Friday, April 18, 2014

Bond movies, Killing Fields, Glory Days, action and more at Destination Film Festival

Two Bond movies, classic war stories, Hong Kong and Indian productions, gritty action flicks and a host of premieres are on tap for the second edition of the Thailand International Destination Film Festival.

Put on by the Thailand Film Office under the Department of Tourism, the fest is a showcase of the foreign films that have made the Kingdom their backdrops. It’s a big business, with 717 foreign productions registered here last year, generating revenues of Bt2.17 billion.

Among the selection, perhaps the most iconic is 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun, in which Roger Moore’s 007 duelled with villainous gunman Christopher Lee on Phang Nga Bay’s spike-shaped Koh Tapu, a stunning location that’s known today as “James Bond Island”.

More than 20 years later, the place was revisited for the 18th Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, in which Pierce Brosnan was aided by the toughest of Bond ladies, Michelle Yeoh. The story was actually set in Vietnam, with Bangkok and Phang Nga standing in for Saigon and Ha Long Bay.

Thailand again substituted for its neighbours in two acclaimed classics, Roland Joffe's The Killing Fields, the Oscar-winning account of Cambodian journalist Dith Pran’s harrowing odyssey under the Khmer Rouge, and Barry Levinson's Good Morning Vietnam, in which Robin Williams portrays a motor-mouthed Armed Forces Radio shock jock who energized American troops with rock ’n’ roll. Watch for veteran Thai leading lady Chintara Sukpatana as the woman who brings the clowning deejay to the frontlines of the war.

World premieres include Trafficker, in which a young Vietnamese man, portrayed by Guy Ratchanont Suprakob, is involved with a criminal gang. It’s directed by Larry Smith, best known for his work as lensman for Stanley Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut.

Smith also won praise for his vivid cinemtography on Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bangkok crime drama Only God Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling. It’s also part of the festival and is anchored by a solid performance from Thai actor Vithaya Pansringarm, portraying a mystical avenging-angel vigilante.

Another world premiere will be Glory Days, a shaggy-dog comedy about a broken-up 1990s American rock band that’s offered a deal to reunite for reality TV. The lads end up in Pattaya, where they aim to turn back the clock on their mid-life crises. Long in the works, it’s directed by pop-music scion Roy Alfred Jr. Producers include veteran Thailand-based casting director Kaprice Kea, Ivy Isenberg and Tim Carr, a music-industry veteran who died in Pattaya a year ago.

An ambitious adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer will also flicker to life for the first time. Directed by Peter Fudakowski, producer of the Oscar-winning Tsotsi, The Secret Sharer involves a troubled ship’s captain (Jack Laskey) who rescues a young Chinese woman (Zhu Zhu from Cloud Atlas) from the sea.

Most of the foreign film productions in Thailand are Indian, and among those from the past year was Bhaag Milkha Bhagg, an award-winning biopic of “the Flying Sikh”, runner Milka Singh, who represented India in three Olympics and won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

Hong Kong and Chinese cinema have long had close ties to Thailand, ties perhaps best represented by Hong Kong twins Danny and Oxide Pang, who started their careers working in Thailand with such films as the original Bangkok Dangerous and The Eye.

The Pang brothers' latest is Out of Inferno, which has Bangkok standing in for a southern China metropolis. The disaster drama follows firefighters battling a high-rise blaze on the hottest day in 50 years. Notably, it'll be screened in 3D.

Also from Hong Kong/China is Benny Chan's The White Storm, about an undercover Chinese cop infiltrating a drugs gang in Thailand. Sean Lau, Louis Koo and Nick Cheung star. Among the local talents taking part in the film is transgender beauty queen “Poy” Treechada Petcharat, who has a huge fanbase in China and Hong Kong.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Thailand – Take 2 – Action!” And in keeping with that, many films will showcase the talent of Thai stunt performers. They range from older films like Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li to big-screen premieres of direct-to-video sequels like the well-regarded Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, starring Scott Adkins.

There's also the cheese-laden cable-TV staple The Scorpion King 3, which features Krystal Vee, a Thai starlet who is the current reigning queen of international film productions in Thailand. She also appears in Street Fighter, Trafficker and another festival entry, The Lazarus Papers, a thriller that also stars Gary Daniels, Danny Trejo and Bai Ling.

Also premiering will be A Stranger in Paradise, a crime thriller directed by Corrado Jay Boccia and starring Colin Egglesfield, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Byron Mann and Stuart Townsend.

And there's the apocalyptic thriller The Mark: Redemption, directed by James Chankin and starring Craig Sheffer, Sonia Couling, Eric Roberts and Gary Daniels.

Many of the screenings will have question-and-answer sessions with the film crews.

As with last year’s first edition of the Thailand International Destination Film Festival, the centerpiece is the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge, in which dozens of young filmmakers from around the region are given airfare, four nights’ accomodation, a budget of 30,000 baht and local production support to make short films and compete for prizes totalling 1.2 million baht.

The Thailand International Film Destination Festival has three screenings daily from April 22 to 28 at Paragon Cineplex. All are free.

For the schedule, check or or download the festival guide.

(Cross-published in The Nation)

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