Sunday, September 14, 2008

12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival review: Digital Forum

After starting last year as its own event, the Digital Forum was folded into the parent Thai Short Film & Video Festival. Reflecting the growth of digital filmmaking, the Digital Forum spotlights feature-length or near-feature-length experimental digital works.

The Digital Forum was shown over the three segments during the festival's 16-day run. Here's a brief a look at what I think I saw.


เพนกวิน, 2007, 40 minutes, directed by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit

A man and a woman stumble around in the dark at night in a park, trying to find the penguins. The viewpoint is taken from far off. And did I say it's dark? As in little or no lighting? But, eventually, there are penguins. 3/5

Manus Chanyong: One Night at Talaenggaeng Road

มนัส จรรยงค์ คืนวันหนึ่งที่ถนนตะแลงแก, 2008, 38 minutes, directed by Paist Panpruegsachart

Actor Sarunyu Wongkrajang (13 Beloved, Salad Ta Diaw) narrates this piece of classic Thai literature. It's set during the Ayutthaya Kingdom and is from the viewpoint of a nobleman. As he narrates about the taste of red whiskey and his swashbuckling feats of derring-do, the camera pans around some of the actual places where the story is set as they are today. There's no people around, just scenes of nature or perhaps a rice barge passing by on the river. It's as if the narrator is a ghost. Combined with Saranyu's dramatic narration, I found it mesmerising. 4/5

Freshy 2

เฟรชเฉิ่ม2, 2007, 43 minutes, directed by Nitchapoom Chaianun

Cherm has just finished his bachelor's degree at university and is moving out of his dormitory. He stops to bid farewell to the security guard and then flashes back on his freshmen year. He found a best friend, went through hazing-initiation rites, got a girlfriend, and then relations with his best friend and girlfriend became strained. Cherm seems very lonely and sad. Driving rock music keeps things upbeat. 4/5

Game Ded Darunee

เกมเด็ดดรุณี 2 : แอบปิ้งจริงๆ นะ, 2007, 60 minutes, directed by Maythus Chaichayanon

A role-playing videogame is the conceit used to tell the story of a relationship between a geeky guy and a cute girl. I'm not sure the conceit worked, but then I was watching without benefit of subtitles. A charming musical interlude and weird supporting characters - the guy's goofy parents, Siamese twin girls conjoined by the pig-tails of their hair, a girl with purple hair - kept my interest. Also, this is proof that you can add Tomoyasu Hotei's "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" from Kill Bill Volume 1 to anything and make it instantly cool. 3/5

The Pen

เกมผีปากกา, 2008, 60 minutes, directed by Weerasak Suyala

A group of boys try all kinds of prayers, incantations and ceremonies to get an angry spirit to leave the pen it's inhabited. The story also explains how the pen came to be haunted in the first place. This one had the audience laughing quite a bit. If subtitles were added, The Pen might do well at festivals overseas. 4/5

Mai Fah the Sabulakul

ไหมฟ้า, 2007, 41 minutes, directed by Eakasit Sompetch

The best was saved for last. In this hilarious parody of Ong-Bak, Tony Jaa, Dynamite Warrior, Dan Chupong and all the tropes of the Thai martial-arts genre, a quartet of fighters from an impoverished rural village is sent on a quest.

They take advice from a dolly-riding monk (the dolly tracks are visible!) and are given trinkets by the elderly villagers -- a broken electric fan, the rim of a motorcycle wheel and a can of bug spray. They cast off the apparently useless junk, split up and separately face fearsome foes. Only together, and with their trinkets, can they achieve their quest.

The stunts are the types of things that might be done in your backyard, and probably not too far removed from the C-movie actioners produced by Panna Rittikrai in the '80s. In light of Tony Jaa's recent troubles in the making of Ong-Bak 2, I think Mai Fah had particular resonance with the audience. Add some subtitles (or not), and this entertaining short film will be a delightful addition to a genre festival or program. Here's Mai Fah on Flash video. 5/5

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