Three Thai film are featured in the Berlin International Film Festival this year. Two of them, How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) and The Blue Room are world premieres, while the third is the Buddhism documentary So Be It, which makes its European premiere.
Directed by Josh Kim, How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), is based on the best-selling book Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, and is the coming-of-age story of brothers struggling to survive and stay together in a land plagued by social and economic inequality.
Originally called Draft Day, but presumably changed to avoid confusion with the Kevin Costner sports drama, the story involves Thailand's military conscription, in which all males turning 21 must participate in the military draft lottery. Drawing a black card grants exemption. Drawing a red card results in two years of service. When his older brother, Ek, faces the possibility of being drafted, 11-year old Oat must begin to learn to grow up and take care of himself.
Representing one possible future of Southeast Asian filmmaking in the Asean Economic Community era, the producers of Checkers hail from Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and the US. They are Edward Gunawan, Chris Lee, Andrew Thomas Tiernan and Anocha Suwichakornpong.
The Blue Hour (อนธการ, Onthakan) is garnering solid buzz among those in the know. Described by them as a "gay murder mystery", it's directed by Anucha Boonyawatana, an indie helmer who made his debut in 2004 with Down the River, and was in competition in Berlin in 2012 with the short Erotic Fragments No.1,2,3. Here's the synopsis:
Tam, a loner gay boy is always bullied by his friends at school. At home, his father who works in the army always beats him. His mother and brother never trust him. One day, Tam gets to know Phum, a mysterious boy on the Internet. He goes to meet him at an abandoned swimming pool. The begin their relationship which will lead Tam to commit the biggest crime of his life.
Checkers and the Blue Hour are both in the Panorama section, while the Generations program has So Be It, Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's documentary about two very different boys and how Buddhism touches their lives. It's the second consecutive year for Kongdej in Berlin, who was there last year with his teen drama Tang Wong.