Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back for Ong-Bak 2, and more

It'll be about another week or so before I return to Bangkok -- that is if the airport isn't being blockaded by a stick-wielding mob. I hope to be back in time to catch the first day of release of Ong-Bak 2, and then get back in the swing of things with this blog.

In anticipation, there are stills from the movie here, here and here, as well as a detailed synopsis. Also, has a detailed translation from a press conference in which Tony talked at length about his career and the movie. He's flanked by his mentor Panna Rittikrai, and, notably, producer-director Prachya Pinkaew. So perhaps Tony and Prachya have put their feud behind them. The press conference was held several weeks ago, but because I'm not sure I linked to it in my previous update about Ong-Bak 2, I'm linking to it now.

Loose for Die: Ong-Bak 2 is not the only action film coming up. There's also Opapatika director Thanakorn Pongsuwan's Muay Thai-basketball blend Fireball, which has a website and trailer, a poster and stills. I wish I would have said something to the production team about their nonsensical "Loose for Die" Tinglish tagline back when they had their press conference in September. Update: Kung Fu Cinema has a great article about Fireball.

Sad news: Happi Like a Hippo reports that Chalerm Taweebot, aka Eddie the Cute Ghost, has died at age 53. The scrunchy-faced character actor died of cancer on Monday morning (November 24) at Noppharat Ratchathani Hospital. Eddie had been in several movies, among them the Hong Kong-Thai horror The Park.

DVD releases: Logboy sends me news that Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town hits Region 1 DVD in March. Also, the 2007 Phranakorn horror Pern Maung the Haunted Drum has been released on Region 1 DVD (via 24 Frames per Second).

Wow, that's deep: Speaking of Phranakorn, there's now a trailer for Deep in the Jungle, the company's upcoming horror-action-fantasy. Watch it if you dare.

Taiwanese-Thai horror: And speaking of horror, Screen Daily reporter and Udine festival programmer Stephen Cremin tells me that The Fatality did just shy of (correction: figures are in US dollars) US$30,000 on its opening weekend in Taipei at 10 cinemas. It's a Thai-Taiwanese co-production directed by Tiwa Moeithaisong. Stephen says it's not an especially good opening. Compare it to other Thai horrors: 4bia closed with $166,000, Body #19 had $159,000 and Art of the Devil 3 took $130,000. Alone more than $500,000. By the way, notes Stephen, Love of Siam is still playing Taipei after two and a half months. It's done $68,000 so far, and Stephen says they may actually be now playing the director's cut -- wouldn't it be great if the director's cut was actually released on English-friendly DVD?

Bond, James Bond: The new 007 thriller Quantum of Solace has topped Thailand's box office for the past three weekends, according to Box Office Mojo, which has recently revived its reporting of the Kingdom's cinema biz. Top Thai films in recent weeks have been Queens of Langkasuka and Coming Soon, but last week two newcomers came in behind Bond: At No. 2 was the action film Ha Theaw ( ห้าแถว) starring Seksun Suttijan and "Kratae" Supaksorn Chaimongkol with Fah Talai Jone leading man Chartchai Ngamsan and at No. 4 was the Phranakorn comedy Headless Family, directed by and starring Koti Aramboy.

Going, going, Goa: Lastly, the International Film Festival of India is going on, with Coffin star Ananda Everingham, his girlfriend, actress-model Sangthong "Jeed" Ket-Uthong, and actor Akara Amartayakul from Muay Thai Chaiya in attendance. The Goa fest is showing five Thai films: The Coffin is in the main competition and there's also A Moment in June, First Flight and the double action onslaught of Muay Thai Chaiya and Chocolate. There's all kinds of coverage from the fest. I found the photo from the joint Thai press conference at Daiji World. Moment in June star "Noi" Krissada Sukosol Clapp is also said to be in attendance, according to Lekha Shankar.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Alloy Orchestra shows its chops with Chang

Five minutes on the Internet was all the members of the Alloy Orchestra needed to get the feel of Thai traditional music to accompany the 1927 silent classic Chang: A Drama in the Wilderness.

"We could have spent a lot longer, and really studied the music," said Terry Donahue, one third of the trio. "But it still would have sounded like three white guys."

So the Alloys opted to just get a brief taste of Thai music, and then branch off with their own, highly original, imaginative sound.

The instrumentation contributes to the music's uniqueness. There's banjo, wood blocks, cymbals, gongs, and an array of tuned vessels that look like pots and pans out of the kitchen. The group's famous "rack of junk" also contains horseshoes, a hunk of sheet metal and automotive springs. But the crowning touch for Chang is strings of bells worn on Donahue's ankles, filling up the sound spectrum even more, though Donahue has to be careful about how and when he moves his legs. More "Thainess" comes from a xylophone, also played by Donahue, which approximates the role of the ranad ek in Thai traditional orchestra.

And a good deal of the Oriental sound is achieved through the unorthodox banjo playing by Roger Miller, who ordinarily plays keyboard. Miller admits that though he's a guitar player, as well as pianist, the banjo isn't really his instrument. The banjo isn't so much picked but drummed on. Or, just one string is strummed. And, at one point, it's sawed on Jimmy Page-style, with a violin bow.

Filmed in Thailand in 1927 by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, Chang is a transitional film from 1925's Grass, the pair's documentary on the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe of Persia, and the outright fantasy of 1933's King Kong.

Purporting to be a documentary about a farmer and his family struggling to carve out a life in the jungles of Siam, most of the events in the action-packed comedy-drama were staged. The farmer Kru and his "wife" Chantui were not really married. Elephants, tigers, leopards, Malayan sun bears and other animals were wrangled (and killed!) for the production, which was made with the assistance of HRH Prince Yugala Dighambara, grandfather of MC Chatrichalerm Yukol. It remains a landmark film in Thailand's cinematic history and set the tone for how foreign productions are filmed in the Kingdom.

With the Alloys, Kru's chopping down trees and leopard-killing rifle shots, are given emphasis, though they do not do sound effects for every instance of gunfire or axe blow -- you'd hate them if they did. It's only when the sound is needed for dramatic effect. The highest compliment for the orchestra is when their told by audience members,"we forgot you were there", because the music and silent action on the screen becomes seamless.

At a recent two-day stint in at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, the Alloy Orchestra performed Chang and Josef von Sternberg's Underworld. While Chang was the Alloys expanding the limits of their experimentation, the important 1927 gangster film Underworld was more typical of an Alloy Orchestra performance, with Miller on synthesizer. Donahue plays accordion and shares junk percussion duties with the group's musical director, Ken Winokur, who also played wooden flute on Chang and clarinet on Underworld.

Winokur said the Alloy Orchestra got the rights to create a new score for Chang in 2005, when Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong was released and there was renewed interest in Cooper's and Schoedsack's films. They first performed Chang that year at the Telluride Film Festival.

It's not the first time Chang has been scored. For a DVD released in 2000 by Image Entertainment, composer Bruce Gaston and the Fong Naam orchestra recorded a soundtrack of mostly Thai traditional music.

Winokur wondered how Chang would be received by Thai audiences.

Most likely, Chang would please Thai crowds just as it pleased the audience at Hamilton College. It's highly entertaining, and the style of sight gags -- especially those involving the real star of the movie, the anthropomorphized white gibbon Bimbo -- is about the same as Thai comedy films being produced today.

But how would the Alloy Orchestra's approximation of Thai music be received? Probably, because the Alloys are truly great musicians and recognized authorities -- film critic Roger Ebert has called them "the best in the world at accompanying silent film" -- their accompaniment would at least be politely tolerated, with the understanding that, hey, it's just three white guys.

See also:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New posters, release date, co-star and sequel rumor for Ong-Bak 2

The sharp eyes over at have noticed a couple of things about the trio of new posters for Ong-Bak 2 that were recently unleashed all over the Internet.

First, is that the release date has been pushed back one day to December 5 -- His Majesty the King's birthday in Thailand, which is a more auspicious day than December 4, which would have been the usual Thursday release date for the film.

Second, and more importantly, is a familiar face on one of the posters -- why yes, it's Dan Chupong, the leading man of Born to Fight, Dynamite Warrior and Queens of Langkasuka whose star is on the rise at Sahamongkol Film International.

Ong-Bak 2 will represent the first time Thailand's two top male martial arts stars have shared the screen in major roles. (Diaw Chupong played "Bodyguard 4" in Ong-Bak in 2003, but I'm not sure I could pick him out of the crowd of bad guys who are mowed down by Tony.)

According to Thep at, Chupong plays Poot Saang Ka, the Devil Crow, who is one of the most fearsome enemies of Jaa's character Tien. And it seems like he's been added kind of late in the production, and indeed, Thep says, Chupong's scenes were shot in late October.

Ong-Bak 2 also stars another Queens of Langkasuka actor -- underneath a great bushy black beard is 1970s leading man Sorapong Chatree. He's one of the men who rescues Tony's character as a child. has photos from the set.

Last is more of a rumor than anything, according to another thread on, that work is beginning on Ong-Bak 3, with Tom Yum Goong scribe Kongdej Jaturanrasamee mentioned as a screenwriter, Dan Chupong and Nui Kessarin from Born to Fight in the cast, and it make use of the 25-million-baht Khmer palace built for Ong-Bak 2 by production designer Ek Iemchuen.

Update: Kong Rithdee has a story for Variety.

Update 2: Twitch's Todd Brown has a followup.

Related posts:

Twitch, 24 Frames per Second, Deknang/Popcornmag)

Naked in the Jungle

I wrote about the Phranakorn fantasy Deep in the Jungle back in April and kind of forgot about it until I saw some posts about it on Lyn's Lakorn Blog and at Twitch. Earlier tipped for release in July, Deep in the Jungle (Patiharn Rak Tang Pun) is now being readied for release on December 31.

In what appears to be a contemporary retelling of the Snake King's Child story, "Tik" Jesdaporn Pholdee stars as a former special forces soldier who falls in love with a woman (Ploy Jindachot) who is actually a snake.

And, remarkably, they go completely naked, according to BKKdreamer, who sent me news from Hunsa. Also, Spicy Forum has some discussion.

The movie marks a return to a leading movie role by Tik Jesdaporn, the Daeng Bireley's Young Gangsters star who got to swash some buckle as a pistol-packing prince in Queens of Langkasuka.

It is written and directed by Teerawat Rujeenatham, whose credits include cinematography on In the Shadow of the Naga.

The posters look great. But this being a Phranakorn production, I am keeping my expectations low. By all means, go into the jungle, but be very careful.

Review: Red Heroine

  • Directed by Wen Yimin
  • Produced by Youlian Studio Shanghai
  • Cinematography by Yao Shiquan
  • Starring Fan Xeupeng, Shu Gohui, Wang Juqing, Wen Yimin, Sao Guanyuwith
  • Reviewed at screening on November 8, 2008, with live accompaniment by the Devils Music Ensemble at the Film House at Main Street Landing in Burlington, Vermont as part of the UVM Lane Series in collaboration with Tick Tick.
  • Rating: 5/5

Red Heroine, the sole surviving complete silent kung-fu film from China, finds its voice with live musical accompaniment by the Devils Music Ensemble. The trio has been touring with the film across the United States for the past several months, and their next to last performance was in Burlington, Vermont, playing to a sold-out audience on a chilly, rainy November night on the shores of Lake Champlain.

Imagine if Ennio Morricone had scored a Shaw Brothers film, and you have soundscape provided by the Devil's Music Ensemble for Red Heroine. There's the funky, earthy twang of the Fender Telecaster played by Brendon Wood, and spooky atmospherics from the violin, erhu and vibes by Jonah Rapino and thundering drums and percussion by Tim Nylander.

Without them, I'm not sure I could watch Red Heroine, because the film is ridiculous, with massive gaps in logic. For example, if the Red Heroine, or Yun Mei, can fly, why does she need to use a rope to descend out of a window?

Then again, this is a kung fu movie made in 1929 that I'm talking about -- leaps in logic had to be made. And the debt that all the wuxia films that followed owe a big debt to Red Heroine and the other kung fu films of the silent era.

The story, as far as I could understand, has to do with a maiden, kidnapped by a warlord in a raid on the girl's village, just as her grandmother was dying. The maiden is to be made one of the general's concubines, but is rescued by the White Monkey warrior. But the story is not over there, and it gets pretty confusing -- more complex than I could fathom through my allergy-induced delirium (I think I'm allergic to Vermont). And the horrendously translated and improperly transferred intertitles -- the left side is cut off -- didn't help. Indeed, the garbled spelling and syntax of the intertitles received the biggest laughs of the night from the university crowd.

Finally, Red Heroine descends from the sky and whups up on the bad guys.

The trailer from YouTube is embedded below.

(Thank you Durian Dave)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pen-ek's next film is Nymph

Reporting from the American Film Market, Todd Brown at says that Pen-ek Ratanaruang's next project is called Nymph, and it will start shooting next month as a joint production by Five Star and Fortissimo Films.

Says Todd: "I'm told that while Ratanaruang would likely object to it being termed a horror film, Nymph has a definite supernatural element."

I am guessing this is the project Pen-ek mentioned to me back in January, in which he said he's "going into the jungle".

Meanwhile, comments at Twitch remind me that, no, there's still no English-friendly DVD release of Pen-ek's latest, Ploy. However it does appear that the unsubtitled Thai DVD -- Matthew Hunt has a recent review -- is the original "erect nipples" version and not the censored edit that Pen-ek prepared for Thai cinemas.

Children of the Dark reviewed by Variety

Variety's Richard Kuipers caught Children of the Dark, the controversial Japanese docudrama, at the recent Hawaii International Film Festival. Here's an excerpt from the review:

Originally sent out on just seven screens in Japan with a PG-12 rating, Children received a B.O. boost mid-September when Thai authorities demanded its withdrawal from the Bangkok [International] Film Festival on the grounds that it did not "fit with Thai society." Media hoopla sparked long ticket queues and release subsequently expanded to as many as 102 screens. Appearances at the Karlovy Vary and Hawaii fests remain the film's only official offshore playdates thus far.

I'm told there's the possibility of a privately arranged screening in Bangkok. I'm not certain when that might occur, though.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hubert Bals hands funds to Apichatpong

The International Film Festival of Rotterdam's Hubert Bals Fund has announced US$464,400 for 25 projects in 19 countries, among them Primitive: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, which is in the script-development stage.

The Thai indie filmmaker had earlier picked up a cash award for his project from Berlin's World Cinema Fund.

Other Hubert Bals funded projects include Raya Martin's How to Disappear Completely, a digital docu-drama following a group of actors trying to survive in the jungle.

The Hubert Bals Fund will also award 5,000 euros to the best project presented at the Film Bazaar market and workshop at the International Film Festival of India in Goa.

6th World Film Festival of Bangkok: Capsule reviews part two

Finally, I'm getting around to posting the second and final batch of capsule reviews from the 6th World Film Festival of Bangkok, which wrapped up on November 2.


Actress Khemupsorn "Cherry" Sirisukha directed this short for the celebration of September's Peace Day. It features two boys fighting over a toy tank. Although it's pretty straightforward and about peace in general, it's hard to not think about Thailand's 2006 coup, which featured tanks, as well as the anti-government protests taking place in Thailand right now. (3/5)

Lost and Found

Noth Thongsriphong directs this short about two sisters who share the same father but have different mothers. Khemupsorn "Cherry" Sirisukha is the child of the man's second wife, who journeys to the seaside home of her half sister (Apasiri Nitibhon), who's own mother has just died. Performances are professional and polished and technical specs are top-notch. But the situation these two woman find themselves in is too awkward and feels a bit forced, even if there is an emotional payoff. (3/5)

Sell Out!

Fortysomething lawyer-turned-filmmaker Yeo Joon Han skewers media and culture in this rousing musical. The droll performances and staging of the songs reminded me very much of Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. But the main influence of Sell Out! is Malaysian pop culture and a society that is depicted as crass and petty. The story involves Rafflesia Pong (Jerrica Lai), the host of an arts talk show who is getting nowhere. An utterly reprehensible character (indeed, she is bad, bad, bad), Rafflesia stumbles her way into hosting a reality series that records people's dying words. Her fate is tied in with Eric Tan (Peter Davis), a product developer for the overarching Fony Corporation, who is at odds with his hilarious pair of pointy-headed bosses because he's made a bean-curd machine that is too efficient. Kong Rithdee has more about this remarkable satire in a recent article in the Bangkok Post (cache). (5/5)

Sita Sings the Blues

Animator Nina Paley channeled the heartbreak of being dumped by her husband into this eye-popping, highly entertaining primer on India's epic myth, the Ramayana. The heroine, Sita, is given voice through the songs of 1920s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw. Different styles of animation add to the charm -- with autobiographical contemporary American settings done in squiggle animation, the musical scenes in a style that wouldn't be out of place in a flash-based computer game or on Cartoon Network, and still other scenes from the Ramayana done in a style of temple paintings. A "Greek" (actually Indian) chorus of shadow puppets narrates the story, walking the audience and themselves through the timeless tale of romance, adventure and betrayal. I'd been wanting to set my eyes on this film since April, when I saw an article about it from Wired, and it did not disappoint one bit. (5/5)

Son of Rambow

It's always fun to go off the reservation during a film festival, especially when the non-festival film is something as quirkily wild-eyed and innocent as Garth Jennings' sweet childhood comedy about British boys from very different backgrounds becoming best friends and setting about to make their own version of First Blood. It was playing in limited release across the street at the Lido. (4/5)

Shine a Light

The festival's closing film was a celebratory event, with the high-wattage star power of the Rolling Stones in a concert film directed by Martin Scorsese. Seeing Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and company on the big screen as a bit scary, even as they romped through a rousing set of their hits and favorite songs. Rarely seen older footage interspersed between the songs feels perfunctory and adds little to the film. The outdoor screening was marred by an annoying, blinding, flashing advertising sign above the screen. But turning it off would have cost the festival millions of baht. Perhaps another viewing is in order to really get the feel of Shine a Light, but I think I'd rather watch the better, more hard hitting concert documentaries, Gimme Shelter and The Last Waltz. (3/5)

Three Monkeys

A father, mother and their young adult son are all at odds after the father agrees to take the blame for a fatal car accident for his politician boss. Doing so means a stretch in jail for the man. Suspicions run high when he gets out of jail and the son has a flashy new car, bought with money advanced by the politician. Who got the money? The performances and technical aspects of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's drama are just beautiful, but it's also suffocatingly tense and alienating. (4/5)

Waltz With Bashir

Delving into the surrealism of war in much the same way as Apocalypse Now or Platoon, this compelling and informative animated documentary by Ari Folman makes a great bookend to Sita Sings the Blues as another cathartic, highly personal journey by a filmmaker. Folman, a veteran of the 1982 Lebanon War, has long-repressed memories of the war triggered by a conversation with an old war buddy. From there, he seeks to fill in the gaps in his recollections by talking to other old friends and chums from the Israeli Defense Forces, culminating in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. (5/5)

Related posts:

(Photo from festival's closing party via Daily Xpress by Thanis Sudto)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time for a change ... and a break

I felt a tingling, connected feeling when I cast my ballot on Tuesday in Southern Illinois. And as I watched the returns that night -- it was Comedy Central where I heard the news first that Barack Obama had won the election -- I felt directly responsible for the results -- satisfaction of having done my civic duty, and that my vote might actually make a positive difference.

It's a feeling I've not had for a long time, having lived in Thailand these past many years and watched with powerless frustration at the continual manipulation and morphing of the Kingdom's democratic processes.

It's good to be back in another place I call home, though eventually I'm sure I'll grow homesick for Bangkok and the realities of my routine there.

For the moment, I am finding it difficult to keep focused on the Thai movie scene. I have a backlog of two or three posts that I have been working on intermittently and that I hope to finish eventually. And there will hopefully be new, interesting experiences to write about from some travels in the coming days.

But the frequency of my posting will likely be reduced for the next several weeks. I hope you all understand.

(Obama - Hope Poster via spaceninja/flickr)

Vagabond's Shoes walk into Asiana competition

Vagabond's Shoes, a short film by Prachaya Lampongchat, is among the 41 finalists in the international competition at the Asiana International Short Film Festival in South Korea. The festival runs from November 5 to 10.

Prachaya's film had earlier won a special mention for the White Elephant Award at the 12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival.

A student at Rangsit University in Bangkok, Prachaya made another short film, Going Home, which was selected at last year's Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.

(Via Cineasie)

Coming Soon scares up audiences

A thriller about a haunted movie was the No. 1 film last weekend at Major Cineplex, Thailand's biggest movie chain.

Released by GMM Tai Hub, Coming Soon (Program Na Winyarn Arkhad) is the directorial debut by Sophon Sakdaphisit, the co-writer of the GTH horror hits Shutter and Alone.

Dirctor Nonzee Nimibutr's epic historical fantasy Queens of Langkasuka, the previous week's top film, was No. 2 at Major Cineplex.

The top five is filled out by Hollywood titles: Tropic Thunder rising from No. 4 to No. 3, Max Payne, dropped from second place to fourth, and City of Ember was hanging in at fifth.

Dropping out of the top five was the Phranakorn comedy Luang Phee Teng 2 (The Holy Man 2), which is one of the top-grossing Thai films of the year.

This weekend, the local films will likely be displaced by the new James Bond thriller, Quantum of Solace, which opened in cinemas on Wednesday, a day ahead of the usual Thursday release.

Major Cineplex lists its top five films on its website, but does not state box-office revenues or the number of screens.

Update: Box Office Mojo's Thailand Box Office Index is back! With updated revenue figures! (Thanks Thomat.)

Muay Thai fighting in Legendary

Browsing for titles in The Film Catalogue of the American Film Market, I came across Legendary, a documentary about Malaipet “The Diamond” Sasiprapa, a Thai boxer who trained in Muay Thai in Thailand as a boy, then went "inter", fighting in America. It sounds like quite the story.

Here's the synopsis:

An inspiring true story that spans eight years and five continents. Malaipet retires after losing his Championship title to live with his father on his struggling rice farm. For this Thai boxer, being sent away to a Muay Thai camp meant leaving his home at age 12. For his father, sending his son away meant giving him a chance to fight for a better life. Now back home, he starts rebuilding a relationship.

An American fight manager recruits Malaipet to come live & fight in America. Making a tough decision, Malaipet leaves his father once again.

Malaipet begins his journey, easily winning fight after fight. While Muay Thai fighters are looked down upon in Thailand, they are heroes & stars throughout the world. The sensational & flashy life style of America take his toll on the boxer. From excess drinking to excess women, to no training, he loses as many fights as he is winning. Desperate for money, Malaipet accepts an offer to fight in Mixed Martial Arts in the Cage. He thrills the audience and secures a national TV contract.

Feeling homesick and patriotic, Malaipet accepts to fight for his country in battle billed as Holland vs. Thailand.

Now back on the top of his game, he is given a chance to fight for the World Title again, but this time against a fellow Thai teammate and friend, Yodsaenklai [Fairtex].

Malaipet loses his bid for the championship and is broke once again. After investigating Malaipets bank accounts, his manager discovers all these years Malaipet has been sending his fight purse back to his father. With this final championship fight, he finally pays off his father's farm.

The film is directed by David Huey and is being marketed by Cine Excel Entertainment. The trailer from YouTube is embedded below.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Coffin reaps in Singapore

The Coffin broke another box-office record in Singapore, grossing more than S$738,000 after sneak-previews and opening weekend, making it the all-time highest-grossing Thai film in Singapore, MX News Bites reports.

The previous record was held by GMM Tai Hub's Shutter, which had S$500,000, and Sahamongkol Film International's Tom Yum Goong, which had S$420,000. The Coffin had already become the first Thai horror film to gross more than US$235,000 during a sneak preview run two weekends ago.

The Coffin was the preferred Halloween weekend viewing choice for Singaporeans, besting the Hollywood torture-porn thriller Saw V.

Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham and starring Karen Mok and Ananda Everingham, The Coffin is a pan-Asian production by Thailand's Live Inc. and NGR, Hong Kong's Global Entertainment Group and Scorpio East Pictures from Singapore.

According to a press release from Thai production company TIFA, The Coffin is being shopped by sales agent MonteCristo International at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California, where it made its premiere on Monday (November 3).

(Via MovieXclusive's MX News Bites, Asian Cinefest, TIFA press release)

Monday, November 3, 2008

World Film Festival of Bangkok awards prize to Hongsa's Schoolbag

The Short Film Competition at the World Film Festival of Bangkok chose a docudrama about a boy from an immigrant Mon family and the struggles he endures in attending school in Thailand.

Hongsa's Schoolbag, directed by Supamok Silarak, won first prize. In following Hongsa, an 11-year-old Mon boy, as he attends a special multilingual school for migrant workers' children, the film encapsulates the struggles Mon face in Thailand -- the marginalization, and constant living in fear of being hassled by the police (or possibly bullying, money-grubbing fake police).

Set in the coastal community of Mahachai, home to shrimp-packing plants, Hongsa is warned by his mother to be careful of Thai children. But schoolmates aren't such a bad lot -- Hongsa meets some downright friendly kids, even if they do razz him for not knowing the words to a song about His Majesty the King.

The runner-up prize went to Way to Blue, by Supawadde Sripatum, a film about film student struggling to come up with an ending to her film.

There were 12 entries in all. Here's the remainder:

  • The Honeymoon Suite, directed by Pakpoom Treechairusmee - A man finds himself in the honeymoon suite with his new wife, who was just introduced to him two months before in an arranged marriage.
  • I'll C You Soon 2, directed by Pirachut Chokpradub - A man tried to bring a birthday present to his girlfriend.
  • Transition, directed by Vinai Tachvirat and Al Kay - A documentary about transgender women, including interviews in San Francisco's Tenderloin.
  • Made in Heaven, directed by Amorn Harinnitisuk - Tragic romance for a man who falls in love when he becomes afflicted with a terrible disease.
  • Help Me! Help Me!, directed by Dissapong Wong-aram and Chakkanat Pengudom - The world has many problems.
  • Small Stuff, directed by Chonlatee Aitzaratanazit and Pathompong Govitsittinun - Made for the Please Peace Project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Symbol, this is about the secret to two buddies.
  • Phob, directed by Seri Lachonnabot - Everyone tries to convince Phob that she's a ghost.
  • La Vie En Rose, directed by Arpapun Phungsirisoontorn - An experimental work that explores the symbolism of roses and their representation of feminine beauty.
  • The Hostel Wall, directed Siriya Jariyapirat - A man who lives in Chinatown finds a poster of his favorite Chinese silent film star.
  • Croc, directed by Saravuth Intaraporn - A boy sees a monster, but can't convince the other townspeople that it's real.
  • Talejai, directed by Sukanlaya Pakang - A man has to make up his mind.

The films were screened in the lobby of Paragon Cineplex, in a home-theatre box, provided by festival sponsor Pioneer. I managed to only see two -- the top prizewinner Honga's Schoolbag, which was quite remarkable, and The Hostel Wall.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Produire au Sud Bangkok takes The Tour

The Tour, by Malaysian director Chris Chong and producer Joanna Lee, was selected from the 3rd Produire au Sud Bangkok workshop, which wrapped up on Saturday as part of the 6th World Film Festival of Bangkok.

They'll get to attend the Festival of 3 Continents, from November 25 to December 2 in Nantes, France and make their pitch at the main Produire au Sud workshop, and learn more about finding funds to make films.

In all, six projects participated. Previous selections from the Bangkok workshop have been O Nathapon's A Moment in June and Liew Seng Tat's In What City Does It Live?.

Pai to hold Film & Animation Festival

The northern Thailand backpacker haven of Pai will hold its first International Film & Animation Festival from November 28 to December 7.

In addition to movies, they'll have workshops and live music.

The festival's website is now live, and has some information in English. The films they plan to show aren't yet listed.

(Via Deknang/Popcornmag)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Soi Cowboy, Chocolate at Mar del Plata

I'm not sure what Chocolate and Thomas Clay have to do with each other, other than that they both have something to do with Thailand.

Anyway, Prachya Pinkaew's martial arts hit Chocolate and Clay's meditative film noir Soi Cowboy, along with two other films by Clay, are playing at the Mar del Plata Film Festival in the Thomas Clay Panorama. Also showing will be Clay's, Motion and The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael (say it in a Danish accent).

Soi Cowboy was recently featured at the Vienna International Film Festival. I saw it at the Bangkok International Film Festival. Clay shared the Best Foreign Director Award at the recent Melbourne Underground Film Festival.

Chocolate was recently featured at the Hawaii International Film Festival, is in limited theatrical release in the U.K. before the DVD comes out there, and is also set for the upcoming Denver International Film Festival.

The Mar del Plata Film Festival runs from November 6 to 16 in Argentina.

Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto are Wonderful Towns; Denver is Chocolate City

The likes of Wonderful Town, Syndromes and a Century, Alone and Chocolate are scheduled for upcoming film festivals in North America. Here's just a few that I've come across in recent days.

At the Three Rivers Film Festival in Pittsburgh, Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town is playing alongside Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century. And in a streak of serendipitous synergy, Apichatpong has a video installation across town in the Life on Mars show at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The Three Rivers fest runs from November 7 to 23.

Wonderful Town, recently featured at the Vienna International Film Festival, in Tokyo and London, is also playing at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, which runs November 12 to 16.

And the St. Louis International Film Festival, from November 13 to 23, has Wonderful Town, as well as the GTH horror Alone.

Chocolate is playing at the Denver Film Festival, which also runs from November 13 to 23. Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee has a look at the lineup.

I am actually going to be nearby when some of these festivals are happening, but I don't know yet if I'm going to attend.

4bia scares up Audience Award at Toronto After Dark

GMM Tai Hub's four-part horror omnibus 4bia continues to wow festival crowds, most recently at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

The awards have finally been announced, and 4bia won the third-place bronze Audience Award for Best Feature, coming in behind the Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In and Repo: The Genetic Opera. (By the way, I missed Let the Right One In at the Bangkok International Film Festival and I guess I have myself to blame for my failure to Google every single film that was showing. But I never heard the magic words, "Swedish vampire flick". There was no buzz about it, at least none that I heard.)

Earlier this year, 4bia won a similiar award at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal. The film features four segments, each by a filmmaker from GMM Tai Hub's family -- veteran producer-director Yongyoot Thongkongtoon making his first and likely only stab at horror, and three younger directors, the Shutter/Alone duo of Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, and Body #19 helmer Paween Purijitpanya. Each segment explores a different fear, and the moods alternate from subtle, creeping thrills to shocking gore, self-deprecating humor and rage.

Positive reception from 4bia's Toronto appearance includes an entertaining review by Mack at Twitch, who compares Yongyoot to Obi-wan Kenobi and his three young pupils to Darth Vader. Movie Moxie has a capsule review, noting "it's a beautiful thing when a film can make seamless transitions from scares to laughs and back again."

Earlier, 4bia was released in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, and played at the Bangkok International and Pusan fests. It's set for the Hungry Ghosts program at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and is one of the top-grossing homegrown films in Thailand.

And there is more great horror from the GTH folks with Coming Soon, the directorial debut of Sophon Sakdaphisit, the co-writer of Shutter and Alone.

Movie Moxie, Twitch)