Friday, November 27, 2015

In Thai cinemas: German Open Air, Lav Diaz and the appearance of Vanishing Point

Along with the return of beer gardens and the strains of festive-season music in the air, there’s another indicator of Bangkok’s most joyous time of year – the return of the German Open Air Cinema Season at the Goethe-Institut Thailand.

With screenings on Tuesday nights from December 1 to 15 and January 5 to February 16 at the Goethe-Institut off Sathorn Soi 1, the Open Air Cinema series opens next week with a German movie that was made in Thailand.

Directed by Susanna Salonen, Patong Girl is a family drama and romance about a German family on vacation in Phuket. There, amid the salacious nightlife of Patong Beach, the family's teenage son falls for a young Thai woman and runs off. The mother soon runs off too, going in search of the boy. She ends up finding herself. Salonen and members of the cast will be present for a talk after the screening. There's a trailer, and it's embedded way down below.

Meanwhile, the devoted Thai cinephile club Filmvirus has put together two one-off screenings of films by Filipino auteur Lav Diaz. With support from the Japan Foundation, Filmvirus will show two recent Diaz entries, the Locarno Golden Leopard-winner From What Is Before and Storm Children on December 6 and 7.

Another one of Diaz' freeform black-and-white dramas, From What Is Before (Mula sa kung ano ang noon) tracks social decay in a small town as it comes under martial law during the Marcos regime in the 1970s. In addition to the Golden Leopard – the first for the Philippines – From What Is Before won prizes at the Gawad Urian Awards (the Philippines' top film honors) and the World Premieres Film Fest. Running around 5.5 hours, it screens at 3pm on December 6 at House cinema on RCA.

The other Bangkok screening will be Storm Children (Mga Anak ng Unos, Unang Akla), which has Diaz training his firmly affixed camera on a typhoon-wrecked town. A documentary, The Storm Children, looks at the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda, which is probably the worst storm to hit the Philippines. Running 143 minutes, it will be at Cloud, an art space and gallery in Bangkok's Chinatown. The show is at 2pm on December 7. A talk with Diaz himself is planned afterwards.

Filmvirus has previously organized other screenings of Diaz films in Thailand, including the "In Lav We Trust" event in 2013 and a major retrospective in 2009, which served to make Lav Diaz a patron saint of sorts for Thai cinephiles and their farang hangers-on. The Filmvirus folks do a good job, and I highly recommend their events.

Finally, there's another chance to catch Jakrawal Nilthamrong's award-winning Vanishing Point in Bangkok cinemas. Following its premiere at the Laem Thong Theatre, a limited run in SF cinemas and an appearance in the World Film Festival of Bangkok, Vanishing Point is now screening at House on RCA. Go see it.

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