Friday, April 15, 2016

Festival, festival (and awards)! The Forest in Udine, Thai Pitch in Cannes, honor for Patong Girl

Paul Spurrier, the Bangkok-based British filmmaker who makes Thai films, has been making the rounds of the festival circuit with his new feature The Forest (ป่า), a thriller about a former monk who takes a teaching post at a rural school and becomes involved in a conflict with corrupt local officials.

The story also involves the friendship between a mute girl and a mysterious boy who lives in the woods. Those two kids, Wannasa Wintawong and Tanapol Kamkunkam, are first-time actors who lived near the remote filming location in Udon Thani, and were picked from a field of around 400 or schoolchildren.

The cast is additionally burnished with a pair of well-known Thai screen talents, Vithaya Pansringarm from Only God Forgives and Asanee Suwan, an actor who best known for his breakout performance in Beautiful Boxer.

Already screened at Cinequest in San Jose, California and the Palm Beach fest in Florida, The Forest is among the Thai selection at the 18th Far East Film Festival, running fomr April 22 to 30 in Udine, Italy.

A micro-budget indie project, which the multi-hyphenate director-cinematographer-writer-propmaster Spurrier made with his wife Jiriya recording sound, The Forest will play in Udine alongside a couple of Thai studio releases from last year, Nawapol Thamrongtattanarit's award-winning Freelance.. Ham Puay Ham Phak Ham Rak More (ฟรีแลนซ์.. ห้ามป่วย ห้ามพัก ห้ามรักหมอ, a.k.a. Heart Attack) and Runpee (รุ่นพี่, a.k.a. Senior), which marked the return to the scene of Wisit Sasanatieng.

The Forest, meanwhile hasn't been released in Thailand, and Spurrier is still in the hunt for a local distributor. He has some censorship concerns, owing to the film's sexual subject matter and some nudity. Worth noting, Spurrier's debut feature, the Thai horror P never got a release in Thailand. And I still haven't seen it. I hope The Forest doesn't suffer the same fate. I mean, even if The Forest doesn't get a big-theater release in Thailand, Paul could always show it at his own private film club.

There's more about the Udine fest at Twitch.

After Udine, the next big thing is the Cannes Film Festival, which has announced the line-up for the 69th edition.

It includes the latest by Filipino Cannes fixture Brillante Mendoza, Ma'Rosa, in the main competition. And Singapore's Boo Junfeng returns to Cannes with The Apprentice in the Un Certain Regard program.

And while no Thai films have yet been included in this year's official selection, there will of course be Thai filmmakers there, thanks to the Culture Ministry, which is flying three directors and their producers to France for the annual Thai Pitch or, more awkwardly and officially, the Thai Pitching Event. This year's trio of directors vying for funding will be Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Anucha Boonyawatana and Rutaiwan Wongsirasawasdi.

With producer Pacharin Surawatanapongs, Nawapol will seek to follow up his multi-award-winner Freelance with Die Tomorrow, which according to The Nation, will be six segments that are inspired by the grisly death photos that are splashed on the front pages of the mass-market Thai daily newspapers.

He has even come up with a concept poster, which is a newspaper page with a photo of young women staring and giggling at the their cellphones. The headline tells what happens to them: "Overloaded boat causes death of three schoolgirls".

Anucha, who had a great year with The Blue Hour storming the festival circuit and winning awards, will be pitching Malila, a Buddhist-themed drama that is being produced by John Badalu and Donsaron Kovitvanitcha.

And, finally, veteran industry hand Rutaiwan has To Become a Butterfly, a drama about a mother devoted to raising an autistic boy. Rutaiwan is perhaps best known for directing the 2005's comedy-drama Wai Onlawon 4 a.k.a. Oops ... There's Dad. She's been a long-time guiding hand behind the scenes at various film companies (she has a cameo as a music-video director in 2011's SuckSeed). Lately, Rutaiwan has been assisting Pen-ek Ratanaruang, working on his made-for-TV effort The Life of Gravity and his new film Samui Song, which everyone assumed would be showing in Cannes, but no. So maybe Venice?

Back in Thailand, the local press has been reporting on Patong Girl (สาวป่าตอง), the Thai-German indie romance about a young German man who falls head-over-heels for a mysterious Thai lass while on vacation in Thailand.

Though the winners were announced sometime back, the Grimme Prize ceremony was held in Marl, Germany, last weekend, with Thai transgender actress "Amp" Aisawanya Areyawattana appearing on German television to accept the award for Patong Girl in the best fiction/special category.

Directed by Susanna Salonen, Patong Girl is getting a release in Thai cinemas on April 21.

There's an interview with Salonen in an article in The Nation today.

Actress Aisawanya Areyawattana at the Grimme Prize ceremony on April 8 in Marl, Germany.

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