Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Utopia, Quarantine, ghosts and more at Rotterdam

As usual at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Thailand has a huge presence among the Asian films in the lineup.

Among the world premieres is Agrarian Utopia (Sawan Baan Na), which looks at rice farming in northern Thailand. Playing in the Bright Future section for up-and-coming filmmakers, Agrarian Utopia is the much-anticipated new feature by Uruphong Raksasad. Shot around his home village in rural Chiang Rai, it's a look at farming families who still cultivate rice without machines, using their own hands, with occasional help from a water buffalo. It is being produced by Bangkok-based indie collective Extra Virgin, and they hope to show the film in Thailand at some point during the coming year.

If horror is what you want, then there are seven Thai films in the Spectrum: Hungry Ghosts program curated by Gertjan Zuilhof. GTH contributes the four-director anthology 4Bia and 2007's Body #19. Five Star has Art of the Devil 3 and The Screen at Kamchanod. Singapore-based director Ekachai Uekrongtham offers The Coffin, and there's the kid-friendly animation Nak from Sahamongkol and producer Boyd Kosiyabong. The Fatality, a Thai-Taiwanese co-production by Tiwa Moeithaisong that just opened in Thailand last week, is also showing.

As part of the Hungry Ghosts, Wisit Sasanatieng, writer of 1999's ghost legend Nang Nak and director of The Unseeable, has been asked to build a haunted house exhibit, along with several other Southeast Asian filmmakers: Lav Diaz from the Philippines, Amir Muhammad from Malaysia, Nguyen Vinh Son from Vietnam and Garin Nugroho and Riri Riza from Indonesia.

No stranger to Rotterdam, Thunska Pansittivorakul brings his latest feature, This Area Is Under Quarantine, which also makes its world premiere. In this controversial documentary, the maverick director interviews two young gays about their sex lives. He then interposes a look back at 2004's Tak Bai incident in which 85 Muslim prisoners suffocated in Thai army trucks. He also offers his views on the 2005 hanging of two teenagers in Iran. The films ends with the two interview subjects having sex.

There are nearly a dozen short films, including the competition film, Man and Gravity by Jakrawal Nilthamrong.

Nine shorts have been combined into a package, Thailand is Fine. All of them are thematically linked by politics. Here's the lineup, with the synopsis from the festival website:

  • "Action!" - The "Action!" that is called to start shooting. Here the unedited shots of an actor. Above all the actor. Thunska Pansittivorakul, Thailand, 2008, 5 min.
  • Burmese Man Dancing - Many film makers try to remain as clear as possible. This filmmaker subtitles his images in an imaginary language. Yet you can still follow it. Nok Paksnavin, Thailand, 2008, 8 min.
  • Diseases and a Hundred Year Period - Short essay film about the censorship of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century. Censored scenes are paraphrased here. Sompot Chidgasornpongse, Thailand, 2008, 20 min.
  • Fall - She lives between Thailand and the USA. She lives between art and martial arts. They live between black-and-white and eroticism. Those who see the film will... Visra Vichit-Vadakan, Thailand, USA, 2008, 5 min.
  • I Am Fine - In Democracy Square - countries that have a problem with democracy have a square for it - someone is sitting in a cage. He's doing very well. Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, Thailand, 2008, 3 min.
  • Loneliness Is Everywhere - One of two films about an elderly mother. See also My Mother and Her Darkness. Here it is light, but just as lonely. Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, Thailand, 2008, 10 min.
  • Man and Gravity - A man with a colorful tricycle tries to raise an impossible freight in inaccessible surroundings. Gravity, but also karma. Jakrawal Nilthamrong, Thailand, 2009, 10 min.
  • My Image Observes Your Image if it Is Possible to Observe it - A Thai filmmaker in Ireland. He can't take his eyes off it. Like a cloud, he floats past the buildings. A cloud passes literally. An observation cloud. Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, Thailand, 2008, 6 min.
  • My Mother and Her Darkness - One of two films about an old mother. See also Loneliness Is Everywhere. There's loneliness everywhere, especially here with the mother on a dark. Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, Thailand, 2009, 7 min.
  • Orchestra - An artist undertakes an attempt to make a documentary. He looks with admiration at workers in a silk factory but doesn't forget to create art. Jakrawal Nilthamrong, Thailand, 2008, 24 min.

An additional short, You Have to Wait, Anyway, by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, is part of the six-film Inescapable Inevitability program of experimental environmental films.

The festival starts today and runs until February 1. I wish I could be there, if only just to see the haunted houses.

(Cross-published at Daily Xpress)


  1. Hi just need to tell you that my film is not international premiere but world premiere cause I never show this film on cinema and in the festival so this time is call world premiere please check again in the programe ha ha

  2. Thunska, thanks. I've corrected that mistake.


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