Friday, January 22, 2016

Festival, festival! Forgotten masters in Vesoul

Rarely shown classic Thai films, some that were believed to be lost, will be shown in next month's International Film Festival of Asian Cinema in Vesoul, France.

Among those nearly-lost masterpieces in the festival’s "Forgotten Masters of Thai Cinema" is the so-called Citizen I (Thongpoon Khopko Rasadorn Temkan), MC Chatrichalerm Yukol’s 1977 drama about a poor taxi driver from Isaan struggling to retrieve his stolen cab from Bangkok thugs. It’s been compared to the Italian classic The Bicycle Thieves, and it spawned a sequel, Citizen II, which is more commonly in circulation, thanks to a home-video release in Thailand. The newly restored version of Citizen I will make its world premiere in Vesoul.

Programmed by Bastian Meiresonne, who was assisted in tracking down his titles by the Thai Film Archive and some studios, particularly Five Star Production, the "Forgotten Masters" range from 1940’s anti-war historical epic King of the White Elephant (พระเจ้าช้างเผือก, Prajao Changpeuk), produced by statesman Pridi Banonmyong, up to Wisit Sasanatieng’s 2000 homage to 1970s Thai action films, Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร, Fah Talai Jone).

Both those films, as well as Citizen I and many others, are listed in the Thai Culture Ministry’s Registry of Films as National Heritage.

Others at Vesoul include 1957’s rollicking comedy Country Hotel (โรงแรมนรก, Rong Raem Narok), by pioneering auteur RD Pestonji and Permpol Choei-arun’s Muang Nai Mhok (เมืองในหมอก, a.k.a. A Town in Fog), a taut 1978 drama loosely based on Albert Camus’ The Misunderstanding.

Permpol’s 1978 followup, the drama Pai Daeng (ไผ่แดง , a.k.a. Red Bamboo), about a monk in conflict with his communist childhood friend, will also screen, along with another socialist-leaning tale, 1981’s On the Fringes of Society (ประชาชนนอก) by Manop Udomdej.

Celebrated auteur Cherd Songsri will be represented by his gender equality story from the Rama IV era, 1994’s Amdaeng Muen Kab Nai Rid (อำแดงเหมือนกับนายริด, a.k.a. Muen and Rid), and writer-director Vichit Kounavudhi will have his 1982 rural drama Luk Isaan (ลูกอีสาน , a.k.a. Son of the Northeast).

And among the directors in focus is Euthana Mukdasanit, who will be part of the international jury. His films include the at-one-time-banned 1977 socialist drama Tongpan (ทองปาน), his 1985 Deep South childhood tale Butterfly and Flowers (ผีเสื้อและดอกไม้, Peesua lae dokmai) and the rarely seen 1978 musical romance Angel of Bar 21.

Others taking part in the festival will be South Korean director Im Sang-soo as jury president and Thai producer Donsaron Kovitvanitcha on the Netpac jury. Thai Film Archive deputy director Sanchai Chotirosseranee will also be on hand.

The Vesoul International Festival of Asian Cinema runs from February 3 to 10.

Stayed tuned for another "Festival festival!" entry on the newer films making the rounds in places like Rotterdam and Berlin.

(Cross-published in The Nation)

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