Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bangkok International Film Festival to be held in September

The Bangkok International Film Festival, tainted by a bribery scandal and suffering from organizational problems, has been shifted to September, according to both Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

Though the exact dates have not yet been set, the festival will likely coincide with the Bangkok Entertainment Expo, which is being put together by the Commerce Ministry's Department of Export Promotion (DEP). This dovetails with plans for the DEP to take over the budget for the festival, which has been run by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

The TAT is still at the helm of this year's fest, though all the organizing will be done by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand (FNFAT) and the Thai Film Directors' Association. They have stood ready since March to get to work on the festival, but have been met with delays caused by much bureaucratic hemming and hawing. Here is more from the Variety story by Kong Rithdee:

In its latest incarnation the BKKIFF will be hosted jointly by the FNFAT and the Thai Film Directors' Association, said Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, president of the directors guild.

The TAT, will instead be the main sponsor. "But the operations will be responsibility of FNFAT and the directors' assoc, and we may have to find additional sponsors to support the event," said Thongkongtoon.

Jaruek Kanjaruek, prexy of FNFAT was named as Festival President, while Tongkongtoon will serve as artistic director. The programming team will be led by filmmaker Pimpaka Towira and Mai Meksawan.

Few details about the fest's budget have been locked down, but it seems likely that the TAT will chip in around $750,000, down from last year's $1 million.

Hollywood Reporter's Joel Gershon reports that the festival will have an international competition, but Yongyoot wouldn't reveal any jurors' names (probably because he doesn't know who they are yet).

Pimpaka and Mai are partners at Extra Virgin, the collective of independent filmmakers that is organizing the Director's Screen series, which debuts next week with the Thailand premiere of Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town. Pimpaka's own The Truth Be Told: The Cases Against Supinya Klangnarong is the second film in the series. A former film critic, Pimpaka was the programmer of the Bangkok Film Festival (note no "international") in 2001, when that event was organized by Nation Multimedia.

Nation Multimedia and the TAT joined in 2002 2003 to organize the first Bangkok INTERNATIONAL Film Festival, but split after that inaugural year. That same year, The Nation went on to organize the 1st World Film Festival of Bangkok, which it has held in October since 2003. This year's 6th World Film Festival of Bangkok is set for October 24 to November 2 at Paragon Cineplex.

Further tightening up the local film fest calendar is the Thai Film Foundation's Thai Short Film & Video Festival, which is planned for the end of August.

Worldwide, the Bangkok International Film Festival and its film market face competition from the Pusan International Film Festival, set for October 2 to 10. Pusan and Hong Kong are the primary film market destinations in Asia, so attracting companies to Bangkok is going to be a tough sell.

The Bangkok International Film Festival (BKKIFF) had traditionally been held around January or February, but was postponed to July last year after a shake-up in management in which the TAT broke its contract with Los Angeles-based Festival Management, which had programmed the festival since 2003.

In December, the owners of Festival Management, Hollywood producer Gerald Green and his wife Patrica, were charged by the U.S. Justice Department for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, accused of paying US$1.7 million in bribes to a person the Justice Department identified as the "Governor" of the TAT. Until 2006, that person was Juthamas Siriwan. The Greens have pleaded not guilty and their trial is set for sometime in the fall. Juthamas, meanwhile, has been the subject of a probe by Thailand's Department of Special Investigation, which has turned its case over to the National Counter Corruption Commission.

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