Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts

Monday, December 15, 2014

LPFF 2014 reviews: The Patriarch, Iskalawags, When the Rooster Crows

The Patriarch (Kabisera)

Walter White, meet your kindred amoral spirit from the Philippines. In The Patriarch (Kabisera), he's Andres, a humble fisherman who rows out to sea one morning, hears gunshots and then discovers several floating crates. Upon inspection, he finds the boxes are full of crystal methamphetamine. What to do? The best thing would be to leave them and forget about them, but then there wouldn't be a movie. So Andres hauls in his illicit catch. If he can unload the drugs, he stands to make millions of pesos, but more importantly the ex-con Andres would finally be able regain control of his family from his domineering wife, a college-bound son who is desperate to leave the nest and headstrong daughter who is ready to get married and also move out. To sell the drugs, Andres turns to his slick gangster best friend Jose (Arthur Acuña), who has a ragtag band of street-level idiots peddling the meth. A bent local cop becomes another partner in the scheme. Soon there are federal drug agents sniffing around, and there's that pesky Muslim cartel, which wants its drugs back. It's a pressure-cooker situation that's as heart-pounding as an episode of Breaking Bad. Ultimately, Andres betrays everything he believed in. Leading man Joel Torre, a veteran actor with a list of credits that makes him the Bryan Cranston of the Philippines, except more kick-ass, is amazing, and I want to seek out other stuff he's been in, such as John Sayles' Amigo or Erik Matti's hitman drama On the Job. The debut feature by Alfonso "Borgy" Torre (a nephew of the leading man), Kabisera scooped up three prizes at least year's Cinema One festival, including best director, best actor and supporting actress for Bing Pimentel as Andres' wife. The film is very, very dark, not only with its subject matter of ambiguous morality, but in terms of lighting. Many of the action scenes were so low lit, it was frustratingly hard to see what was going on. But perhaps that was a technical problem with the projector setting at the Luang Prabang Film Festival's daytime venue? (4/5)


Fun-filled and nostalgic, the childhood friendship drama Iskalawags is a lively recounting of the adventures of a club of boys in a small town on the island of Cebu. It's a partly autobiographical effort by director Keith Deligero, who appeared at the Luang Prabang Film Festival to explain he aimed to recapture the atmosphere of an outdoor movie festival he organizes in his Cebu hometown. Along with the usual shenanigans by the ragtag group of boys, they share a love for the gritty Filipino action films of the 1990s and act out their various shoot-out scenes. These are the types of movies that were popular during the Betamax era, when communities would attend outdoor screenings of the videotapes. A Cinema One entry, Iskalawags is also notable for its use of the local Cebuano dialect, making it part of the regional dialect movement in Pinoy film. Among the mysteries in this coming-of-age story is that of the boys' stern teacher, Ma'am Lina (Dionne Monsanto), whose estranged husband is ominously hanging around, trying to fix his broken motorcycle. With a crucial role to play, he's portrayed by none other than Jeric Raval, the leading man of many of the old action flicks the boys are fans of. (4/5)

Southeast Asian Cinema: When the Rooster Crows

From Thailand to the Philippines, the crowing rooster is the often-heard soundtrack of Southeast Asian films, the plucky spirit of which is captured in the documentary Southeast Asian Cinema: When the Rooster Crows. A last-minute entry to the Luang Prabang Film Festival, the documentary was a fine complement to the fest's panel talks with regional filmmaking talents and its selection of the best of Southeast Asian films. And, fittingly, it was accompanied by a soundtrack of the actual roosters and hens that live next door to the festival's daytime screening venue in an old-style wooden house on the grounds of the Hotel de la Paix, a colonial-era edifice that used to be a prison. Italian Leonardo Cinieri Lombroso, who previously did Through Korean Cinema, was inspired to look Southeast after the surprising 2009 best director win by Filipino Brillante Mendoza for Kinatay. He starts with Mendoza and then picks Thailand's Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Singapore's Eric Khoo and Indonesia's Garin Nugroho. Each of the four countries are given standalone segments, which in addition to the interviews with the directors are supplemented by generous film clips – even Pen-ek's hard-to-find debut Fun Bar Karaoke is highlighted. And there is testimony from film producers, actors, crew members and film critics, among them Kong Rithdee. Pen-ek's regular cinematographer Chankit Chamnivikaipong recalls that time when Pen-ek collaborated with lensman Christopher Doyle on two career-changing landmark features, Last Life in the Universe and Invisible Waves. And Pen-ek's regular sound designer Koichi Shimizu offers an added treat, plugging wires into his magic box. Electronic bleeps and bloops emanate and pretty soon it's music. For regular fans of Southeast Asian cinema, the documentary will likely offer little in the way of new information, but it's still essential viewing. Already a huge fan of Pen-ek and Mendoza, the segments on Khoo – a versatile auteur – and Nugroho were eye-openers and piqued my interest in seeking out more of their films. (4/5)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

LPFF 2014 review: Vientiane in Love

Longing for Love

  • Directed by Anysay Keola, Phanumad Disattha, Vannaphone Sitthirath, Xaisongkham Induangchanthy
  • World premiere at the Luang Prabang Film Festival, December 6, 2014
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

There's a feeling of urgency or maybe even impatience when it comes to the burgeoning Lao film industry. In the decades since the Vietnam War era, filmmaking in the Lao People's Democratic Republic was strictly for propaganda efforts under the purview of the government, but it was chronically hampered by a shortage of funding, resources and properly trained professionals.

The digital photography age has changed all that. And after decades of being pent up, commercial filmmaking in Laos is beginning. Showing an eagerness to get to work and tell their stories, the directors involved with the collective called Lao New Wave Cinema have put together the five-segment omnibus Vientiane in Love (ຮັກນີ້ທີ່ວຽງຈັນ), telling short stories about romance and relationships in Laos' capital city.

For the world premiere at the Luang Prabang Film Festival, the package was led with Longing for Love (Kid Hod Kuam Hak), written and directed by Anysay Keola, a founding LNWC member who made his debut with the thriller At the Horizon.

Here, Anysay shows his knack for broad comedy and the conventions of Asian rom-coms – slide-whistle sound effects, bloody noses and all – with an amusing story of a photographer who earns his living taking pictures of couples at the city's Patuxai arch monument. One day a single young woman asks Mon to take her photo and as she comes into focus, she starts crying and says she's just out of a bad relationship. The two strike up a friendship, but the comically homely Mon has fallen hopelessly in love and thinks he has a chance for something more with the pretty red-haired girl.

Next up was I'm Fine, Thank You (Kob Jai), written and directed by Phanumad Disattha, director of LNWC's sophomore feature, the country comedy Hak Aum Lum. Just as Anysay switched gears from thriller to comedy, Phanumad goes for impressionistic drama in a story about the reunion of a rock musician (Deuk, the former guitarist of the popular band Cell) with his ex-girlfriend. They had an ugly break-up, as shown in flashback scenes, but are on friendly terms as they stroll the streets of Vientiane by night. It's a glimpse of an increasingly cosmopolitan city and its hip clubs and a reminder that I am long overdue for a visit. Skateboarders and BMX bikers cavort behind the handsome couple – he with his augered earlobes, hipster goatee, skinny jeans and Bob Marley T-shirt, and she with her high-waisted slacks, crop top and glamorous updo.

The proceedings turn dark with The Truth (Kam Tob), a neo-noir thriller that I thought for sure was directed by At the Horizon's Anysay. But, nope, it's written and directed by newcomer Vannaphone Sitthirath. The shadow-filled tale follows a businesswoman who suspects her husband is having an affair, and she sets up a situation so she can confront the girl.

I'm Fine, Thank You

Social networking enters the fray with the intriguing Update Status (Juud Lerm Ton) by Xaisongkham Induangchanthy, in which two boys sitting a coffee shop spot a schoolgirl at a table with a middle-aged American man. They post about the sighting on Facebook, and soon the girl's reputation is in tatters. Meanwhile, the girl has spotted the boys and catches one of them flexing his biceps for his friend, and she posts potentially damaging comments about him. And there's that weird expat guy, who is yammering on and on about the government, channeling Noam Chomsky as he warns of the impending "idiocracy".

Xaisongkham, also a newcomer, is one of two recipients of this year's edition of the Luang Prabang Film Festival's Lao Filmmakers Fund, which dispensed $15,000. He's working on a drama, Those Below, which addresses the deadly legacy of unexploded ordnance left by the American carpet bombing of Laos during the Vietnam-era "Secret War". A crowd-funding campaign was also held to boost the film's budget. The other recipient of the Lao Filmmakers Fund is Vilayphong Phongsavanh, whose at work on a short documentary on the trendy sport of freerunning, which he aims to capture using a flying drone camera.

Finally, there's a fifth segment, Against the Tide (Kuam Sook Kong Por), written by Xaisongkham and directed by Anysay and Phanumad. The story involves an elderly fisherman who is compelled to leave his Mekong River island home and move in with his daughter and son-in-law in the city. It's a segment that doesn't seem to fit with the others, and could be titled "Vientiane, I Hate You", because the old man can't stand living in the city and he feels trapped in his daughter's fancy modern home.

Of the five segments, I liked Anysay's comical Longing for Love the best, followed by The Truth. I had a hard time following I'm Fine, but Lao viewers will probably dig it for its rock-star leading man. And Update Status is as I said, intriguing, for its look at the spread of social media in the Socialist country. Against the Tide feels like another movie entirely, but is anchored by a strong performance by its lead character.

According to Anysay, plans are to release Vientiane in Love in Laos' cinema around Valentine's Day, perhaps with the order of the segments swapped in order to give viewers some more upbeat in the end.
The Truth

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LPFF 2014 reviews: The Jungle School, Shift, Madam Phung's Last Journey

The Jungle School

If it's been awhile since you've seen a Riri Riza film, then The Jungle School (Sokola Rimba) is a great way to get reacquainted with one of Indonesia's finest auteurs. Despite the gaps in his IMDb page – the last entry was 2008 – the veteran writer, director and producer is steadily working. His latest effort, making its way around the festival circuit, is based on the true account by teacher and community activist Butet Manurung, a determined woman who brought literacy to the loincloth-clad indigenous people of Indonesia's jungles. She's portrayed by martial artist, actress and model Prisia Nasution, who'll be in the next action film by The Raid director Gareth Evans. She rides a dirtbike into the mountains and with a blackboard strapped to her back, she hikes far into the forest. Pushing herself too hard, she collapses from exhaustion but wakes up in the tribal camp where she was heading. But she is then told she was rescued by a young man from a "downstream" tribe, a group the upstreamers are wary of. Butet wants to find this mysterious downstream tribe, and she does. But she's regarded with suspicion by the tribal elders, especially a mean matriarch who believes that the teacher's pencils and words will curse the tribe. Along with that conflict, Butet also struggles against the bureaucracy of her NGO and a boss who wants her to stage her classes for the media in the easier-to-access upstream village. The coverage means more funding for the NGO, but the money isn't really helping the tribes, which are under increasing pressure from encroachment by loggers, palm-oil plantations and national park expansion. Butet perseveres and forms a  bond with the downstream tribe boy, teaching him to read. It's a skill that comes in handy when the palm-oil guys come with their cases of packaged food to trade for the tribal lands. The looks on their faces when that kid starts reading the contract to them is worth the effort of seeking this film out. A fantastic animation sequence that illustrates the tribe's mystical beliefs adds even more visual loveliness to the picture, which is clearly lensed against a beautiful jungle backdrop that also includes many close-up shots of wildlife. (4/5)


One of the highlights of the Luang Prabang Film Festival is getting to catch up with the latest of the so-called "maindie" offerings from the Philippines, which churns out dozens of low-budget films that are aimed squarely at mainstream audiences. Shift, an entry from the Cinema One festival, which commissions original digital features for competition and then holds the broadcast rights to them, is an eye-catching romantic comedy about a rebellious young woman with a shock of punk-rock maroon hair. Directed by Siege Ledesma, who makes her feature directorial debut, Shift won the Grand Prix at the Osaka Asian Film Festival. Her main character is portrayed by TV talent show singer Yeng Constantino, who expresses frustration by running her hand through that crazy dyed mane. And she's frustrated a lot. Estela works in the Philippines' extremely competitive call center industry, but she'd rather be playing music or pursuing her hipster hobby of film photography. She's also under pressure at home, where her family's apartment is about to be demolished. Her folks are out of town, but they keep tabs on Estela through her tattletale younger sister. In the midst of company restructuring, Estela is assigned a mentor, a long-haired gay dude named Trevor (Felix Roco). The two quickly form a bond, and tomboyish Estela finds herself falling for the guy. Much confusion ensues over sexuality and gender roles. Fun as it is in the beginning, the energy of Shift slackens in the latter third, causing a few heads to shake in the LPFF screening. Like last year's LPFF entry, What Isn't There, which featured Felix in a cameo as a twin of the mute character portrayed by twin brother Dominic Roco, Shift looks at the trendy youth culture of the Philippines. It's a cycle away from the "poverty porn" of so many Filipino films a few years ago. At some point, I suppose there will be a shift back. (3/5)

Madam Phung's Last Journey

Making her remarkable debut feature, director Nguyen Thi Tham offers a glimpse at Vietnam's transgender culture in Madam Phung's Last Journey, following a travelling carnival troupe run by two ageing drag queens. It's a much different scene than the one I'm used to seeing in Thailand, where there is high tolerance for transgender folk and they are pretty much part of the mainstream even though discrimination does exist. It's much harsher in Vietnam, where queer and transgender culture is frowned upon by authorities. Men who dress as ladies aren't allowed to hold business licenses, and they generally aren't hired for any legitimate jobs. So the travelling carnival troupes are the only way for these marginalized people to make a living. Madam Phung's troupe travels the countryside and highlands, moving from town to town with their ragtag fair. While the veteran drag queens perform songs and sketches, pretty younger ladyboys roam the fairgrounds, flirting with the local men as they sell lottery tickets. There's kiddie rides and games of chance. One game has you guess which numbered slot a guinea pig will run into. Another attraction involves a shotgun being pointed at performers as they do skits on demand. Early in the evening, it's all good clean fun, with families taking in the entertainment. But later in the evening, after the families go home, the level of bawdiness rises and the audience is mostly drunk (and/or high) young men. Then it turns ugly. Fights break out. The police are called. The townspeople turn against the performers who entertained them, and the carnival troupe is forced to hastily pack up and get back on the road. It's a pattern that's repeated at each stop. In between, there are interviews with the colorful Madam Phung and another senior performer, who recall their hard lives as queers in Vietnam. And you get a general feel for what it's like to be in the troupe, who fill the time between performing and travelling with drinking and card games. It's a wild, rough existence. Nguyen began her project in 2009, spending years getting it together. The closeness of her subjects is palpable, and they frequently turn to the camera, feigning shyness in their padded bras and various other states of undress, and affectionately call her "little devil". Appearing at the Luang Prabang Film Festival, the tough and shrewd director was tight-lipped about what her next project might be. Whatever it is, it'll be one to keep a lookout for. (4/5)

See also:

Monday, November 10, 2014

EXpatZ sets Thai premiere

ExpatZ, a short film made in Thailand that has been screening and winning awards at fests worldwide, will make its Bangkok premiere next week at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.

Directed by Jimmie Wing, ExpatZ is a psychedelic horror-comedy mash-up set in the totally fictional country of Wighland, which bears no resemblance at all to Thailand. Nope. Not one bit. Anyway, in this strange land, a foreign TV journalist encounters all sorts of colorful characters as he tracks down a rogue retired American military officer.

Here's more details:

A foreign television reporter specializes in interviewing bizarre foreigners living in Wighland. The reporter and his local partner, Professor Roasted Squid, take off to find an especially peculiar retired American military officer. Ordinarily, the boss of a local hamburger joint, the retired officer hides a secret culinary technology. When a few of the reporter’s jealous "friends" show up on the scene, they get caught up in a long and unexpectedly strange trip. The hilarious antics and cross-cultural relationships of these crazy white people perfectly set the scene for this wild adventure.

In awarding Jimmie Wing's film the grand prize for best short film, the Urban Nomad Film Festival (Taiwan’s largest independent film confab) said, "Adopting a humorous and visually alluring style, EXpatZ describes the strange and twisted stories of Westerners in Asia and the adventures of one Asian people’s turnabout in fortunes. The film is a satire on the ridiculousness of the superiority of white people and lampoons standards of racial stereotyping. Through extreme subversion and sabotage, EXpatZ presents a multi-faceted view of the relative relationship between the West and Asia within the ecology of Southeast Asian colonialism.”

The screening is set for Wednesday, November 19, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. The event starts at 6pm with hamburgers, followed by the film at 7pm. Wing will talk and answer questions later, along with co-leads Soontorn Meesri and Lex Luther. Kamonrat Ladseeta, who plays Madame Quoits, the wife of Commander Quoits (Darren Potter), will also field questions.

Check out the trailer, embedded below.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

WFFBKK 2014 review: Somboon

  • Directed by Krisda Tipchaimeta
  • Starring Somboon Ruekkhumyee, Lamaid Ruekkhumyee
  • Opening film of 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 24, 2014
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

A bittersweet and gentle documentary, Somboon (ปู่สมบรูณ์ , Poo Somboon), is a portrait of a couple in their winter years, with the husband devoted to caring for his chronically ailing wife.

The debut feature of 28-year-old film-school graduate Krisda Tipchaimeta, Somboon was filmed over the course of four years, and follows the daily routine of the elderly Somboon as he tends to the needs of Miad, his wife of more than 45 years. Suffering from kidney disease, among many other ailments, Miad undergoes dialysis treatments at home. It's a laborious process for Somboon, who administers the kidney flush every four hours, in addition to bathing his wife and tending to her other needs. It's unflinching, warts and all, as the nude woman is gently and patiently washed on her front doorstep.

There's a visit to the hospital, a 30-mile trip that Somboon and Miad must complete each month. They leave their rustic riverside home in Ayutthaya and go by tuk-tuk, the three-wheel motorized rickshaw that's common on Thai roads. And it's quite a process to get the heavy-set wheelchair-bound woman in and out of the vehicle.

The medical treatments are interspersed with solo interviews with Somboon, a wiry, terrier-like gentleman, still sharply handsome. With a gleam in his eye, he recalls his early life and the arranged marriage with Miad.

On its face, Somboon does not appear to be political, nor does it offer any overt commentary on Thai society. Nonetheless, there probably is a message in there somewhere about the rickety state of Thai public health policies, but the documentary also speaks volumes about the strength and closeness of the family unit.

Politics do come up eventually, courtesy of the 2011 flood that inundated the Central Plains and suburban Bangkok. Ayutthaya bore much of the brunt of the flooding, as authorities sought to spare Bangkok from the deluge. So we see news footage Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (ousted earlier this year and eventually replaced by a military coup) touring the floods. Especially revealing is a daughter's epic journey through the floods, hiring boats herself to bring much-needed medical supplies to Somboon.

With Ayutthaya largely cut off, it was up to Somboon's family to keep the documentary going, so footage shot during this time was done with a consumer-grade camera, and the resulting images are grainy. So when the footage switches back to the director's own high-resolution camera, it's dramatic, but also somber because circumstances for Somboon have changed, and a new stage of life for him has begun.

Somboon follows a trend in Thai cinema, with indie filmmakers getting increasingly bold with their depictions of family life. Other examples have included Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul's Mother, the films of Sivaroj Kongsakul and the early shorts of Chulayarnnon Siriphol, who courageously put their own families on the screen. Krisda, on the other hand, was turned onto Somboon by a film professor, but with the family helping out and giving consent, his film has the same intimate feel as those others. Perhaps Krisda and his producers can find a way to engage Somboon and include him in their next project?

See also:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 17-26

The 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok opens this Friday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld with Somboon, a documentary by young Thai director Krisda Tipchaimeta that follows the lives of Grandpa Somboon and Granny Miad, a couple married for 45 years. With Miad suffering from acute kidney disease, Somboon stays by her side, providing constant care.

Among the highlights of the festival are entries from this year's Cannes Film Festival, including Jean Luc-Godard's latest, Goodbye to Language, an experimental 3D drama, and Mommy, by French-Canadian badboy Xavier Dolan. Both films were jury prize winners at Cannes. Also from Cannes is The Blue Room, a fresh adaptation of the Georges Simenon crime novel by Mathieu Almaric, about childhood friends reunited as adulterous lovers.

Two French classics will unspool, Godard's 1965 comedy, Pierrot le Fou and from 1980, Francois Truffaut's World War II drama The Last Metro. The fest will also screen the newly restored version of Metropolis, with footage rediscovered a few years ago.

There's a block of French animation in a festival sidebar, the French-Thai Animation Rendezvous, which offers five recent French animated features in various styles – A Cat in Paris, The Congress, the 3D Minuscule, Valley of the Lost Ants, Ernest and Celestine and Tales of the Night.

Another festival sidebar groups together Israel films, going back as far as 1988's Aviya's Summer up to 2013's Cupcakes. Others are The Band's Visit, A Matter of Size, Noodle and Footnote.

There's the Cine Latino and Cinema Beat programs, which feature entries from across Latin America, the US, Canada and beyond. The selection includes the Sundance winner Whiplash, which will also get a general release in Thai cinemas.

Other festival sections include Doc Feast, Asian Contemporary and Short Wave.

The fest closes on October 26 with The Tale of Princess Kaguya, a new anime feature from Japan's Studio Ghibli.

Tickets cost Bt120. There are 500 special packages offering five movies for Bt500.

This year, for the first time, the World Film Festival of Bangkok will have many films with both Thai and English subtitles, which will travel to the provinces, taking a selection of movies on Blu-ray to SF cinemas in Khon Kaen from November 7 to 9, Pattaya from November 14 to 16 and Chiang Mai from November 20 to 23.

Find out more at

Monday, October 6, 2014

Busan 2014: White Light, VS Service join for Open Sea Fund

Two Bangkok-based film-services companies, film editor Lee Chatametikool's White Light post-production house and the venerable VS Service, have joined to start the Open Sea Fund, which is touted as Southeast Asia's first regional film fund.

Here's more from a press released issued today:

Open Sea Fund is Southeast Asia’s first regional film fund. A pioneering collaboration between White Light and VS Service, Open Sea Fund will initially support two feature film projects per year – one in production and one in post-production.

VS Service will provide a full camera, lighting and grip package for a feature film to be shot in Thailand. White Light will offer a color grading and DCP package for a feature. The deadline for submissions is the end of November 2014, with the aim for projects to be completed in 2015.

“Thailand has profited immensely from being the post-production center of Southeast Asia,” says White Light’s Lee Chatametikool. “With the Open Sea Fund, we want to give back to the region by opening up funding opportunities for both unknown and established Southeast Asian filmmakers.”

“VS has already been active in funding local films, but we were looking for a more comprehensive way for filmmakers to take its projects from production all the way to post,” says VS Service’s Pete Smithsuth. “Our collaboration with White Light is the perfect answer – projects with some funding in place would benefit from our production support and become good candidates for further post-production support.”

Representatives from Open Sea fund will be present at the Busan Film Festival’s Asian Film Market.

For more information contact

White Light is a maverick post-house founded five years ago by five leading Thai cinematographers, film editors and post-production supervisors. Recent projects include Hollow by Vietnam's Ham Tran, Men Who Save the World by Malaysia's Liew Seng Tat, The Second Life of Thieves by Malaysia's Woo Ming Jin, Taksu by Japan's Kiki Sugino, Riverof Exploding Durians by Malaysia's Edmund Yeo and As You Were by Singapore's Jiekai Liao, as well as Concrete Clouds, Lee's own directorial debut. He's also a partner in Mosquito Films Distribution, which has added Thieves and Durians to its slate of titles.

VS Service was founded in 1985 and is mostly known for supporting foreign productions, including The Beach, The Hangover Part II, American Gangster and The Rocket. But in the past year or so, VS Service has raised its profile among the indie-film community in Thailand through several initiatives, including a new award at this year's Thai Short Film and Video Festival. It's now headed by second-generation owner Pete Pithai Smithsuth.

Update: The Open Sea Fund has a Facebook page.

Busan 2014: Mosquito puts Thieves, Exploding Durians, So Be It and W on autumn slate

River of Exploding Durians premieres at the Tokyo film fest.

Mosquito Films Distribution, the indie film shingle launched earlier this year by several prominent Thai filmmakers, is expanding its reach in Southeast Asia, announcing the addition of two Malaysian entries to its slate of titles being promoted at autumn film festivals.

At Busan, the Mosquitos are touting The Second Life of Thieves by Malaysia's Woo Ming Jin, along with two new Thai features, W by Chonlasit Upanigkit and So Be It by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee. They'll also be at the Tokyo International Film Festival with River of Exploding Durians, the debut feature of Malaysia's Edmund Yeo.

Here's more from a press release yesterday:

Says Woo, “Edmund and I are excited to work with Mosquito. We are in good hands and look forward to a long-term relationship with them. I believe this is a collaboration that will serve not just Malaysian and Thai cinema, but also Southeast Asian cinema in general. Together, we can share more of our films with the rest of the world”.

The Second Life of Thieves is Woo’s highly-anticipated fifth feature while River of Exploding Durians is Yeo’s debut after many award-winning shorts. The two filmmakers collaborate closely on all their films with each taking the producing role while the other is directing.

Says Mosquito’s Aditya Assarat, “All of us Southeast Asians are making films under the same circumstances. Because of this, we share the same DIY spirit that is behind Mosquito Films to begin with. After launching the company in January with our own titles, we’re proud to take our first step towards representing regional films by partnering with the prolific Greenlight Pictures.”

In addition to Aditya, other partners in Mosquito Films Distribution are Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Pimpaka Towira, Soros Sukhum, Anocha Suwichakornpong and Lee Chatametikool.

The Second Life of Thieves has intertwining relationships of one man who discovers his wife has disappeared with his friend – a man he had a secret relationship for decades. He in turn forms an unlikely friendship with his friend's daughter. "They embark on an emotional journey that will open old and new wounds alike. Juxtaposing between present day and 30 years in the past, The Second Life of Thieves is a meditation on love, loss, and regret."

River of Exploding Durians, the first Malaysian film selected for the main competition of the Tokyo International Film Festival, is set in a coastal town is turned upside down by the construction of a radioactive rare earth plant. An idealistic teacher and a group of high school students find themselves battling for the soul of their hometown. "Based on real-life events, River of Exploding Durians is a sweeping tale of Malaysian history and its youth, where people are enveloped by politics and sadness while searching for love."

So Be It, meanwhile, is Kongdej's followup to his award-winning teen social drama Tang Wong. Here, he looks at two young boys, a seven-year-old city kid who is the star of a reality show and an 11-year-old hilltribe boy who become novice monks. "A documentary fiction hybrid film that uses as its starting point a popular TV show and ends up becoming a coming-of-age story of two boys from vastly different backgrounds."

And W, the debut feature of 24-year-old film editor Chonlasit Upanigkit, focuses on a young woman struggling with her first year of college as she and her new friends say goodbye to their youth and get ready to embrace an uncertain future. "The film is an epic of Thai college life made as the thesis project of the director at his university in the outskirts of Bangkok."

More about W and another Busan entry That Day of the Month, can be found at the Bangkok Post.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thai Short 18: Endless, Nameless takes top prize

Cabezón (Big Head), winner of the International Competition.

Endless, Nameless, a highly experimental film that was actually shot on film, won the top-prize R.D. Pestonji Award for general Thai filmmakers at the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival on Sunday.

Directed by Pathompon Tesprateep and shot on Super 8 footage that was then processed by hand, the flickering images depicted soldiers gathered in a high-ranking officer's backyard. They are pitted against various objects, inanimate and otherwise, including a hissing cobra, which sways back and forth.

The pick of Endless, Nameless came as the Thai Short Film and Video Festival paid tribute to the Thai Film Archive's 30th anniversary, with Archive EX, a special program of Thai experimental films from pre-digital age.

But the triumph of the 8mm experimental film also comes as one of the festival's long-running awards, the Kodak Filmschool Award, for student films made with Kodak stock, is no more. Aside from Endless, Nameless, no other competition entries were made on film – all were digital productions. Meanwhile, two production service companies, VS Service and Cinetoys, stepped in this year with two new special awards, both honoring movies about movie-making.

The Cinetoys' prize went to Rest in Peace by Nonthakorn Patphol (The Thai title ภาพยนตร์เรื่องสุดท้ายพระเอกตายตอนจบ refers to the action-movie hero dying in the end) while VS Services' gong went to Endslate, capturing a day on the set of an indie movie.

Other entries in the R.D. Pestonji competition, named for Thailand's pioneering auteur of the 1950s, included the runner-up Endlessly by Sivaroj Kongsakul, about a grandmother and her grandchild spending a day together. It was also among winners of the Vichamatra Award for distinctive achievements in filmmaking.

Another Pestonji entry, Isan Mars, about a project to send workers from Thailand's rural Northeast to Mars, was among the winners of the BACC Award, instituted last year by the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, which hosts the festival.

Also from the Pestonji line-up was The Way of Life, Tah Kwa's look at the forced ouster of indigenous people from their traditional homes in the upland forests to the lowlands. It won a special mention in the Pestonji category and the Pirabkhao (White Dove) Award from the 14 October 73 Memorial Foundation for films highlighting social concerns.

In the International Competition, the top prize went to Cabezón (Big Head), a Chilean comedy in which a painter is tasked with painting a portrait of a client's pet dog – an old stubborn and lazy mastiff. The painter eventually bonds with his subject, plying the epically drooling canine with sliced ham.

The White Elephant Award top prize went to the coming-of-age friendship drama Menstrual Synchrony by Jirassaya Wongsuthin, which also shared the Popular Vote award with The Second Friendship Book by Pakchayos Charanchol, which competed in the Special White Elephant category for filmmakers under 18.

In animation, the Payut Ngaokrachang Award went to Neither Lit Nor Dark by Chanon Treenate. The prize is named after Thailand's pioneering animator. Among the runners-up was I Can Fly by perennial award-winner Twatpong Tangsajapoj, which also won a Vichamatra Award. A special mention went to The Bird and the Fish by Kanitrin Thailamthong, in which a lifelike cartoon pigeon witnesses a fish falling from the sky. It also won a BACC Award.

BACC Award

  • The Bird and the Fish by Kanitrin Thailamthong
  • Isan Mars by P. Sangsorn

Special Award from Cinetoys and Services Co., Ltd.

  • Rest in Peace by Nonthakorn Patphol

Special Award from VS Service Company Limited

  • Endslate by Chinnavorn Nongyoa

Pirabkhao award

  • The Way of Life by Tah Kwa

Duke Award (documentaries)

  • Special Mention – Khon Tie Tor by Kittipat Kanoknak and Dad by Tipwan Narintorn
  • Runner-up – Once in a Year by Teerapan Ngaojeeranan and Lice in the Wonderland by Boonyarit Wiengnon
  • Grand-Prix – Rao Choana Yoo Kub Kwai (เราชาวนาอยู่กับควาย ) by Wachara Kunha

R.D. Pestonji Award International Competition
  • Special Mention – Mama by Lidia Sheinin, Russia
  • Best International Short Film – Cabezón (Big Head) by Jairo Boisier, Chile 

R.D. Pestonji Award (for general Thai filmmakers)
  • Special Mention – The Way of Life by Tah Kwa, Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport by Soroyos Prapapan and Narayana’s Arrow Spaceship: Between the Orbits of Mars and Jupiter by Paranoid Team
  • Runner-up – Endlessly by Sivroj Kongsakul, Somewhere Only We Know by Wichanon Somumjarn and Myth of Modernity by Chulayarnnon Siriphol
  • Grand Prix – Endless, Nameless by Pathompon Tesprateep

Payut Ngaokrachang Award (animation)
  • Special Mention – The Bird and the Fish by Kanitrin Thailamthong, Congratulations by Pathompong Thititan and Aelio by Pongpreecha Kittiporniwat
  • Runner-Up – I Can Fly by Twatpong Tangsajapoj and The Blanket by Pasraporn Tampanon
  • Grand Prix – Neither Lit Nor Dark by Chanon Treenate
Special White Elephant (students under 18)
  • Special Mention – Past Perfect by Wethaka Jarampornsakul and Sirya Lertsmithwong and The Second Friendship Book by Pakchayos Charanchol
  • Grand Prix – The Misplaced Flower by Zo Chamuleur
White Elephant (student films)
  • Special Mention – Duct Move Past by Nichapa Trongsiri  , Hula Hoop by Reawadee Ngamloon, Khmer Talisman by Pissamai Duangnoi and /'Spel,baund by Nat Eiamkhunthongsuk
  • Runner-Up – 329 by Tinnawat Chankloi and Gandharva by Theerapat Ngathong
  • Grand Prix – Menstrual Synchrony by Jirassaya Wongsuthin

JENESYS 2.0 Award (Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youth)
  • A-ANT by Natpong Prasri
  • Inspiration by Punya Choo
  • Red Shoes by Wannisa Pinjai
  • Dream and Bad Day by Pakawadee Pongisrapan
  • Home by Apinya Mahatham
  • Brush by Nat Watanakul
  • Do you? by Patraporn Rachatakittisuntorn
  • Illusive Dream by Patrin Chaopanich
  • Window Job by Parunyu Chaisri
Best Actor
  • Ornanong Thaisriwong from Anna

Vichitmatra Award
  • Scent of the Morning Sun by Monkham Khukhuntin and Harin Paesongthai
  • Goodbye by Nakorn Chaisri
  • I Can Fly by Twatpong Tangsajapoj
  • Endlessly by Sivaroj Kongsakul

Popular Vote
  • Menstrual Synchrony by Jirassaya Wongsuthin
  • The Second Friendship Book by Pakchayos Charanchol

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Vientiane in Love premiere set for 2014 line-up of Luang Prabang Film Festival

Vientiane in Love is one of four Lao films in the fest.
The world premiere of Vientiane in Love, an omnibus romance by four Lao directors, will open the fifth edition of the Luang Prabang Film Festival, set for December 6 to 10 in the Unesco World Heritage former royal capital of Laos.

Screening on the main screen in the festival's 800-seat outdoor main venue, Vientiane in Love is by four directors from Lao New Wave Cinema, Vannaphone Sitthirath, Xaisongkham Induangchanthy, Phanumad Disattha and Anysay Keola, who made his debut in 2012 with the thriller At the Horizon.

Three other features from Laos' newly emergent film industry will also screen – Really Love by Jear Sirivongsa, which had a successful theatrical run in Laos, Tuk-Tuk by the Lao-French director Simon Luang Kiyé, and the Lao-Thai co-production by My Teacher, by Thai director Niyom Wongpongkham.

Celebrating the best in Southeast Asian cinema, the festival will feature works by such well-known auteurs as Cambodia's Rithy Panh, and his Oscar-nominated autobiographical documentary The Missing Picture, and Indonesia's Riri Riza, whose latest is The Jungle School. Also from Cambodia is Chhay Bora's new film, the drama 3.50, in which a documentary filmmaker tries to rescue a girl sold into prostitution.

Other festival highlights are the crowd-pleasing Thai hits Pee Mak Phra Khanong and Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy and Singapore's Cannes Golden Camera winner Ilo Ilo.

Documentaries include the coffee-infused Aroma of Heaven from Indonesia, the Thai environmental disaster of By the River, The Boatbuilders of Mermaid Island from Malaysia, and The Songs of Rice, an explosive music-and-dance-laden look at the festivals that accompany rice cultivation in Thailand.

Vietnamese offerings include the award-winning musical The Talent by first-time director Nguyen Quang Huy, which won six Golden Kites, including best feature, the country's top film award.

Among the Filipino films is the crime drama The Patriarch, romance with Shift, coming-of-age drama in Catnip and young-punk adventures in Iskawalags.

Myanmar is represented by Midi Z and his partly autobiographical coming-home drama Return to Burma.

Other Thai features include Lee Chatametikool's Concrete Clouds, starring Lao-Australian leading man and festival favorite Ananda Everingham, and the hit GTH romance The Teacher's Diary.

All screenings and activities of the festival are free and open to the public. Selected by LPFF's Motion Picture Ambassadors (film experts in each of the participating countries), the feature films in the 2014 festival will be:

  • 3.50, directed by Chhay Bora, Cambodia
  • Aroma of Heaven, directed by Budi Kurniawan, Indonesia
  • The Boatbuilders of Mermaid Island, directed by Azharr Rudin and Imri Nasution, Malaysia
  • By the River, directed by Nontawat Numbenchapol, Thailand
  • Catnip, directed by Kevin Dayrit, Philippines
  • Concrete Clouds, directed by Lee Chatametikool, Thailand
  • Ilo Ilo, directed by Anthony Chen, Singapore
  • Iskalawags, directed by Keith Deligero, Philippines
  • The Jungle School, directed by Riri Riza, Indonesia
  • Madam Phung’s Last Journey, directed by Tham Nguyen Thi, Vietnam
  • The Mangoes, directed by Tonny Trimarsanto, Indonesia
  • Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy, directed by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Thailand
  • The Missing Picture, directed by Rithy Panh, Cambodia
  • My Teacher, Niyom Wongpongkham, Laos
  • The Patriarch, directed by Borgy Torre, Philippines
  • Pee Mak Phrakanong, directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, Thailand
  • Really Love, directed by Jear Sirivongsa, Laos
  • Return to Burma, directed by Midi Z, Myanmar
  • Sayang Disayang, directed by Sanif Olek, Singapore
  • Shift, directed by Siege Ledesma, Philippines
  • The Songs of Rice, directed by Uruphong Raksasad, Thailand
  • Streetside, directed by Daniel Ziv, Indonesia
  • The Teacher’s Diary, directed by Nithiwat Tharathorn, Thailand
  • The Talent, directed by Nguyen Quang Huy, Vietnam
  • Tuk-Tuk, directed by Simon Luang Kiyé, Laos
  • Vientiane in Love, directed by Vannaphone Sitthirath, Xaisongkham Induangchanthy, Phanumad Disattha and Anysay Keola, Laos
  • We Are Moluccan, directed by Angga Dwimas Sasongko, Indonesia

In addition to these feature film screenings, LPFF will have short films, including all 18 entries from DocNet Southeast Asia's second ChopShots fest. Short-film competition entries from Laos' other film festival, the Vientianale, will also be shown.

As always, LPFF will create a space for regional film professionals and fans to network, dialogue and encourage local film production. There will be panel discussions, question-and-answer sessions, music, dance and puppetry performances.

Festival-goers can expect an update on the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project (the director of which will be speaking later this month at TEDx in Chiang Mai), as well as other film-related exhibitions.

In an exciting new partnership, representatives of leading Thai theater chain Major Cineplex will be in attendance and one of the festival’s films may be selected for theatrical distribution.

Coca-Cola is one of the festival’s biggest sponsors once again this year, having also made a very generous donation to LPFF’s Lao Filmmakers Fund, a publicly-generated fund that allows filmmakers in Laos to apply for grants to help realize their film projects. This year, filmmakers are able to request up to US$10,000 in support.

For further information, visit or stay up to date at

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thai Short 18 review: R.D. Pestonji 2-3

Thai short films entered the Twilight Zone in the R.D. Pestonji competition of the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival. Indie filmmakers blasted into the realms of space and fantasy, as well as the spiritual and, of course, political, in the range of entries, which featured such established names as Kongdej Jaturanrasmee and Wichanon Somumjarn.

Even without an elaborate spaceship, Paranoid Team's sci-fi thriller Narayana’s Arrow Spaceship: Between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter (ยานศรนารายณ์: ระหว่างวงโคจรดาวอังคารและดาวพฤหัสฯ ) demonstrated how surprisingly effective a simple set can be in relating the slow-burn madness of long-distance interplanetary travel. The crew is two, plus their fantastic dial-up-Internet-powered android assistant – a computer, ship's chaplain and, presumably, sex toy, wrapped up into one. There are two crewmen, from the top and bottom of the social strata in Thailand, and only one can live if the ship is to make it back to Earth.

A Forest is Always Full of Surprise (ในป่าเต็มไปด้วยเรื่องอัศจรรย์ ) has last year's big award winner Eakalek Maleetipawan revisiting the mysterious Endless Realm (as well as a 2011 winner A Moment in the Rainforest). The ante is upped this time around with a wolf-costume-man shadowing a bow-hunter in the sun-dappled woods, down by the babbling creek.

Myth of Modernity by Chulayarnon Siriphol blasted back up into the heavens, starting out as a documentary on how Buddhist cosmology influences Thai architecture. The scripture's Mount Meru is represented in everything from the spike on a guard's helmet to the pyramid-shaped structures atop Bangkok's skyscrapers. Eventually, these pyramids, constructed out of fluorescent light tubes, become vehicles to the next plain of enlightenment, and they go up and up and up, endlessly. But where, really? Coincidentally, the documentary's talking-head "independent scholar" and break-out star was none other than filmmaker and festival technician Nuttorn Kungwanklai, who happened to be projecting the film he was in.

Back on Earth, Wichanon Somumjarn dealt with a young woman's struggles in Somewhere Only We Know (จุฬญาณนนท์ ศิริผล), a project he put together through a crowdfunding campaign. The young lady struggles to make ends meet in an accounting office, plus she needs to support her mother. In the midst of all this, her ex-boyfriend stops by to get his "stuff". Why do they always leave "stuff" behind?

There were gales of laughter for Pairach Khumwan's Too Good To Be True (คนดี (ที่เธอไม่รัก) ), a playful satire involving a university student's clumsy attempt to woo a pretty girl on campus, but his best friend gets in the way.

Romance and travelogue mixed in the R.D. Pestonji 3 lead-off entry A Bat Has Flown (รางวัลรัตน์ เปสตันยี 3), following the life of a Thai restaurant worker in Sydney. No lost elephants here. We see the city through his eyes as he particpates on the fringes of a marathon run, and hangs out by the bridge. Later, he spends an evening with a fellow Thai, and, yeah, well, there are bats, giant fruit bats.

The Way of Lives (วิถีชีวิต ) by Hta Kwa and produced by Chiang Mai's Friend Without Borders, is a look at Karen families driven from their homes in mountain forests to a settlement in the lowlands, where they must abandon their traditions and learn new ways of farming and living, even if it doesn't mean living on the farm.

Kongdej Jaturanrasmee gives viewers an up-close and personal look at his talented twin daughters in Udon (อุด้ง ). Between footage of the girls, studying, practicing their music – one on piano and the other on a finicky violin – there are text-message intertitles. None were subtitled, but the film was well-received. Kongdej said later he made the film on a low budget and didn't account for subs. In fact, that was all explained in the text and that's why so many folks were cracking up, for that, and other things.

Crazy as it seems, there are still folks making films on film, and in the case of Endless, Nameless, Pathompon Tesprateep and producer Pathompong Manakitsomboon rounded up the troops to make a film on Super 8 stock, and then hand-process the reels. Others taking part in the cinematography were music-festival videographer Danaya Chulphuthiphong and video artist Taiki Sakpisit. The result is flickering footage of a hissing, spitting cobra, its head swaying back and forth, and back and forth, which is what my head was doing. It became a dream, and then, like Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men, I woke up.

And so it was up to the appropriately titled Endslate by Chinavorn Nongyao to ease me back into the world. The 15-minute short was divided into two, starting with a comedy bit about a director trying to shoot a scene at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok. Prominent indie-film cinematographer, wearing sunglasses, naturally, shakes his head at the ridiculousness of the proceedings. Things calm down during the shooting of a restaurant scene – a poignant end for a film-festival program that honors one of Thai cinema's pioneering auteurs.

Unfortunately, because of work conflicts, I was unable to see R.D. Pestonji 1, which included a new work by Sivaroj Kongsakul, Endlessly (ศิวโรจณ์ คงสกุล ). There was also another Auntie Maam adventure, featuring the maid of Six to Six and Hi-So in Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport (ดาวอินดี้ ), directed by Sorayos Prapapan and a follow-up to last year's Boonrerm.

World premieres set for So Be It, W at Busan

A new feature by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee and the debut of Chonlasit Upanigkit will have world premieres at the Busan International Film Festival, alongside international debuts for two other Thai films and more.

Kongdej's boyhood drama So Be It, which was backed the festival's Asian Cinema Fund for post-production, is about a pair of boys, one a seven-year-old Thai-American who wants to be a monk and an  11-year-old hill-tribe kid who was forced to spend his entire life at a provincial temple. "From radically different backgrounds, the two look to find themselves through Buddhism."

Chonlasit, a film editor on past-year Busan entries Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy and 36, makes his feature debut behind the lens with W. "University pals Neung, Ploy and Ton face their uncertain futures in this collegiate epic winding through their intertwining lives," says the synopsis. "Director Chonlasit’s graduation project taps into the anxieties of contemporary twenty something and best friends struggling with choices they didn’t always want to make."

Both So Be It and W are in the Window on Asian Cinema, alongside two other Thai entries, indie director Parm Rangsri's Fah Gam Toh (ฟ้าแก้มโต), which opens in Thai cinemas today, and Nithiwat Tharatorn's hit GTH romance The Teacher's Diary (คิดถึงวิทยา, Kid Tueng Wittaya). Parm, following up his drama Daddy's Menu, reteams with comedian Ping Lumpraplerng for a fatherhood drama about a faded veteran singer who is struggling to recapture his stardom.

More Thai films are in the Wide Angle line-up, with the coming-of-age drama That Day of the Month by Jirassaya Wongsutin making its debut in the Asian Short Film Competition.

Another world premiere will be The Singers, a new work by Nonzee Nimibutr, in the Short Film Showcase. It's about an elderly singer who decides to teach her money-grubbing grandkids a lesson. She takes off and ends up hanging out with a another singer, much-poorer, who has just been arrested for peddling old CDs without a permit.

And in the Documentary Showcase, it's Y/our Music, a U.K.-Thai production by Waraluck Every and David Reeve that surveys nine non-mainstream musicians, from "rice field to leftfield".

The 19th Busan International Film Festival runs from October 2 to 11.

(Thanks Soros!)

Five projects picked for Bangkok Produire au Sud Workshop 2014

Film projects from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have been chosen for the 2014 editon of the Bangkok Produire au Sud Workshop.

Initiated by the Produire au Sud workshop of the Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes, France and the World Film Festival of Bangkok, the Bangkok event runs around every other year.

Here's this year's selection;

  • Arnold is a Model Student, directed by Sorayos Parapapan and produced by Donsaron Kovitvanitcha (Thailand)
  • Nervious Translation, directed by Shireen Seno and produced by John Torres (Philippines)
  • Orn. directed by Thammaruja Dharmasaroja and produced by Thammasiree Dharmasaroja (Thailand)
  • The Science of Fictions, directed by Edwin Nazir and produced by Yosep Anggi Noen (Indonesia)
  • Where Does the Mango Come From?, directed by Quy Truong and produced by Ha Vu (Vietnam)

Past Produire aud Sud projects have included Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Blissfully Yours, O Nothapan's A Moment in June and Wichanon Somumjarn's upcoming Beer Girl.

The workshop runs from October 23 to 25 as part of the 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 17 to 26.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bangkok, here's your chance to see Norte, the End of History

Filipino auteur Lav Diaz, a filmmaker known for a freeform approach that has his features lasting up to 11 hours or more, has developed a following among cinephiles in Thailand, thanks to programs curated over the years by the Thai Short Film and Video Festival and Filmvirus.

In fact, it was at the 2007 Digital Forum started that year by the Thai Short Film and Video Festival, where I saw my first Diaz film, Heremias, which blew my mind and hooked me instantly.

Now, thanks to that freedom-embracing "video" portion of the Thai Short Film and Video Fest, one of Diaz' latest efforts will come to Bangkok, the four-hour Norte, the End of History (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan), screening just one time only, at 6pm on Monday, September 1, at the Lido in Siam Square.

Now, as a viewer who's seen Lav Diaz films in all kinds of situations, usually while crashed out on the floor of a sweltering shophouse, I have to say that the idea of watching one of his films in a proper cinema like the Lido is pretty special.

Screening in the main competition at Cannes last year, Norte also won the best director award at Cinemanila. It even received a limited U.S. run and made many year-end critics' lists.

Here's the plot:

The lives of three people take a turn when one of them commits a crime.

Joaquin (Archie Alemania) is failing miserably at providing for his family when his money lender gets murdered. The crime is pinned on him. Misery and solitude would
transform him in prison.

Left to fend for the family, his wife Eliza (Angeli Bayani) pours all of her strength to battling with despair and eking out a living for their children.

The real perpetrator, Fabian (Sid Lucero), roams free. His disillusionment with his country—its history of revolutions marred by betrayal and crimes unpunished—drives him to the edge of sanity, of humanity.

Norte producer Moira Lang will be among the festival guests, and she comes to Bangkok just after Diaz won the Golden Leopard in Locarno for another film, From What is Before (Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon), which I hope makes it to Bangkok eventually.

The 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival opens on Thursday, August 28 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center with Cambodia 2099, a new short by young French-Cambodian director Davy Chou (Golden Slumbers). It is part of a new program this year called "French Connection", which gathers many excellent French live-action and animated shorts.

There will also be a chance to see Letters from the South, the omnibus on Chinese communities in Southeast Asia by Thailand's Aditya Assarat, Singapore's Royston Tan and Sun Koh, Myanmar's Midi Zhao and Malaysia's Tan Chui Mui and Tsai Ming-liang.

More views from across the region can be seen in the S-Express program curated by film experts from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

And, in celebration of the Film Archive's 30th anniversary, there will be a special program from the Archive's collection as well as the annual Queer shorts collection of Thai and foreign films.

As always, the centerpiece of the Thai Short Film and Video Festival is the competition among Thai indie filmmakers for the top-prize RD Pestonji Award, named in honor of the country's pioneering auteur, along with documentaries, animated shorts and student films vying for other awards.

I've embedded the trailer for Norte below. Color, hmm? That's a different look for Lav.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nawapol's Master joins projects by Pen-ek, Nonzee at APM 2014

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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Luang Prabang Film Fest is set for December 6-10

The chairs. They are blue, and waiting for you. Mike Phetchareun photo.

Once again, it looks like Laos in December.

Luang Prabang, Lao PDR - The Luang Prabang Film Festival will announce its program lineup for this year’s festival on 6 September 2014. The program will include films from all ten ASEAN nations and will again offer a carefully curated collection of some of the brightest talent in the region.

The festival will be held 6-10 December 2014, in the famed UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, high in the mountains of Northern Laos. Celebrating its 5th year, the festival continues to grow in popularity and importance, securing its place as one of the most interesting events on the international festival circuit. This year it has bigger plans than ever with new screening venues and exciting events planned for the duration of the five-day festival.

The festival is backed by a variety of sources, including corporations, non-governmental organizations, embassies, and private donors. Coca-Cola is one of the festival’s largest supporters, having also made a large donation to this year’s Lao Filmmaker’s Fund  (managed by the Luang Prabang Film Festival), which allows artists in Laos to apply for small grants to realize their film projects.

More information is available on the festival’s website ( and regular updates and news about the Southeast Asian film industries can be found on the festival’s popular Facebook page (

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Apichatpong-a-rama: Cemetery of Kings backed by WCF, male farang cast sought

Courtesy of Kick the Machine.

Cemetery of Kings, the upcoming new feature by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, has received backing from the Berlin International Film Festival's World Cinema Fund.

Receiving 30,000 euro for production from WCF, Cemetery of Kings deals with a strange sleeping sickness that befalls soldiers. A local woman – Apichatpong's long-time leading actress Jenjira Widner – pitches in to help.

The project was previously touted at last year's Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum. It has also been supported by the Rotterdam fest's Hubert Bals Fund.

Film Business Asia has more details of other WCF recipients.

Under production in Apichatpong's hometown of Khon Kaen, Cemetery of Kings is also seeking male farang cast members, ages 30 to 55, who can speak a bit of Thai. No acting experience is necessary.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Last Executioner hits mark for best actor in Shanghai

Opening next week Thai cinemas, The Last Executioner received a big boost from the Shanghai International Film Festival, which awarded its best actor prize to star Vithaya Pansringarm.

The awards were handed out on Sunday by a jury headed by Gong Li. Others on the panel were directors Im Sang-soo, Iwai Shunji, Liu Jie, Payman Maadi, Lone Scherfig and Sally Potter.

The big winner was Little England, a star-crossed period romance. It took Best Film, director and actress. Film Business Asia has a full report. Also in competition in Shanghai was another Thai film, Lee Chatametikool's Concrete Clouds. It was a nominee for the Asian New Talent Award.

The Last Executioner  (เพชฌฆาต, Petchakat) , directed by Tom Waller, was among 15 films nominated for Shanghai's top-prize Golden Goblet. The film is a biopic about Chavoret Jaruboon, Thailand’s last executioner to use a machine gun. A wild rock 'n' roller in his youth, Chavoret served at Bangkwang Prison, the "Bangkok Hilton", for 33 years, 19 as the executioner. Taking aim with a machine gun, he executed 55 prisoners – a job that had him struggling to reconcile the good and bad karma.

Recognizing the role's depth and intensity, the Shanghai win is a landmark honor for Vithaya, a relative newcomer as an actor, who got his start with supporting roles in such made-in-Thailand foreign features as The Prince and Me: The Elephant Adventure and The Hangover Part II. He made his breakthrough as a leading man as a policeman-turned-monk investigating a mystery in Waller's Mindfulness and Murder, which earned him a best actor prize at the ThrillSpy fest and a nomination at the Thailand National Film Awards. He followed that up with a major role in cult director Nicolas Winding Refn's Bangkok crime tale Only God Forgives, earning widespread praise for his portrayal of a cool-but-brutal vigilante ex-cop with seemingly supernatural powers.

The Last Executioner, covered in a recent New York Times article, opens in Thai cinemas on July 3.

Vithaya is flanked by his director Tom Waller, right, and Jim Sturgess from the film Eliza Graves.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Six projects in Puchon's Thai spotlight

Thai films are in the spotlight this year at NAFF, the Network of Asian Fantastic Films that's the project market of PiFan, the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival.

After drumming up response a few months ago, NAFF announced its selections today:

Directors include Kulp Kaljareuk, a rookie helmer and scion of the clan that runs Kantana, the long-established Thai studio that's best known for soap operas and post-production film work. He's making his feature debut this week with the house-of-wax thriller Hong Hoon, starring Ananda Everingham.

There's also Nuttorn Kungwanklai, who took part in the comic-book-like omnibus horror 9-9-81, art director Solarsin Ngoenwichit, short-film director Lertsiri Boonmee, producer Pakinee Chaisana, and, perhaps most notably, director Paul Spurrier and producer Piyawat Dangdej, who are looking to make a feature to follow their cult 2004 thriller P.

Kulp's project is Fallen Thailand, and it'll be produced by Nattaporn Kaljareuk.

Nuttorn's Jam-Nien: The 300 Years Ghost is being produced by veteran indie director Soros Sukhum, along with Donsarn Kovitvanitcha and Cattleya Paosrijaron.

Pakinee, a line producer and unit production manager on such made-in-Thailand Hollywood projects as Only God Forgives, Scorpion King 3 and Stealth, is shopping Love Me Love Me Not with producer Thidarat Pakchanakorn.

Solarsin, whose art department and set decorator credits include The Mark: Redemption and Journey from the Fall, is producing his project, Panang - The Monster Within.

Lertsiri is teaming up with producers Vutichai Wongnophadol and Veerapat Keeratiwuttikul for project called SLR.

And Spurrier and Piywat, whose P screened at the 9th PiFan, are looking to make The Penthouse, "examining social issues haunting Thailand".

Other NAFF projects were previously announced by Film Business Asia. And the full line-up for PiFan, running from July 17 to 27, is yet to come.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Executioner, Clouds set for Shanghai fest

Two Thai films are in competition in the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival, The Last Executioner, which makes its world premiere in the main Golden Goblet competition, and Concrete Clouds, which is in the Asian New Talent lineup.

Directed by Tom Waller, The Last Executioner (เพชฌฆาต, Petchakat) makes its bow in Shanghai ahead of its July 3 release in Thai cinemas. Here's more about it from a press release issued just seconds ago:

The Last Executioner a.k.a. Petchakat is inspired by real events and follows the story of Chavoret Jaruboon, a former rock 'n' roll musician who entertained American GIs during the Vietnam war before becoming a death row executioner at the notorious "Bangkok Hilton".

Starring Vithaya Pansringarm (Only God Forgives) in the lead role of Chavoret, the Thai-language film also features Penpak Sirkul and Thai National Film Best Actor winner David Asavanond (Countdown) as well as veteran Thai actors Nirut Sirichanya (The Hangover Part II), Pisarn Akkaraseranee and Jaran "See Tao" Petcharoen.

Selected from 1,099 entries as one of 11 films chosen in the Golden Goblet competition, award-winning director Tom Waller’s second Thai-language film will be judged by a jury headed by famous Chinese actress Gong Li.

Born in Bangkok to a Thai Buddhist mother and Irish Catholic father, director Tom had a unique dual perspective on the story: “Is it a sin for one man to kill another, even if it is his duty? Does being an executioner make him a murderer or not.”

"Pu" Vithaya, who had worked with Tom before playing Father Ananda in Mindfulness and Murder a.k.a. Sop-Mai-Ngiab, was honored to play Chavoret, who passed away in 2012. “It was a challenge for me to play this ordinary family man who led such an extraordinary life. With his job killing people, as a Buddhist he had to come to terms with his karma.”

After its World Premiere at Shanghai, the film will have its Thai Premiere on June 19, before going on general release in Thai cinemas on July 3 through Handmade Distribution.

Waller and Vithaya were also recently interviewed by The Nation, and Film Business Asia has details on the rest of the Shanghai Golden Goblet contenders.

Concrete Clouds, the feature directorial debut of prominent longtime film editor Lee Chatametikool, is a drama set during the 1997 financial crisis in Bangkok. It premiered at last year's Busan fest and has been steadily making the rounds on the festival circuit, including appearances in Hong Kong and Los Angeles. In Shanghai, it's part of the nine-entry field in competition for the Asian New Talent Award. It's also in the New Talent Competition at the Taipei Film Festival, which immediately follows Shanghai.

The 17th Shanghai International Film Festival runs from June 14 to 22.