Friday, July 18, 2008

Festivals, festivals and more festivals

The reconstituted Bangkok International Film Festival gets the stamp of approval today from the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee, who has been highly critical of previous incarnations of the BKKIFF and their focus on glitz and glamour.

With a severely slashed budget, and the role of past organizer the Tourism Authority of Thailand reduced to that of the main sponsor, the Federation of National Film Associations and the Thai Film Directors Assocation take over the running of the fest. NFAT chairman Jaruek Kanjaruek, who's also the head of Kantana Group, is the festival president. Youngyooth Thongkonthun, president of the directors' association, will be the artistic director. Film selection is being handled by filmmaker Pimpaka Towira, who programmed the old Nation Multimedia-sponsored Bangkok Film Festival in 2000. Kong writes (cache):

In short, the TAT will take a back seat and let the industry people, through FNFAT and the directors' association, handle the country's biggest, and most historically troubled, movie event.

The story goes on to mention the bribery scandal, which has seen no recent developments, and the festival's budget history, from a star-struck high of 180 million baht to 80 million baht last year. This year, the TAT will contribute 20 million baht, with the FNFAT trying to find sponsors to kick in some more funds.

The festival is set for September 23 to 30 at CentralWorld, with additional seminars and the awards banquet scheduled at Bangkok's new Pullman Hotel. The fest will coincide with the Commerce Ministry's inaugural Bangkok Entertainment Expo, which will be held from September 24 to 28 at Bitec on Bangna-Trad Highway.

The spread-out nature of the two events will surely be a cause of criticism.

In a column in The Nation today, theater critic Pawit Mahasarinand issues the call for a multi-genre arts festival in Bangkok (cache).

He points to such events in Bangkok as the recent La Fete French cultural festival and the Italian Festival, which organized dance, theater and music performances, art exhibits, food fairs and film screenings. Why not something like that as a spotlight for Thai arts? And, how about attracting filmgoers to dance performances, or electronic music fans to art shows? Pawit continues:

In fact, extra effort needs to be put now into overcoming our biases and taking risks. Despite the multi-genre nature of these festivals, most of us stuck to the venues and types of performances with which we were already familiar. Movie buffs went to the film festival component held at a famous cinema; classical music and dance aficionados attended symphony concerts and dance performances at Thailand Cultural Centre; and little less. I usually arrived at the latter venue about an hour ahead of curtain time to make sure there was a parking space. As such, during these festivals, I wish I had better options open for me to kill time, like a relevant visual arts exhibition to browse at my leisure, rather than chatting and socialising.

The festival organiser could have further pitched in by holding more than one event genre at one single venue on one day. It may sound like a buffet, but with the fuel price rising indefinitely as it is, we need to see as many selections as possible before making a decision and without feeling overstuffed. And this has already happened - not at an arts centre, but at a shopping centre which has both movie houses and open areas for concerts and visual arts exhibitions, as well as other commercial distractions.

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