|The winners pose for the photo call. Phone-cam snap by Wise Kwai.|
The ups and tragic downs of a couple's relationship as viewed through a video-call screen in Video Call was the top-prize winner at the second edition of the 9FilmFest on Sunday night at Siam Paragon.
Directed by Wattanapong Wongwan,Video Call won the 600,000-baht grand prize in Thailand's richest movie festival. The short had a guy talking to his video phone cam with his girlfriend in a screen-within-the-screen. At first, they make sweet talk with each other and then joke. But when the guy takes too long to answer one time, the girlfriend immediately becomes suspicious and assumes he's cheating on her. The shocking truth leaves her red-faced with shame and sorrow.
Jury member MC Chatrichalerm Yukol said after the ceremony that he liked Video Call the best because it was "unpretentious".
The second-place Grand Prize, worth 100,000 baht, went to the comical Friend. Directed by Narongchai Parthumsuwan, it's about a guy who wears a Japanese superhero costume and is very lonely. His depressing life takes a turn when he strikes up an online friendship and the two meet for the first time, only to see that they both wear Japanese superhero costumes. They then take in the various sites around Thailand.
Interestingly, another winning short also dealt with people who wear costumes, the 20,000-baht honorable mention winner Jack's Chronicle by Pissapob Silltham. The documentary style short is about a group of folks who appear in public in big furry animal costumes. They eventually get in trouble with the police, but are let off with a warning and told not to dress up as animals anymore. They still have the compulsion to dress up in costumes, so their hilarious solution is to dress up as something else, but not as animals.
Of course their solution has something to do with this year's signature item that must appear in all shorts, the heart.
Another big winner was Numberman in Love, a sequel to one of last year's winning films. Directed by Eiji Shimada, it won an honorable mention and the 20,000-baht best actor prize for Yuto Tanabe.
Also taking two prizes was the romance and break-up rumination The Moment, which netted director Pathomwat Wansukprasert a roundtrip flight to Seoul on Thai Airways and the 20,000-baht best actress prize for "Cream" Naphatsorn.
The third honorable mention prize went to the bizarre Love Cookies by Sugimasa Yamashita, which depicts a strange, dialogue-free dystopia in which people's love for one another is manifested by heart-shaped cookies magically appearing in your shirt pocket. You then give that cookie to someone else or munch on it yourself. At one point a golden retriever is petted by his owners, and a pile of cookies tumble from the dog's breast to the ground.
Along with cash awards and airline tickets, other prizes included a lease on a Ford Fiesta and an iPhone.
Winners of the car were Rattha Buranadilok and Thammaruja Dharmasaroja's Where the Heart Is (as in home), for best cinematography, and the third-place film prize, Rec*Life by Titsalak Kamngam.
Smiling Heart won the AIS Popular Award and an iPhone 4s for director Karawee Chokkunawattana.
This year's 9FilmFest was held inside, in the Paragon Cineplex's Infinitcity Hall. Each short was preceded by a short video introduction by the directors.
And, before the prizes were announced there was a mini-concert by Grammy Award-nominee Howard McCrary. Along with a few classic R-and-B and pop tunes, he performed a pair of songs he composed for one of the short films, Smiling Heart, in which he stars as basically himself, an American entertainer vacationing in Thailand. He is shown visiting the tourist sites in Ayutthaya where he is enraptured by the famous Thai smile. Meanwhile, his gold watch and jewellery attract the attention of local thugs, who drug his drink and steal his belongings – a surprising turn of events, given that one of the sponsors of the festival was the Tourism Authority of Thailand. But, robbed of all his possessions, it's only then does he find the meaning of true happiness.
Emcees for the evening were filmmaker and former Miss Thailand World "Pop" Areeya Jumsai and Iron Pussy star and director Michael Shaowanasai.
Meanwhile, festival founder Brian Bennett announced the signature item for next year's films: the river. So get out on the river and make a movie. Maybe you can win 600,000 baht.