Monday, October 31, 2005

World Film Fest recap

The Nation has a special report (temporary link) today on the recently wrapped-up World Film Festival of Bangkok, recapping the 10-day event's highlights, which included a visit by Roman Polanski and many other things.

The Tsunami Digital Short Films (reviewed here and here) got a lot of notice.

The Culture Ministry's Office of Contemporary Arts and Culture Director-General Apinan Poshyananda and the Taiwanese director Tsai Ming Liang extended their appreciation for the efforts of the filmmakers who addressed the difficult subject of the tsunami with sensitivity and creativity.

Christian Jeune from the Cannes Film Festival asked to have some of the short films in the series shown at next year’s Cannes festival, the article said, but didn't say which ones they would like. Possibly a "best of"?

Nonetheless, there has been some criticism of the films, with the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee saying that while there were some good films individually, particularly Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Ghost of Asia, Santi Taepanich's Tits & Bum and the powerful Tsu by Pramote Sangsorn, the shorts as a package left audiences feeling disappointed.

Back to the festival, there was also the Produire au Sud (Producers of the South) film-marketing workshop, which selected three pairs of producers and directors to attend Festival of 3 Continents from November 22 to 29 in Nantes, France, where they can learn more about filmmaking.

The three film projects chosen to attend the festival are A Moment in June by producer Noth Thongsriphong and director O Nathapon from Thailand; Singapore's Forgotten Tears by producer Juan Foo and director Ellery Ngiam; and Ostrich Granny, by producer Lina Tan Suan Jeu and director Bernard Chauly of Malaysia.

Among the surprises at the festival was the success of Russian films. The 7.5-hour Russian version of War and Peace was screened to a sell-out audience, with hundreds being turned away. Doctor Zhivago (okay, not strictly a Russian film) also was screened. The puzzling but brilliant 4 was in the competition. And, Thai Airways is starting direct Bangkok-Moscow flights, and tied its promotional campaign in with the festival and the Russian films. Maybe that had something to do with it?

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Review: The Tiger Blade

  • Directed by Teeratorn Siripunwaraporn
  • Starring Atsadawut Luengsuntorn, Phimonrat Phisarayabud, Pongput Wachilabunjong, Suengsooda Lawanprasert, Amornrit Sriphung, Chalut na Songkla
  • Theatrical release in Thailand on October 27, 2005.

The first release from the brand-new Mono Film has everything the ultimately disappointing Tom Yum Goong should have had. I'm going to lay it on the line and say this is the best Thai action film of 2005.

This is not to say the action is any better than Tom Yum Goong, because it isn't (though it's still pretty good). But what The Tiger Blade has going for it is a sense of fun. Where Tony Jaa and Tom Yum Goong were weighed down with ostentatiousness (despite the 'simple country boy' hero) and were afraid to crack a smile, The Tiger Blade (Sua Kab Daab) has no fear of letting the jokes fly. It's not so much a big action film trying to prove something as it is pure entertainment that has nothing to prove. So there's a sense of humour, plenty of hot babes (though no nudity) and lots of cool stunts.

The story is a pretty standard cops-and-robbers set up, though there's a bit of a twist, evident from the movie's official tagline: "When kick-ass cops can't get the job done, bring in the kick-ass magic."

The criminals here are all protected by black magic - the first baddie wears a headband that's been enchanted and it renders guns inoperative. Other criminals have elaborate tattoos that protect them.

In order to defeat them, a top-secret police unit, led by Yos (capable leading man Atsadawut Luengsuntorn), must obtain an ancient sword.

Now, I must say, I'm get pretty confused if I think about the actual story any further. For one thing, I don't know why the bad guys are being bad, other than to just be bad. I don't know what their overall motive is. Do they want to blow up Bangkok? Take control of the world? Release a deadly virus? I'm not sure. I guess it doesn't matter.

Maybe it involves a vault full of money. Yeah, that's it. Steal the national treasury. There's a subplot involving a Karen warlord - a long-haired guy leading one of the countless independent states in endless rebellion against the Burmese (or Myanmar) government. He needs the money. But again, it doesn't matter.

What does matter is that Yos is a bit of a loner who actually asks for a new partner: The secret unit's gadgets gal, Dao (Phimonrat Phisarayabud). On their first outing together - working undercover on a prison transport bus, she proves her worth, doing some high kicks and shooting her way out of trouble.

Meanwhile at the prison, black-magic crimelord Mahesak (Amornrit Sriphung) and a woman fighter who is the most kick-ass of all the characters in the film, GI Jenjila (Suengsooda Lawanprasert), are breaking someone out.

Each time a new criminal is introduced, there's a title card that comes up, and then a black-and-white flashback. For Jenjila, it flashes back to her childhood as a little Viet Cong soldier, enjoying the ruthless killing of war.

A couple of times Jenjila and Dao square off for a girlfight. So you get girls with guns, as well as chicks kicking ass. One of their fights is in a shopping mall, where Jenjila heists a pair of roller blades and Dao goes after her on a skateboard. So the extreme-sport market segment is covered here.

In another fight, Dao asks Jenjila: "I heard you prefer women, and I thought I'd like to try you."

"You're wrong," says Jenjila, "but you can try me anyway."

This sets up a bit of mystery about Dao's and Yos' relationship that is sure to be explored further. Yes, there will be sequels - that is clearly set up at the end.

Some other stunts:
  • Jenjila leads the cops on a footchase through the narrow, winding alleys of Bangkok's Chinatown - a direct lift from Ong-Bak, even with Jenjila leaping over a vendor's cart and scaling up and over a chain-link barrier fence. She doesn't have near the same grace as Tony Jaa, but it was still fun to watch.
  • In that same chase scene, Jenjila steals one of those motorcycle vendor's carts, the kind with two wheels and a big basket on the front. Yos grabs another motorcycle cart and gives chase. Again, you can see they are trying to one-up and stunt-check with Ong-Bak. It's not quite as exciting as the tuk-tuk chase in Ong-Bak, but it's still fun.
  • Yos finds a big yellow endloader to stop the bad guy from getting away.
  • There's a go-cart chase scene down a busy expressway, with the go-carts doing u-turns under some big-rigs. Alot of these are in the trailer.
These stunts aren't totally in the same class as Ong-Bak, which claims that no wires or CGI tricks were used. In Tiger Blade, there is evidence of wire work, and I think many of the stunts were performed by stuntmen, rather than the actors themselves. But that go-cart-semitruck scene is real. Has to be. Some low-rent CGI is used, but not for the stunts themselves, mainly just the animation of the magic blade and for stylistic purposes. I wasn't bothered by it.

Oh, there's a babe factor. The opening fight scene is in a nightclub, where's there's go-go booted ladies in hot pants on stage. In another scene, Yos comes home to his apartment to find his bed filled women in lingerie. It's all quite tasteful, though, in keeping with the chasteness of Thai society and film censorship codes.

And there's humor. The secret police unit as a heavyset cop named Red Beard (Annan Bunnak) who's constantly cracking wise. Back at the go-go bar, he pulls a boot off one of the dancers to use as a weapon, but he first catches a whiff of the gal's foot odor. "You need to hang that thing out in the sun, girl," he tells her, helpfully.

The drawbacks of The Tiger Blade are in the confusing story. There's also a cheesy score, the kind of synthesiser soundtrack that the Thai soap operas have. Its awfulness was distracting. Next time, Mono Film, spring for a real soundtrack, with at least a rock band performing the score. Some of the acting, too, also smacked of soap-opera melodrama. Folks, you're in a movie, not onstage at the university theater. You've made it! Lighten up.

The actual hunt for the magic blade is anti-climactic, as well is the encantation needed to make the rusty blade work again - it must be doused in virgin's blood. This is played up, with Yos asking Dao for blood, but hers won't work, she says. Then he gets his little sister's blood and - shock! - it doesn't work either. He gets some virgin blood eventually, but I'm not sure where it came from.

Perhaps a second viewing is in order, which is something The Tiger Blade has going for it: I'd actually want to see it again.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Review: Ahimsa: Stop to Run

  • Directed by "Leo" Kitikorn Laewsirikul
  • Starring Boriwat Yuto, Teeradanai Suwanahom, Tharanya Suttabusya, Prinya Ngamwongwarn, Joni Anwar, Kiradaj Ketakinta
  • Theatrical release in Thailand on October 20, 2005

Picture your karma. How would it be embodied?

For Ahimsa, in this karmic-action-comedy-thriller, it's a guy in a red track suit, with close-cropped, dyed red hair and classic white Nikes with a red swoosh. And he's here to make Ahimsa pay for his sins.

When Ahimsa was a boy, he wasn't quite right, narrates a character who goes by the name of Einstein. His parents were at wits end, trying to figure out what to do. Medically, nothing wrong could be found. Ahimsa's dad thought the doctor was an idiot. But there was something wrong. It was that guy in the red track suit, always hanging around. But nobody but Ahimsa could see him.

Finally, they took Ahimsa to a shaman, who was able to convince Ahimsa's karma to leave him.

Then Ahimsa (Boriwat Yuto) grew up and became a DJ, playing rave parties in the rain and dropping LSD. And there's that karma (Teeradanai Suwanahom) again, big as life.

But first, after taking that hit, he's visited upon by a woman in a red dress. More on her later.

Ahimsa (alternatively transliterated as Ahingsa) and his roommate U-Kot (Prinya Ngamwongwarn) work in Einstein's after-hours rave club. Einstein (Joni Anwar) is a singularly weird character, who rides around in an electric wheelchair (even though he can walk) and wears cowboy boots and an Afro wig. He also thinks that drugs can alter time and space relationships.

Eventually, the karma guy shows up again, in a big way, bashing Ahimsa over the head with one those returnable glass water bottles, you know, the real thick ones? That had to have hurt!

He wakes up the next day, with blood on his pillow. U-kot explains that Ahimsa had passed out at the club and had to be carried home. Ahimsa visits the hospital. And there's that woman in the red dress - she's a doctor. She runs the tests, but can find nothing wrong.

Then Ahimsa starts having visions of the future. He sees his roommate getting sodomized by their drug dealer (another very weird character) and then dead in the shower. But it didn't happen. Or did it? The next day, he has a deja vu moment, complete with a little boy telling him to "watch where the fuck you're going" after he trips over the kid's trike.

He starts to have other weird visions, like the karma guy in a flame-decalled, fire-engine red 1960s Chevy Impala convertible, playing chicken with him as Ahimsa speeds towards him in his equally classic 60s Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (both cars pure American Detroit iron leftover from the Vietnam War days). He gets into a near crash as the result of his blackouts while he has these visions, but the movie's budget wasn't so great that a classic land yacht like that could be wasted.

In another cool moment, the karma remarks that Ahimsa "hasn't suffered enough today", and proceeds to beat the living daylights out of Ahimsa. But Ahimsa can't get a lick in edgewise - the karma can't be touched.

Even releasing a cage full of birds, which is supposed to be an excellent merit-maker, does no good. Here's where Ampon Rattanawong, the comic actor who played the monkey shaman in Buppa Rahtree and also had a key role in Monrak Transistor comes in, as the bird-freedom vendor at a temple.

It turns out that Ahimsa and the doctor (Tharanya Suttabusya), who is oddly named Pattaya (the action also takes place in Pattaya and some other beachside location that I can't place) are karmically entwined. Which isn't so good, because the doctor is engaged to marry a cop (Kiradaj Ketakinta).

And Ahimsa just keeps getting deeper and deeper into trouble - shooting the sodomizing drug dealer, then a local politician (who's also the cop's brother). Now, in addition to having his karma after him all the time, he's a fugitive from the law.

Other karmas also appear. Einstein has his own karma, a long-haired guy in a Game of Death yellow track suit. And the hilarious dyed-blond U-Kot becomes a karma who torments the drug dealer.

There's a lot going for this movie. The performances are all solid, especially the karma, played by Teeradanai Suwanahom.

But there's just something ... I can't put my finger on it. Much of it seems to be color and style, just for the sake of color and style.

Director Leo Kitikorn has said he made the film for youngsters to demonstrate that they can't escape their karma, especially if they do bad things, like take LSD or kill people.

But, with a karma in red track suit, who favors a hunk of lumber to beat you over the head with, can anyone really take this message seriously?

You'd think someone with the name Ahimsa would know better.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai films at Tokyo film market

As a sidebar to the Tokyo International Film Festival, three Thai films were screened in a film market event that concludes today.

The films are two colorful RS Promotion products, Bangkok Loco and the recently viewed Ahimsa: Stop to Run and Mono Film's new movie being released this week, The Tiger Blade.

Also in the main program at the Tokyo festival are Midnight My Love and Citizen Dog.

But back to Mono Film's Tiger Blade. It's worth mentioning just for the tagline: "When kick-ass cops can't get the job done, bring in the kick-ass magic."

Mono Film is a fairly new company. They have a number of releases planned, including The Legend of Sudsakorn, starring Fan Chan's Charlie Trairat. A live-action fantasy, the ancient legend has been told on film before - in the first and only Thai animated feature, 1979's The Adventure of Sudsakorn by Payut Ngaokrachang.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bollywood action in Bangkok

Both Kaiju Shakedown and Twitch are reporting about a new Bollywood action film, Ek Ajnabee, which stars Amitabh Bachchan.

It was filmed in Bangkok and features stunt work by Kawee Sirikhanaerat, another protege of Ong Bak choreographer Panna Rittikrai (Kawee did the tuk-tuk taxi chase), as well as a part of the versatile Thai stunt crews who have worked on Tombraider 2 and Batman Begins.

Basically Man on Fire or Transporter 2 done up Bollywood style (though likely without any three-hour-long song-and-dance numbers), Ek Ajnabee is the story of a burnt-out bodyguard who takes a job protecting a little girl who gets kidnapped and he has to go ballistic to get her back.

Kaiju Shakedown had the scoop and Twitch has more.

Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Review: The King Maker

  • Directed by Lek Kitaparaporn
  • Produced by David Winters
  • Starring Gary Stretch, John Rhys-Davies, Cindy Burbridge, Yoe Hassadeevichit
  • Wide theatrical release in Thailand on October 20, 2005, with English and/or Thai-dubbed soundtrack

Everything about The King Maker, or The Rebellion of Queen Sudchan, feels borrowed.

The story is lifted straight from Suriyothai. The action scenes come from Bang Rajan. The hand-to-hand action looks like it's trying to copy any number of sources, such as Ong-Bak, Once Upon a Time in China (by way of The Musketeer) and Gladiator.

The only reason I can figure this movie has been made is because of the ambition of producer David Winters, a British child actor and veteran director and producer, to make an epic like this. And the only place an epic like this could get made is in Thailand, where armies of extras, horses, elephants and experienced movie crews can be found relatively more cheaply than anywhere else in the world.

It's something that has drawn filmmakers to Thailand since the earliest days of cinema. Merian C Cooper shot the elephant disaster film, Chang, in Thailand in 1927. Oliver Stone came here to do Alexander last year. There have been many more in between.

The six degrees of separation on The King Maker and King Kong (and Alexander) give me chills. The King Maker is based on Suriyothai, which was directed by MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, who once worked for Merian Cooper. Gary Stretch, who stars in The King Maker, also was in the cast of Oliver Stone's Alexander. John Rhys-Davies also stars in The King Maker. He was also in the Lord of the Rings, which was directed by Peter Jackson, who has directed a remake of King Kong that is based on Cooper's version. It helps that the trailer for King Kong played right before The King Maker. Oh, and Chatrichalerm has visited the WETA Workshop, which does special effects for Jackson's films.

This is all tenous at best, and doesn't really mean squat, but this is a part of cinematic legend that David Winters wants to lay claim to by making The King Maker.

And it's all for nothing. But there's more.

The story opens with Portuguese mercenary Fernando de Gama (Britain's former middleweight boxing champion Stretch) drowning in the ocean after a shipwreck. He comes to, finds some flotsam to float on and washes up on an island, where he forages for food. Here is the first of bad CGI - a Siamese crocodile comes up in jungle pool and tries to eat Fernando. Crocodile-based effects in Thai films are never very good and this is no exception.

He survives the croc, only to be captured by some Arab slave traders and taken to Ayutthaya, which is oddly placed next to the ocean, even though it is several hundred kilometres inland, up the Chao Phya River. The ancient Siamese capital, by the way, is another bad CGI creation.

Released from his bonds to be put on the auction block, he promptly knocks down his Arab captors and leads them on a comic chase throughout the ancient city - one of two decent action scenes in the movie, however derivative it is.

Eventually, he's brought under control, but not before he's captured the attention of a Eurasian beauty, Maria (Miss World 1996 Cindy Burbridge), who buys him his freedom back. This sets up a stomach-churning romance that leads to a lot of stilted dialogue and wooden action.

"Why Fernando, what a dashing figure you cut in that armor."

Okay, enough of that. Maria's father is portrayed by John Rhys-Davies, one of the only good things about this movie. Turns out, Phillippe is a figure from Fernando's past that has spurred Fernando's need to become a mercenary and look for his father's killer -- none other than Phillipe.

But first there are bigger battles to be fought. Fernando and his Portuguese compatriots are pressed into the service of King Chairacha (Nirut Sirichanya), who has to go into battle against his Lanna foes. It's a multi-national taskforce, not only including Portuguese mercenaries, but also samurai warriors (which is pure fiction) -- which is based on actual Siamese history.

After a decent gory battle scene that borrows heavily on Bangrajan, Fernando is relaxing and bonds with a Thai warrior named Tong (Dom Hetrakul). They are then surprised by a band of wild sakai warriors from South Thailand, shooting poisonous darts. They distinguish themselves by saving the King and are appointed his personal bodyguards (again, pure fiction, a foreigner would not have been allowed to get so close to the King) -- also based on actual history.

Meanwhile (there's always a meanwhile), Queen Sudachan is scheming. She was a consort of the King who wangled her way into becoming queen. Her story is better told in Suriyothai and better portrayed there by Mae Charoenpura. Here, Mae's role is channelled by model Yoe Hassadeevichit. A vengeful woman, she wants to kill the king and put her lover on the throne.

Apparently, that attack by the sakai was an assassination plot. It failed, so Sudachan calls on Don Phillippe for help. Phillippe makes a deal with a scar-faced ninja (Byron Bishop, or Mr. Cindy Burbridge) to kill the king.

It's a cool idea, a bunch of black-suited ninjas stealing their way into a Siamese palace. But they are thwarted by Fernando, Tong and other Siamese troops.

So Sudachan has to resort to poisoning the king. She also must kill her own son (Fan Chan's Charlie Trairat) who would next in line for the throne, to clear the way for her boyfriend. To do her bidding, Sudachan has an African warrior wielding a spear. I tell you, this movie is weird. But not weird enough to be cool. What happened to Sudachan's rabidly loyal squad of Amazon guards?

It goes seriously downhill from there. Fernando and Tong are framed for the deaths and made to fight each other in a death duel for Sudachan and her new king's amusement. Maria is brought out and stomped on by an elephant and survives (she's holding her tummy like she has a stomachache).

One last odd thing about this movie - it was made with an English soundtrack, with even the Thai actors meticulously reciting all their lines in English. However, for the screening I checked out at a suburban Bangkok cinema, the bits where Thais were speaking to other Thais had been dubbed into Thai, which was much preferable to some of the clunky English dialogue.

So this makes The King Maker the first English-language Thai film since 1941's Kingdom of the White Elephant, made by Pridi Banomyong in a nationalistic bid to raise world consciousness against Japanese occupation of Thailand during World War II. It's another part of history that The King Maker wants desperately to be a part of.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Forsaken Land best film at World Film Fest

The controversial Sri Lankan film Forsaken Land by Vimukthi Jayasundara was named the best film in the Harvest of Talents competition at the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

"The film features unique cinematography. Its powerful imagery portrays the life of ordinary people in an atmosphere of fear," French film critic Nadine Tarbouriech, one of the festival’s five jury members, was quoted as saying in The Nation.

Set in Sri Lanka, the story centers on a family living in a desolate, sand-blown area where there is no fighting, but also no peace. The decades of living on the edge have taken their toll, and while others have fled the area, the family - a man and his young wife and the man's sister - have hung on, but are left without any will or morals of their own.

Vimukthi was present for the awards ceremony, as well as a Q&A session after on of the screenings of his film. He explained it was his own viewpoint of how the civil war has affected his country. Though it was made with cooperation of the military, when the film was completed and shown in Sri Lanka, the reactions were negative. The film was banned and Vimukthi now lives in Paris.

"Thank you so much for this award. It is important for me as I have a lot of trouble in my country," Jayasundara said in his acceptance speech. "I'm pleased because many people think that I made this film for Westerners. As an Asian, I always make films for my country and for Asians. This award from Thailand proves at least that I made this film for Asians."

Other awards in the festival's competition:

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Review: Tsunami Digital Short Films - Program 2

  • Premiered at the World Film Festival of Bangkok on October 22, 2005.

Thirteen short films were made in a project funded by the Culture Ministry's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, which gave filmmakers about US$4,800 and five days to make a film somewhere in the area of Thailand that was hit by the tsunami on December 26, 2004. The films were premiered as a package at the Third World Film Festival of Bangkok, and screened in two parts. The first part is reviewed here. Here the films that were shown in the second program.

Forget It, directed by Somkid Thamniamdi

This program was more varied in styles and moods than the first program. It started with Forget It, a stop-motion clay animated film. It features a handsome, big-chinned man with big hair and an important job that forces him to leave his home and his incredibly shaped wife and spend his days working and earning money. All too late, he realizes what he's leaving at home everyday.

World Priceless Day, directed by Lek Manont

A guy who lost his friends and everything he owned in the tsunami. All he has is sand in the pockets of his cut-off Dickies trousers. But he wants to do something for his friends. He makes a crown of leaves and vines to present to them somehow. In his grief, he discovers that people are still living: Motorcycle Man, T-shirt Man, Food Man, Airplane Man. He gets transport, new clothes, food and a plane ride to Bangkok. Then he realizes he's still wearing the crown of leaves he made for his friends.

Smiles of the Fifth Night, directed by Sonthaya Subyen

"Pebbles cannot be tamed to the end they will look at us with a calm and very clear eye" - Zbigniew Herbert.

This film mixes images and text. After that opening flash of text, it switches to images, with a text crawl of actually letters from survivors of the tsunami and well-wishers.

It's pretty haunting, showing vast mudflats, stripped bare. A rice barge is left high and dry. But it's also beautiful, with images of life in the mangroves.

The Helping Hand, directed by Folke Ryden

This is a documentary by Swedish filmmaker Folke Ryden, focusing on a young Thai man, Mard Mankala, who was a hotel manager on Koh Phi Phi, which was leveled by the tsunami. Mard was able to warn his staff and guests to get to safety -- one of the success stories of the tsunami. But he lost everything.

However, he turned to helping out in the relief effort, as did others. Thousands of Swedes visit Thailand each year, enough to make a small city, and the tsunami counted as probably the biggest disaster for Sweden since World War II.

The documentary footage is from right after the tsunami, showing the devastation and the recovery of bodies.

Lie Beneath, directed by Margaret Bong Chew Jen

A little Malaysian boy returns to his hometown and makes up a story about his parents being killed in the tsunami to win the attention of his friend.

Tits & Bum, directed by Santi Taepanich

Here's a concept that should be expanded on: A parody of the karaoke videos.

If you've been in Asia, you know what I'm talking about. A sexy woman in a bikini or lingerie frolics on the beach or in the bedroom while the words to the song are scrolled at the bottom of the screen.

The film switches back and forth from parody to a behind-the-scenes mockumentary of the making of karaoke video, featuring a model who refuses to open her legs too wide and a transsexual stand-in for the model.

There's further parody with a muscle-bound guy flexing for the camera as the karaoke words go by, which is something you never see. Karaoke videos always have beautiful women.

By the director of Crying Tigers, this was the funniest, most entertaining of the shorts. It had the audience in stitches.

Tune In, directed by Pimpaka Towira

A young woman drives around Phuket, trying to find something. She stops and asks for directions many times. She plays with the radio, trying to find the station. Finally, she gets to the end of the road. Good thing she has a four-wheel drive. It seems she finds what she was looking for.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Review: Tsunami Digital Short Films - Program 1

  • Premiered at the World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 20, 2005; part one of two programs.

Ghost of Asia, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Christelle Lheureux

A fitting beginning to the package of six short films made to memorialize the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004. Apichatpong served as the creative consultant for the project, which includes 13 films in all.

Funded by the Culture Ministry's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, directors were given a budget of 200,000 baht (about US$4,800) and five days to shoot their film somewhere in Phuket or other provinces in southern Thailand that were hit by the tsunami.

For Ghost of Asia, the directors engaged three local children to direct their actor, Tropical Malady's country boy-tiger shaman Sakda Kaewbuadee, making him a "ghost" or "puppet" who had to do their bidding.

Basically anything you could think of doing at the beach or in Thailand, these kids made their ghost do - swim in the ocean, take a boat ride, hunt for crabs, go fishing, pick and eat every conceivable kind of fruit, sleep, drink milk, "go poo", paint a house, climb a mountain, climb a tree.

The film is presented all sped up, giving it a kind of silent-film feel. It was the most hopeful, celebratory and entertaining of the package, presenting a normal, everyday life. Even if the guy was supposed to be a "ghost", it shows a Phuket that is okay and fun to visit.

One of Apichatpong's most accessible works, Ghost of Asia has actually been shown in Montreal and other film festivals before being screened as part of the Tsunami Digital Short Film program. It's also part of a multi-media art exhibit in Berlin.

Waves of Souls, directed by Pipope Panitchpakdi

The Nation Channel documentarian catches up with the Moken, or sea gypsies, a tribe that takes pride in self sufficiency and survival. After the tsunami, organizations came to help, and in this particular case, a Christian charity came to build houses and offer money - with a catch. Pipope lays it on the line, offering the definition of "proselytize" from Webster's dictionary in white text on a black background. "I don't even feel like I'm part of my own village," says one woman, who didn't want to convert or wasn't allowed and is now left out of the evening get togethers where traditional music is played - and Bibles are read.

Aftershock, directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul.

For quicky, low-budget films, one of the first things to be sacrificed is audio. Like many of the films in the program, Aftershock relied mainly on images. Indeed, while showing scenes of a carnival, a guy selling hats and other trinkets and a boat ride, there is no sound at all. The tension in the audience was palpable.

I'm sure people were thinking: "What the fuck?" I know I was, but I rode with it. It's on that boat ride where things go to hell. The camera pans lazily around, finally locking in on the boat driver's crotch, and there it stays until some sort of sound kicks in and we're looking at a pale, white foot. Someone's dead? No, nobody's dead. It's a guy covered in some kind of brown substance, chocolate syrup I hope, and he's licking it off his fingers. Oh, he's got some milky substance on his lower lip.

Perhaps as a clue as to where Thunska's going with this, I kept looking at Tsai Ming-Liang, who was sitting in front of me at the screening.

Out of all the tsunami shorts, this is one that'll keep me up nights.

Andaman, directed by Sompot Chidgasornpongse

Another short that sacrifices the live audio, but instead of going silent, it substitutes the sound of surf and waves as the camera looks around at the island. You get a sense of a Phuket, still recovering after the tsunami. The beaches are a bit empty and lonely feeling. There are some tourists and locals making living from the tourist trade, and the camera stops to talk to them. Their lips are moving but you can't hear what they are saying. Just the sound of waves.

Then a rainstorm kicks up and the sound ratchets up. It made me jump. A mini tsunami on film. In a headline on its story previewing these films yesterday, the English-language ThaiDay said: "News crews showed us what the tsunami looked like. Now, filmmakers show us what it felt like." Especially in Andaman's case, this is dead-on accurate.

Trail of Love, directed by Suchada Sirithanawuddhi

With the most traditional narrative of the short-films package, Trail of Love is a cyber romance set around the days just after tsunami. Picha is a young woman who's visited the island and has found a message in a bottle that contains a map to a remote beach. She e-mails a long-time net pal about the beach and bottle, and the friend agrees to meet Pricha on December 29. But the tsunami strikes three days before. Pricha loses touch with her friend. She sends a plaintive e-mail, asking for a response. What happened? She's left alone to follow the map.

Tsu, directed by Pramote Sangsorn

A young man limps across the beach. All color is washed out. It's almost black and white. The wind blows ominously. Slowly, color comes into focus. The man approaches a green flag, flapping in the strong ocean breeze. He takes a knife and cuts the flag down. He then pulls out a red flag and ties it on to the post, and takes things further by painting the flagpole red.

There are dozens of these flags, perhaps 100 or more, lined up all the way down the beach, just at the waterline, flapping in the wind. He goes to the next flag, cuts it down and replaces it with a red one.

The source of his limp is revealed - a big open sore on his left leg that is the shape of Thailand. A lot of people gasped when they noticed that. He limps along, replacing the green flags with red ones.

Eventually, he leaves his flags and turns his attention on a battered boat that's in the shape of a swan, hitching a rope to it and trying to pull it out to sea.

Despite the calm and deliberativeness of Tsu, this is the one that really channels the anger that a lot of people must have felt about a lack of an early warning system that could have gotten people away from the beaches and saved lives. Thai meteorological officials were warned hours in advance of the possibility of a tsunami, but did nothing with the information out of fear it would be a false alarm and business and tourism would have been disrupted.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

French DVD release for Blissfully Yours, Mysterious Object

Since it's being promoted at Kick the Machine, this must be the proper DVD release of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's censored jungle romance, Blissfully Yours. It was previously released in Thailand by Mangpong, but it had certain scenes snipped.

Released by Anna Sanders Films, it's packaged as a box set with Apichatpong's first feature, Mysterious Object at Noon.

Oh, but merde! It's a French release and only has French subtitles.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Heartbreak catches a break

News from Pusan or Busan or however you want to spell it: Heartbreak Pavilion by indie maverick Thunska Pansittivorakul and Sompot Chidgasornpongse won the Busan Award, the largest prize bestowed by the Busan city government with $20,000 in prize money.

The film is a collection of stories about heartbroken people who end up trapped on a boat together.

Kick the Machine has lots of photos from Pusan.

A Korean film, Fairy Tale of a Picture Tree by Lee Kwang-mo, was also given the Busan Award.

Each film will get $20,000, says the Korea Times.

The prize was offered in the Pusan Promotion Plan, a film-marketing exercise that is a sidebar to the Pusan International Film Festival.

Among 33 official projects - 27 PPP projects from 19 countries and six New Directors in Focus (NDIF) projects by promising Korean directors - eight projects were announced at the closing ceremony at the Paradise Hotel in Haeundae, according to the Korea Times.

There's also some film marketing news from Screen International.

Hong Kong's Universe Films Distribution sold a seven-title package to Thailand.

Golden Network Asia sold Midnight My Love to CJ Entertainment and Born To Fight was sold to Korea, though I'm not sure to whom in Korea.

Citizen Dog also was included in the deal with CJ Entertainment, which is starting a CJ Collection. CJ is a film distributor and cinema-chain owner, so I presume it will be giving the Thai films a release in its South Korea.

But it also has a DVD business, so I'm holding out hope for a DVD release of both Midnight My Love and Citizen Dog -- with English subtitles, which aren't included on the Thai releases of either of these films.

(Thanks Sebu! Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dear Dakanda makes 60 million baht

Dear Dakanda, the sweet romantic comedy by Khomkrit Treewimol, earned 60 million baht (about US$1.4 million) in its first week -- a good start in the Thai film market.

It also made 6.1 million baht in its opening day, breaking a record for romantic comedies, which was held by 2003's February, which earned 5.2 million baht when it opened, according to The Nation's print-only Soopsip column.

GTH, or GMM Tai Hub, was partying to celebrate the success of the film. The company has been taking a relative beating at the box office this year compared to behemoth Sahamongkol Film, especially with The Tin Mine, an epic historical comedy-drama, which tanked.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai horror roundup

Scary movies aren't really my thing. So I tend to just shut down when they are brought up. Still, the trend of Asian horror can't be denied, especially when the Thai industry has embraced it in a big way. Here's some of the latest:
  • Twitch has news on Scared, one of the Thai scarers at the American Film Market.
  • Twitch also has the scoop on Art of the Devil 2, a sequel to Bangrajan director Thanit Jitnukul's 2004 supernatural thriller.
  • And over at Kaiju Shakedown, there's news of a Hollywood remake for the Pang Bros Eye 2. Sebu also gave me news about that, from Screen Daily. It'll be produced by Gold Circle and Vertigo. I suppose it's possible that The Eye remake in the works by Cruise-Wagner (starring Renee Zellweger) and Eye 2 could end up competing with each other.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Shutter at Hawaii fest

Shutter is showing at the Hawaii International Film Festival. It's the only full-length Thai feature at the festival, but it's part of an impressive lineup of Asian films.

In addition, there's Don't Fence Me In: Major Mary and the Karen Refugees of Burma, a short-film documentary about Burma's Karen people, which is a politically sensitive subject in Thailand. Also, there's Iceblock Cometh, which follows the short life of a block of ice in Cambodia.

The Star-Bulletin offers a top 10 Asian films at the festival, by LoveHKFilm's Sanjuro.
  1. Welcome to Dongmakol -- Director Park Kwang-hyeon makes a stunning debut.
  2. Initial D -- Pop singer Jay Chou is Takumi Fujiwara, a tofu-delivery-boy-turned-accidental-god-of-illegal-street-racing.
  3. A Bittersweet Life -- Lee Byung-hun plays a hard-boiled gangster who glimpses a better life.
  4. Kamikaze Girls -- Cross the American road movie aesthetic of Thelma and Louise with the Japanese bubblegum pop of Cutie Honey and you'll have some idea of what this movie is all about.
  5. Crying Fist -- The traditional underdog boxing flick gets a Korean facelift in this genre-busting box-office hit about two men searching for a little redemption.
  6. Shutter -- With the glut of Asian horror movies ripping off Ringu and Ju-on, it's nice to see some fresh blood in the genre.
  7. Sad Movie -- Another highly-anticipated Korean film, the one makes its world premiere at the festival.
  8. Dumplings -- Miriam Yeung plays a washed-up actress on the prowl for some pricey dumplings that are said to possess the power to restore a woman's youth. But vanity has its price.
  9. Princess Raccoon -- Ziyi Zhang plays a raccoon spirit who falls in love with an exiled prince (Joe Odagiri). True to Suzuki's previous work, Princess Raccoon is a love-it-or-hate-it affair but, at the very least, this deliriously silly Technicolor musical should prove memorable.
  10. Kekexili: Mountain Patrol -- Based on a true story, the film focuses on a Beijing journalist traveling with a mountain patrol as they try to nab some poachers amidst the countryside's unforgiving terrain.
Other festival highlights include:
  • An Evening with Zhang Yimou.
  • A screening of State of Mind, a documentary on North Korean gymnasts.
  • Godzilla: Final Wars.
  • Special Focus on Toei Film Studios, a retrospective that includes The White Snake Enchantress, Galaxy Express 999, Red Peony Gambler: Flower Cards Match, The Mad Fox and Kinji Fukasaku's Street Mobster and his Shogun's Samurai, which will feature an appearance by festival guest Sonny Chiba.
I'm most impressed by the number of Japanese films scheduled, including the latest from Yoji Yamada, The Hidden Blade.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Ratana Pestonji films reviewed

More followup from the Pusan International Film Festival, where four films by Thai film legend Ratana Pestonji were screened.

GreenCine managed to catch one screening, Country Hotel. The other films shown were Sugar Is Not Sweet, Black Silk and Dark Heaven.

All sound great. At some point, I hope to see these treasures for myself.

(Thanks Sebu! Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Why Miramax sits on Asian films

The answer should have been obvious: The reason Miramax never released many of the Asian films it bought the rights to was because of money.

An article on Slate finally explains it: It was all an elaborate bookkeeping ruse by Harvey Weinstein to make sure Miramax came out ahead each year and then he and his brother Bob would get their bonuses from Disney.

If the film isn't released, it can be kept off the books.

There's more on it over at Twitch and at Kaiju Shakedown.

I know I'm appalled. Among the films being sat on by Miramax is Tears of the Black Tiger. I wonder if there's ever a chance the film will be released in the US? But the thing is, when Miramax bought the film, they also had the ending changed to a happy one, in which case, it's probably better that it is not seen.

The best-case scenario would be for another company to somehow get the rights to the film, restore the original ending and fix any other cuts that might have been made and give Tears the release that it deserves.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai films at American Film Market

Kaiju Shakedown has more on the American Film Market, where three Thai horror/suspense films are being shown, in addition to the preview show reel that includes a look at Tony Jaa's third film, Sword and several other upcoming films. The horror film lineup is:
  • Hell - If you're into young Thai actors and actresses being put through horrific tortures, then this is for you. But for me, watching young Thai actors and actresses act like they are being through horrific tortures is horrific torture for me, so I did not bother with this. If you see it and survive, you are stronger than I am.
  • Scared - A group of university students start dying off, one by one.
  • P - It's good to see Paul Spurrier's film about a witch who works as a Bangkok bargirl get some attention. I wonder if it will ever get a Thai release?

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Review: Dear Dakanda (Peun Sanit)

  • Directed by Komkrit Treewimol
  • Starring Sunny Suwanmethanon, Sirapat Watanajinda, Maneerat Kam-uan
  • Released theatrically in Thailand on October 6, 2005

For fans of Fan Chan who wondered where Noi Nah's family moved to, the answer is here -- the family, or Noi Nah's dad at least, moved to Bangkok, where the long-haired, mustachioed, deliberative barber, played again by musician Lek Carabao, opened a shop.

It's only fitting that Komkrit Treewimol, the first of the six directors of Fan Chan, a hit Thai film in 2003, would have the barber character around to reprise his bit of artfully cutting the hair, and just when the haircut is finished and the customer is about to get up, he says, "Wait!", and snips a single, errant hair that was sticking up.

The customer in this case is Moo (Sunny Suwanmethanon), a young guy who's about to head out for the southern Thailand island of Koh Pha-ngan. Why he's going there takes pretty much the whole movie to explain, but first he has to break his leg in a mishap on the boat to the island.

This puts Moo in touch with a very pretty nurse (Maneerat Kam-uan) who is immediately smitten by Moo and is very sweet to him.

But Moo has other things on his mind. He asks for some postcards so he can write his friend.

"Friend or a girlfriend?", Nui the nurse asks.

"Just a friend," Moo insists.

Then we flashback to four years before. Moo is an art student at Chiang Mai University in his first day, having to go through the things that freshmen in Thai universities have to go through, like collecting names of other students in your book.

He meets Dakanda (Siraphan Watanajinda), a striking, unique beauty with an outgoing personality.

Moo and Dakanda become close friends -- classmates who critique each others' work, getting drunk on the weekends, and going through all the hazing rituals together.

One night Moo earns his nickname, after Dakanda convinces him and another guy to raid the university's chicken farm for eggs. Moo ends up getting run off by the caretaker, and all the eggs in his pocket are broken -- Broken Eggs is his name now.

The story toggles back and forth between the present, with Moo laying up in bed with a cast, being cared for by Nui and another outrageous comic-relief nurse. Eventually, Nui carts Moo around on the back of her motorcycle, his cast-clad leg sticking out over the side. They spend time at the beach, and Moo is able to earn some money painting portraits of tourists.

But Moo pines for Dakanda, and the story switches back to his university days. Dakanda's parents are quite keen on Moo. Her mom suggests a trick that might ensure Dakanda loves him: while she's sleeping, he should stand over her and concentrate all his thoughts on her while counting. If before he reaches the number 10 she wakes up, she loves him. He tries it one night on a camping trip, but probably she's had too much to drink and has passed out. Or has she?

Next thing Moo knows, he's laying back in his hospital bed and the nurse Nui is counting. It's one of the many funny scenes.

The comedy in this film is best during the first act of the film. It slows up, and by the third act, it's pretty serious as Moo copes with his emotions and you learn how he got into his predicament.

But it's never overboard or maudlin. Subtlety. It's something a lot of films -- especially Thai romantic comedies -- lack. But Komkrit finds a balance that's just about right. It's sweet without being syrupy.

A good first solo effort from the first of the six Fan Chan directors makes me have good hopes for the remaining five directors.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Producing in the South

One of the cool things about the World Film Festival of Bangkok is the Produire au Sud, or Producing in the South, workshop that's going on as a sidebar.

Ten producers have been selected to particpate in the workshop and get some help in film-financing strategies and marketing from some European pros. Here's the list of film projects:
  1. Api Asmara (Indonesia) - Producer Donny Akbar, director Marselli Sumarmo
  2. The Road Back (Vietnam) - Producer Ho Quc Hung, director Pham Nhue Glang
  3. Beyond the Obvious (Sri Lanka) - Producer Dilith Jayaweera, director Anoma Rajakaruna
  4. Fallen Apsara (Singapore) - Producer Jackie Go, director KM Lo
  5. Forgetten Tears (Singapore) - Producer Juan Foo, director Ellery Ngiam
  6. A Moment in June (Thailand) - Producer Noth Thongsriphong, director O Nathapon
  7. North to South, East to West (Thailand) - Producer Chalida Uabumrungjit, director Pimpaka Towira
  8. Dreaming of Mermaid (Thailand) - Producer Lee Chatametikool, director Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr
  9. The Vicious Cycles (Myanmar) - Producer Nil Myo Thandar Htu, director Ko Chan Thar Kyi So
  10. Ostrich Granny (Malaysia) - Producer Lina Tan Suan Jeu, director Bernard Chauly

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

World Film Festival of Bangkok preview

Well, it's had some rough times getting organized, but as I've just completed an exhaustive look at the World Film Festival of Bangkok's lineup, I think it's actually pretty good.

For Thai film, the organizers are actually touting this as a big year for the local films, since in years past there have actually not been very many Thai films, though Last Life in the Universe was in the competition two years ago and they have worked with the Thai Film Foundation to present archived films.

But this year, they are presenting four Thai films:
  • Cherm (Midnight My Love) - Directed by Kongdej Jaturanrasami and starring Petchtai Wongkamlao in a rare dramatic role as a loner taxi driver who falls into a relationship with a massage parlour girl.
  • The Remaker - A karmic thriller directed by Mona Nahm and produced by Oxide Pang.
  • Suea Ronghai (Crying Tigers) - Santi Taepanich's documentary about Northeastern Thais, who are working in Bangkok, mostly in the music and entertainment industry.
  • Dek Toh (Innocence) - Miss Thailand Universe (1994) Areeya Sirisoda debuts her first film, a documentary about some Chiang Mai hilltribe children who dream about getting to see the ocean.
The biggest Thai fare on the festival program, though, are the Tsunami Short Films, most of which are made by Thai directors, including Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Commissioned by the Culture Ministry, filmmakers were given a budget of 200,000 baht (about US$5,000) and five days to make the films on location somewhere in the area where the tsunami hit Thailand on December 26, 2004.

Along with Apichatpong, there's Crying Tigers' Santi, with Tits and Bum, a parody of sand- and sun-swept karaoke videos and maverick director Thunska
Thunska Pansittivorakul’s After Shock, which is said to present some 'almost erotic scenes'.

Apichatpong's is Ghost of Asia, in which he invited three local children to direct an actor (Sakda Kaewbuadee, the country boy and “tiger” from Tropical Malady). His function was to be a ghost who wanders the rocky coastline.

Clay animation is used in Somkid Thamniamdi's Forget It, about a hard-working man who’s obsessed with earning enough money to take his wife on a honeymoon. But all the money in the world can’t keep the unexpected from happening.

Other films are by Malaysia's Margaret Bong Chew Jen, Suchada Sirithanawuddhi, Pimpaka Towira, Nation Channel documentarian Pipope Panitchpakdi, Sweden’s Folke Ryden, Pramote Sangsorn, Somkid Thamniamdi, Sompot Chidgasornpongs and Sonthaya Sapyen.

There are also many other Thai short films, including two Thai Short Film programs and a Thai Indie Short Film package programmed by the Thai Film Foundation.

Whew! Aside from all that, Roman Polanski is coming to town to present Oliver Twist. Repulsion, Cul de Sac, Knife in the Water and The Pianist also will be screened.

Jean Pierre Jeunet has four of his films showing, mainly with only Thai subtitles, though.

Ulrike Ottinger will be in town for a Q&A session and is having six of her films screened.

Werner Herzog probably won't be at the festival, though he's said to be in north Thailand making a film, but a short documentary, Werner at Work, will be presented by Beat Presser.

There's a bunch of Czech New Wave films (Larks on a String, Black Peter, The Shop on Main Street, etc) being shown as well as a package of classic Czech animation, including The Hand by Jiri Trnka.

Vimukthi Jayasundara from Sri Lanka has his Forsaken Land in the competition, a film that presents such a bleak picture of what's happening in Sri Lanka, he's had to flee the country for fear of persecution. I'm pretty amazed he's coming as close as Thailand to talk about his film in a Q&A session.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Amazing Grace

Expect to be seeing a lot more of Nawarat "Grace" Techaratanaprasert, youngest daughter of Sahamongkol Films boss Somsak Techaratanaprasert.

The eight-year-old Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect star has a bunch of projects lined up, according to The Nation's print-only Soopsip column.

Right now, she's playing a dog-loving kid in Khao Niao Moo Ping, which is in production. She'll be among the guest stars in MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's Naresuan, the action flick Chai Lai and the kiddie adventure Power Kids.

Next year, she's set to team up with Tom Yum Goong co-star, wrestler Nathan Jones, in another spicy Thai food titled action film, Somtum.

Chai Lai, by the way, is among the films being promoted in the American Film Market in Santa Monica, according to I'm giving Twitch. Others on the promo reel include Tony Jaa's next one, Sword (wonder if Grace is co-starring in that, too?) and a movie starring Born to Fight's Dan Chupong. for this last bit of news.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Firecracker issue 11 a poppin

There's a bunch of Thai film coverage in the new issue of Firecracker.Incidentally, I just watched The Bodyguard. I didn't get the fully loaded, subtitled Region 2 version. Not yet anyway. No, for about $1, I picked up a legal Thai copy of the DVD. No subtitles, so I miss out on the jokes, but the action is awesome.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tom Yum Goong Redux

Already geared for the Western market, Tom Yum Goong will be dumbed down even further in re-edits by Prachya Pinkaew. So say some sources who have it from reliable sources.

The new cut of Tom Yum Goong will be for the Western market and will likely snip some of the Thai "in jokes".

But there's worry that some of the percussive bone-crunching sound effects might be deleted as well.

For me, the film was adequate the way it was and needs no further editing to appeal to Western audiences. It should be left alone. Or chucked out entirely. I could go further, but I won't. Not right now.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Shutter guys want to be Alone

Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun, the duo who directed the hit ghost flick, Shutter, will remain together and work on Alone as their project.

The story is about a couple who travel from Korea to set up home in Thailand.

It could be set up as a Korean-Thai joint production or be fully financed by Thai studio GMM Tai Hub, Variety says.

The pair had previously announced they would split up and concentrate on their own dramas, with Parkpoom working on Life With a Mission, about political kidnappings, while Banjong was readying Aids Diary, Variety says.

Producer Mingmongkol Sonakul told Variety they would shoot Alone in March and then return to their individual efforts.

(Thanks Sebu! Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Looking for a holy date

Workpoint Entertainment (no link - it's annoying flash animation), a production firm that mainly does shows for Thailand's TV channel 7 is looking to break into moviemaking next year with a comedy that will star Nong Cha Cha Cha (from Pattaya Maniac) and Theng Therdtherng, the funnyman who starred in Holy Man, one of this year's biggest grossing comedies, making around 141 million baht.

According to The Nation's print-only Soopsip column the movie will be called Nong Theng Nakleng Phookhao Thong.

Of course, the company is lining up some deep pockets to help out - Somsak Techarattanaprasert and Sahamongkol Films.

It'll probably make money, and everyone will be happy.

Phanit Sodsri, who has worked with the two comics for many years on the hit TV show Ching Roy Ching Laan will direct.

Filming has just started and the release date has been set for March - the same time of year that Holy Man came out.

What's that joke about the most important thing in comedy?

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai films by foreigners

The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee gets back to the days of King Kong filmmaker (and MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's mentor) Merian C Cooper, when Thailand was a sought-after location for filmmakers looking for elephants.

In his article yesterday, Kong surveys a more recent crop of foreign-made Thai films, name-checking Paul Spurrier's P and the recent Ghost of Mae Nak by British cinematographer-director Mark Duffield.

There's also mention of The Cool Season, feature Thai and farang talent and made in Chiang Mai by New York filmmaker Seth Grossman. He's now editing the film in New York, the Post says.

But the big one is the 250-million-baht (about US$6 million) historical fantasy, The Kingmaker, produced by David Winters. Based on a turbulent chapter in the Ayutthaya kingdom's history, it involves everything from Portuguese mercenaries and Arab slave-traders to gravity-defying Ninjas. Starring Gary Stretch, it opens in Thailand on October 20.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Naresuan too great for just one film

MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's next film, Naresuan, about a Siamese king known as Naresuan the Great, is so big, it has to be split into two parts. So says The Nation's print-only Soopsip column.

Naresuan Part I will come out on May 5 - Coronation Day in Thailand.

Naresuan Part II will be released on auspicious Royal holiday as well, coming out on December 5, 2006 - the birthday of His Majesty the King.

Chatrichalerm had hoped to have his epic completed on August 12, in time for Her Majesty the Queen's 72nd birthday.

Her Majesty was a big supporter of Chatrichalerm and his previous film, the historical epic, Suriyothai, and she was present for the first day of photography on Naresuan.

It's been a work in progress since December and only about half the movie has been shot, Soopsip says.

The veteran director is still wading through hundreds of pages of research on King Naresuan.

"The story is complicated and if we are to tell it clearly, we need more than two or three hours. It will have to be filmed in two, or perhaps even three parts," he was quoted as saying.

I wonder how long each part is going to be? When Suriyothai was initially cut, it was around eight hours. There's a five-hour release on DVD or VCD out there. A Thai theatrical run logged in at around three hours, and then Prince Chatri's UCLA film school classmate Francis Ford Coppola edited it down to around 2.5 hours for a US release by Sony Pictures Classics.

Maybe Quentin Tarantino could come help edit Naresuan into "volumes"?

With a 500 million baht budget and its own ancient city movie set, Naresuan is set to be the most expensive Thai film made yet.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Prachya Pinkaew's next project: Better relations with Laos

Prachya Pinkaew, director of Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong, is working on a romance that he hopes will bring better relations between Thailand and its northeastern neighbor, Laos.

This is according to the Bangkok Post, which was reporting on a seminar on the "Media Role in Thai-Lao Relations."

"As an Isaan boy, I have seen the smallest of issues cause serious misunderstandings between the two sides," Prachya was quoted as saying. "There are several Lao phrases and wordings that are lovely or have decent meanings and I'd like to present them in a positive way through this film.''

Prachya's movie, E-Nang, is a love story between a Thai man and a Laotian woman.

He said he was seeking approval from the Laotian government to shoot the whole film there was ready to cooperate with the Laotian authorities in terms of script editing and other production matters.

For now, a sticking point in Thai-Laotian relations is the invasion of Thai culture via the airwaves and pirated video, mainly in the form of Thai television soap operas.

Siam Sunvaribudh, managing director of Dara Video Co Ltd, which produces programs of Thai TV's channel 7, told the seminar that his TV soap operas were mostly based on Thai novels and everything was being done not to let any irritating and culturally sensitive scenes slip through self-censorship in satellite broadcasts to neighboring countries.

"We want our neighboring countries to tell us what else should we do as we realize that our programs have strong signals and can be easily received and greatly influence their people," Siam was quoted as saying. "We've already tried our best not to undermine bilateral relations."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Necromancer and Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect at Asia-Pacific Fest

The 50th Asia-Pacific Film Festival was held in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend.

Three Thai films were on offer -- the heartwarming childhood friendship story involving a Downs syndrome boy, Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect; the occult thriller, Necromancer; and the slick ghost story, Shutter.

From what I gather, the festival is mainly an industry gathering where some films are nominated for awards.

Necromancer won for best special effects. Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect won a special jury award for highlighting the plight of special children.

The winners list is compiled from the Malay Mail:SPECIAL JURY AWARDS

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)