Saturday, February 14, 2009

Good reception for Citizen Juling in Berlin; Mammoth wooly

Citizen Juling, the sprawling documentary on southern Thailand, was the lone Thai film selected for the Berlin Film Festival this year, playing in the Forum section.

Kong Rithdee had a report on the film's reception in Friday's Bangkok Post, saying that a lot of people stuck it out through the documentary's 222 minutes -- unusual for a festival where audience members tend to vote with their feet and leave a screening if they don't like what they're seeing.

Here's more (cache):

One question from German viewers was whether the movie had been seen by Thais. To which Ing K, one of the directors, replied that Citizen Juling was shown, unofficially, at two schools in the South, as well as at the Bangkok International Film Festival last year. "When we go back," she continued, "we will submit the film to the censors, and hopefully we'll get the permission to release it in theatres."

Ing K is a cagey one. I can't recall what in Citizen Juling would have to be censored, though in the current political environment when there are many sensitive issues causing a lot of anxiety, it's best to be cautious I suppose.

By the way, all three of Citizen Juling's directors -- Ing K, Manit Sriwanichpoom and Kraisak Choonhavan -- have works in the Bangkok 226 exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. The show actually closes tomorrow (February 15). Apologies for not mentioning this sooner. The center has had two remarkable exhibitions already, both with relevance to Thai cinema, and I need to make a better effort at writing about them in this space.

Back to Berlin. Kong also mentions a movie with Thai ties -- Mammoth, which was in the main competition for the Golden Bear. The first English-language feature by Swedish director Lukas Moodysson, it stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams as a pair of young career-focused parents. Their little girl is cared for by a Filipina nanny, whose own children back home miss her very much. Bernal's character ends up in Thailand, where he "has encounters with, guess what, Thai prostitutes, and also with, guess again, an elephant." A globe-spanning drama that sounds very similar to Babel -- though Moodysson brushes off those concerns -- the title actually refers to a $3,000 ballpoint pen that Bernal's character is shown by his boss, played by Thomas McCarthy.

Mammoth (trailer at YouTube) was pretty well trashed by critics according to Kong, and an Agence France-Presse story says the reaction at a press screening was "hostile ... with many viewers calling the ending unsatisfying and trite."

1 comment:

  1. Well, I saw it back at Berlin (on thursday screening) and there were only around 5 people left at the ending of the screening.

    I must admit, I didn't like it at all. There were some interesting insights, but the whole is just a very long interview of the film makers with however people might have been evolved with the incident. Some interesting bits are resulting from their interviews, but some are just quite boring.

    The whole would have needed to be trimmed really down, by one hour or two or whatever. I don't mind overlong movies and documentaries (I saw Chinese Cong Feng's beautiful 220 mn "Dr. Ma's country clinic" the very same day), but here it just looked like film makers put all their rushes together to make the movie.

    Nice insight, but very amateurish documetnary at the last.

    Bastian "Happy" Meiresonne


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