Friday, January 25, 2008

First Thailand Script Project awards cash to two

The first Thailand Script Project has awarded 100,000 baht prizes to two writers who represent a glimmer of hope for Thai cinema, reports Kong Rithdee in today's Bangkok Post Real Time section.

The winners are Sumit Tiangtrongchit, who wrote an "oddball social-comedy" called White Buffalo, about women in a northeastern Thailand village who are obsessed with finding Westerner husbands. Watanachon Kongton won for Mitrapap Khong Rao (Our Friendship), which tells the story of a dying Bangkok doctor who goes to work in a hospital in insurgency-torn southern Thailand.

The hopefully annual project was initiated last August by Thai New Wave directors Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Nonzee Nimibutr, in a bid to bring out Thailand's "hidden talent." They modelled the project after Rotterdam's Cinemart and the Pusan Promotion Plan.

More than 800 scripts were submitted, and from these, 40 writers were selected to take part in a screenwriting workshop with Pen-ek, Nonzee and other Thai film industry figures. Out of the 40, 15 scriptwriters were given a chance to meet one-on-one with producers, in an effort to pitch their scripts. The prizewinners were chosen from this top 15, and the awards were handed out last Sunday at the Thailand Creative and Design Center.

One of the judges of the prize committee was Kong Rithdee himself. He has this to say about the experience:

I was surprised by the generally impressive quality of the scripts. Most of them are 'commercial' scripts - meaning they're written more with the hope of getting made by investors than with artsy pretensions - and many of them display striking intelligence and dimensions. In short, a number of them were better than the scripts of most Thai movies released over the past few years.

The two winning screenplays, for example, represent what's missing in current Thai cinema: contemporary relevance.

Of the two, White Buffalo, which probes attitudes towards interracial marriage with a fair-minded comedic approach, sounds the most commercially viable, says Kong. Mitraphap Khong Rao, with themes that strike at the heart of the Islamic insurgency in southern Thailand, would require a far more adventurous soul to bring to the big screen under the stifling political and cultural climate in the Kingdom. The hope, though, is that if there are writers who are brave enough to tackle the issue, perhaps a producer and director might be inspired?

(via Bangkok Post Real Time, photo credit: Thailand Script Project's site, Prachya Pinkaew and Pen-ek Ratanaruang at workshop in October 2007)

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