Saturday, February 7, 2009

Shan at the Dawn in competition at Clermont Ferrand

There's one Thai film in competition at this year's Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival -- Shan at the Dawn -- a student film by Nattachai Jaitita that was shot along the Thai-Burmese border in areas controlled by Shan rebel soldiers. The 30-minute short is also called Tai Lang (ไตแลง).

In Friday's Bangkok Post, Kong Rithdee gives a hair-raising account of the production (cache):

It took an uncanny combination of luck, guts and subterfuge, but Nattachai Jaitita, a film student rushing to meet the deadline of his thesis, somehow pulled off an unlikely feat: he managed to be the first person to shoot a movie in Shan, the territory largely occupied by the Tai Yai minority near the Thai-Burmese border where gunfire and skirmishes are daily business. He has real Shan soldiers, with their real guns and grimaces, acting in Tai Lang (or Shan at the Dawn), a 30-minute action film whose spontaneous vigour and stark realism take on a strange quality given the nature of its production.

A student film has hardly been this daring, at least in terms of location shoot. Nattachai, a Chiang Mai native who studied film at King Mongkut's Institute Lad Krabang, shot Tai Lang on the film's namesake Doi Tai Lang, the stronghold of the Shan Liberation Army, after getting the green light from the leader of the Tai Yai people himself. With his father, mother and younger brother as his crew, and with only one HDV camera, he went in there and staged a tale of escape and manhunt complete with a couple of shoot-outs between Shan and Burmese patrolmen, a river chase, a few explosions (homemade fireworks), plus the dramatic epilogue of a Shan military parade that took place solely for the benefit of his camera.

Kong reports that Nattachai's film was screened at the Clermont Ferrand fest on Monday, where the audience "expressed interest mainly in the issue of the Shan minority".

Shan at the Dawn was a runner-up for the White Elephant Award at last year's Thai Short Film & Video Festival. Nattachai also won a Young Thai Artist Award from the Siam Cement Foundation. Shan at the Dawn was also featured at the Jakarta International Film Festival.

It will be shown on February 27 at Patravadi Theater's Fringe Festival in Ratchaburi.

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