Bangkok's legendary pirate-movie vendor Mr. Van is the subject of The Master, a documentary in the works by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit.
It's been selected for this year's Asian Project Market at the Busan International Film Festival, along with works by two other Thai directors, Pen-ek Ratanaruang with Samui Song and Nonzee Nimibutr, who has The Two Kings.
"Before Bittorrent, we have him," reads the tagline to The Master, which again has the Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy director looking back on outmoded media, much as he did with his experimental romance 36, which evoked memories of 36-exposure rolls of camera film.
Here's more about The Master:
The Master is a documentary aiming to look into the movie piracy problem in Thailand and worldwide. It tells the story of a man who opened a bootleg video store that introduced art and rare films from around the world to Thai customers. He only sold films that have no distributor in Thailand. He didn't get rich from this shop, but he created this shop because of his love of cinema.
A coin has two sides. Movie piracy is illegal. It devastates filmmakers and movie industry. Still, it is difficult to judge what he did is morally right or wrong. The project means to show the movie piracy cycle and the effects of movie piracy in both ways, bad and good.
In 2014, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit produces and distributes the DVD of his own film Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy in Thailand. A few days after the release date, bootleg DVDs of the film could be found everywhere. On the day that his film is copied, Nawapol recalls that 10 years before, he used to be a customer of a bootleg video shop in Thailand called 'Van Vdo', which sold bootleg videos of art films that have no distributor in Thailand. It was the only place in Thailand that allowed him to discover the works of directors such as Wong Kar-wai or Takeshi Kitano.
Nawapol remembers 'Mr. Van' the owner of the shop, which closed down many years ago. What Mr. Van did is illegal, but videos from his shop has influence on Thai filmmakers. Young directors grew up with videos from his shop. Some film critics ordered 10 videos from the shop every week. Some film directors worked for the shop, while some were angry when they knew their films were on the shelves of this shop.
In the late '90s when cinemas in Thailand has no space for art films, was it the right thing to sell bootleg copies of those films so Thai people could watch it?
Is Mr. Van like Robin Hood? Is it right to violate copyrights for the sake of 'education'? Is 'Violate copyright for the sake of education' just another excuse of careless customers who never care for the cost of making a film? Nawapol goes back to Mr. Van again to explore his life, and to look for the answers of those questions.
Producers on The Master are Soros Sukhum, Donsaron Kovitvanitcha, Cattleya Paosrijareon and Attaphon Nabangxang.
Pen-ek's Samui Song, meanwhile, was launched earlier this year with an announcement at the Hong Kong fest. The drama, which has shades of Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, is about a young woman (Chermarn Boonyasak) with husband who falls under the influence of a cult leader (Vithaya Pansringarm). It's produced by Pen-ek's Headshot partner Raymond Phathanavirangoon along with Arunee Srisuk, Rasarin Tanalerttararom.
And there's Nonzee, who made a comeback earlier this year with the weepy teen drama Timeline. His APM pitch will be The Two Kings, produced by Henry Ko and Sandra Gaviria.
Other projects include Diamond Island by Cambodia's Davy Chou, Fowl by the Philippines' Brillante Mendoza, and Full-Moon Party by Vietnam's Dang Di Phan.
The Asian Project Market runs from October 6 to 8 as part of the Busan International Film Festival, October 2 to 11.