The first Thai film selected for the Cannes Film Festival, Tears of the Black Tiger, is among this year’s additions to the Registry of Films as National Heritage by the Culture Ministry and the Thai Film Archive.
Established in 2011, the Registry of Films as National Heritage aims to select entries based on their historical and artistic value and influence on society, and make them a priority for preservation. With 25 entries selected each October, this year’s listing brings the registry’s number to 75.
Other notable entries this year include three films submitted to the Academy Awards and films by King Rama VII.
The earliest addition this year is from 1901, Visit of the Prince of Siam. The two-and-a-half-minute clip by British film company Mitchell and Kenyon shows the then-Crown Prince Vajiravudh on a trip across the Mersey during a visit with radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. The Oxford-educated prince was crowned King Rama VI in 1910.
The Royal family were among the first filmmakers in Thailand, with Vajiravudh’s brother, Prajadhipok – King Rama VII – a keen lensman. Two of his films were added to the registry.
One is 1929’s Magic Ring, a home movie the monarch made on a trip to Koh Pha-ngan. The 25-minute short with silent-film intertitles is about a cruel stepfather who abandons his children on the island. One of them meets a nymph who gives him a magic ring that can grant wishes.
“All the actors are the royal family and King Rama VII shot the film himself,” Chalida uabumrungjit, the Film Archive’s deputy director, says in The Nation.
The other entry from the King Rama VII collection is 1930’s Mon Ram Phee at Pak Lad, the monarch’s recording of a traditional Mon dance.
From 1927 is Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, the oldest surviving Hollywood production made in Thailand (or maybe it was made in Laos). It’s directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, who later made King Kong. The documentary-style silent adventure, complete with deaths of multiple species of wildlife, depicts a rural Isaan family beset by a marauding herd of elephants.
The newest entry is 2005’s The Tin Mine (Maha’lai Muengrae), an expensively mounted historical drama directed by Jira Maligool and produced by GTH. Thailand’s submission to the Academy Awards in 2006, it’s adapted from the semi-autobiographical short stories by Ajin Panjapan, of a university dropout sent to work in the tin mines of southern Thailand in the 1950s.
Another Oscar submission is 2004’s The Overture (Hom Rong), directed by Ittisoontorn Vichailak. Loosely based on the life of palace musician Luang Pradit Phairoh, it follows a ranad-ek (xylophone) player from boyhood in the late 19th century to the 1940s. The film sparked a revival of interest in Thai classical music and the ranad-ek.
And Thailand’s first Academy Awards submission, 1983’s Story of Nam Poo, makes this year’s list. Directed by Euthana Mukdasanit, the factual drama is adapted from the book by award-winning writer Suwanni Sukhontha, which she wrote after her son died at age 18 of a heroin overdose. Singer Amphol Lumpoon stars as the son with theatre doyenne Patravadi Mejudhon as the mother.
More social issues are depicted in 1973’s Khao Chue Karn by MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, about the problems encountered by an idealistic young physician in the countryside, and 1979’s Mountain People (Khon Phu Khao) by Vichit Kounavudhi, depicting the lives of hilltribes in the North.
The lighter side of Thai teenagers is shown in a pair of classic comedies on this year’s list – 1976’s Wai Ounlawon by Piak Poster and 1988’s Boonchu Phoo Narak by Bhandit Rittakol. Both spawned series of teen comedies by Five Star Production, which rebooted the Boonchu franchise in recent years. Another popular entry is 1990's Pook Pui, a childhood drama by Udom Udomroj.
And from the Thai New Wave period of the late 1990s and early 2000s is director Nonzee Nimibutr’s feature debut, 1997’s Daeng Bireley’s and Young Gangsters (2499 Antapan Krong Muang), a stylish, fact-based drama about James Dean-obsessed teenage hoodlums in 1950s Bangkok.
Scripted by Wisit Sasanatieng, it was the start of a movement of films that revitalised the local film industry and brought widespread attention to Thai cinema on the world stage.
Wisit made his directorial debut with another entry on this year’s list, 2000’s Tears of the Black Tiger (Fah Talai Jone), which was the first Thai film to be selected for the Cannes Film Festival. It competed in the Un Certain Regard category.
A hyper-colourful western with six-gun-toting bandits on horseback, Tears of the Black Tiger was an homage to an earlier era of Thai film – the action movies of the 1960 and ’70s – like another entry on this year’s list, 1966’s Operation Bangkok (“Petch Tad Petch”), a Hong Kong co-production featuring superstar leading man Mitr Chaibancha and Hong Kong starlet Regina Piping.
Films as National Heritage 2013
- Visit of the Prince of Siam, 1901, Mitchell and Kenyon
- Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, 1927, Merian C Cooper and Ernest B Schoedsack
- Magic Ring (แหวนวิเศษ), 1929, Nai Noi Sorasak (pseudonym of King Rama VII)
- Mon Ram Phee at Pak Lad (เสด็จทอดพระเนตรมอญรำผี ปากลัด ๑ มีนาคม พ.ศ. ๒๔๗๓ , 1930, King Rama VII
- Giant Swing Ceremony (พระราชพิธีโล้ชิงช้า), 1931, HRH Prince Rangsit Prayurasakdi, Prince of Chainat
- Acquiring Torpedo Boat (การรับเรือตอร์ปิโด), 1935, Luang Kolakarn Jan-Jit (Pao Wasuwat)
- Ruam Thai (รวมไทย), 1941, Prince Sukornwannadit Diskul
- Sand to Glass (ทรายมาเป็นแก้ว, 1950-51, Tadsong Satiensut
- Silpa Bhirasri (อาจารย์ศิลป์ พีระศรี), 1951
- Our Bangkok, Capital City (กรุงเทพเมืองหลวงของเรา ), 1957, United States Information Service
- Boribool Balm commericial (โฆษณาขี้ผึ้งบริบูรณ์บาล์ม ชุดหนูหล่อพ่อเขาพาไปดูหมี), 1958-62, Sanpasiri Agency
- The Site of Lue’s Grave (หลุมศพที่ลือไซต์ ), 1962, Somboon Wiriyasiri
- Operation Bangkok (เพชรตัดเพชร, Petch Tad Petch), 1966, Vichit Kounavudhi, Promsin Siboonrueng, Prakob Kaewprasert
- The Conqueror of Ten Directions (ผู้ชนะสิบทิศ, Phu Chana Sib Tid), 1966-67, Naramitr (Amnuay Klatnimi)
- Dr. Karn (เขาชื่อกานต์, Khao Chue Karn), 1973, MC Chatrichalerm Yukol
- Nora Khunoupthamnarakorn (โนราขุนอุปถัมภ์นรากร), 1973, Songkla Teachers College
- Wai Ounwalon (วัยอลวน ), 1976, Piak Poster
- Mountain People (คนภูเขา , Khon Phu Khao), 1979, Vichit Kounavudhi
- Naam Poo (น้ำพุ ), 1983, Euthana Mukdasanit
- Boonchu Phoo Narak (บุญชูผู้น่ารัก), 1988, Bhandit Rittakol
- Pook Pui (ปุกปุย) 1990, Udom Udomroj
- Dang Bireley’s and Young Gangsters (2499 อันธพาลครองเมือง , Song Si Kow Kow Antapan Krong Muang), 1997, Nonzee Nimibutr
- Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร , Fah Talai Jone), 2000, Wisit Sasanatieng
- The Overture (โหมโรง , Hom Rong), 2004, Ittisoontorn Vichailak
- The Tin Mine (มหา’ลัยเหมืองแร่ , Maha’lai Muengrae), 2005, Jira Maligool