Sunday, November 9, 2008

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)


  1. Wow I feel like an absolute IDIOT for missing this film festival! I can't even chalk it up to hearing about it too late because I had briefly heard about it a week before, I just never bothered to look it up and find out all of the great movies I've been dying to see that they were playing! I had read about Sita Sings The Blues and Waltz With Bashir months ago on (great animation blog btw if you haven't read it before) and your capsule reviews of Sell Out, Quickie Express and Mandi make those sound like a heap of fun! Doesn't help that I have no idea where I'll ever be able to see those again with English subtitles, seeing as how they don't have any mega-exploitable assets I can't picture American distributors picking them up anytime soon. Ah well, still glad to know about these films and now I'll definitely make a point of attending this film festival next year!

  2. Sell Out! -- always with the exclamation point! -- is mostly in English, or make that Manglish.

    Quickie Express will be hard to come by outside of film festivals, though.


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