sure whether to join this endless fight. It's by a filmmaker from Phrae's Kosai Nakorn Youth Group.
- Jabo Means the Man of Fortune, directed by Maitree Chamroensuksakul – The Lahu director makes this fact-based drama about tragedy in a mountain village, where Jabo, the head of the family, tries desperately to save his family by going to Malaysia for work.
Screenings will be from 4.30 to 8.30pm on March 29 and 30 and from 11am to 5.15pm on March 31 and April 1. Check the FFFest Facebook page for more updates.