Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Galas, more stars confirmed for World Comedy Film Festival

First proposed in January, the World Comedy Film Festival was thrown together and set for late April, and then postponed.

Now set to run from June 10 to 16, Thailand's inaugural World Comedy Film Festival -- designed to make people laugh, forget about the dire economy and boost tourism -- starts next week.

The guest list, mentioned here earlier, continues to be firmed up, a dozen or so celebrities being flown in to take part in the festival, add prestige and be junketed around to Thailand's attractions and hopefully do their part in spreading the word that Thailand is a great place to visit.

A formal press conference was held last week to supply journalists with the details, and Lekha J. Shankar was there. She sent the following.

By Lekha J. Shankar

The World Comedy Film Festival is finally set to unspool next week with a grand Gala Opening at the Siam Paragon on June 10, which will be attended by a galaxy of international comedians and stars.

At a press conference on May 29 at the Siam City Hotel, many Thai comedians gave a stand-up performance as a taste of things to come at the festival.

Among the comedians expected for the festival is Christopher Wright, famous for his Chris Delivery English-teaching TV show in Thailand. He's actually giving his first stand-up comedy shows this coming weekend, June 5-7, at CentralWorld in Bangkok.

Other comic hands include Natasha Leggero from US, who has done stand-up shows around the world, and Tina Kim, a Korean-American comedian who produces her own shows and loves Thai food!

In fact, a big stand-up show by all these artists is set to take place on June 11 at the host Siam City Hotel.

Others stars expected at the festival are Eric Roberts, the older brother of Julia, who was recently seen in The Dark Knight and is working on The Expendables with Sylvester Stallone. There's also veteran character actor Keith David; actress Natassia Malthe; actor Ari Gold, whose Adventures of Power will be shown; deaf actress Shosannah Stern (also in Adventures of Power); Verne Troyer, famous for his role as the dwarf Mini Me in the Austin Powers series; actress Brittany Daniel; and three Wayans brothers -- Keenan Ivory, Shawn and Marlon, well known in Thailand for the Scary Movie series.

Also coming will be a bevy of stars from Australia -- Bianca Dye, Gyton Grantley, Damian Walshe-Howling, Justin Melvey and Tania Zaetta.

Hong Kong star Ng Man Tat, known for his roles in such Stephen Chow films as King of Comedy and Shaolin Soccer, will also be at the fest.

Tyler Brujah Panichpakdee, who's been working as a producer for action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, helped bring in these celebrities in his maiden role as managing director of the festival.

Word is that he was appointed only two months back after Khun Nakorn from Sahamongkol "left" the festival, which was one reason the event was postponed from April to June.

Tyler admitted that he took the job only two months back and it had not been easy.

He says that the comedians and stars attending the festival would also travel to beach towns like Pattaya and Phuket, in order to give a boost to the tourism industry of the country, which took a severe beating following the recent political disturbances in the Kingdom.

On June 14, there would be a cultural "Thai night", with Thai traditional music and dance and the foreign stars dressing in Thai costumes and talking about their experiences in Thailand.

June 16 will be the gala awards night.

The chief initiator of the festival, Weerasak Kowsurat, chairman of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said the idea of holding the festival was to bring the smile back to the "Land of Smiles", after the months of political and economic problems.

"We are called the Land of a Thousand Smiles -- why not have a festival of smiles?" he says. “We want to show [tourists] that we’re back on track, and ready to welcome visitors."

He boasted a budget of 70 million baht, which he says was almost double that of the Bangkok International Film Festival.

The World Comedy Film Festival will feature 50 films from 25 countries, including an international competition. There’s also a competitive section for short films.

The Asian section features films from Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Japan.

Among the highlights of the festival is a section of classic Thai comedies and retrospectives of two unique comedy directors from two diverse countries, Russia and Singapore.

The Russian director is Leonid Gaidai, considered the most successful Soviet comedy film director ever. Four of his films from the 1960s and '70s will be shown: Operation Y and Other Shuriks Adventures from 1965, Kidnapping Caucasian Style from 1966, The Diamond Arm from 1968 and 1973's Ivan Vasilevich menyaet professiyu (Ivan the Terrible: Back to the Future).

The Singaporean director is comedian Jack Neo, and three of his films are being shown: Money No Enough, Money No Enough 2 and his latest work Love Matters.

The opening film is Singapore-based Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham’s rollicking comedy The Wedding Game starring Singapore’s two superstars, Christopher Lee and Fann Wong, who are scheduled to get married in real life later this year.

In the film they play two superstars who plan to get married, although here, it’s a "game" to fool the media. The topicality of the story made the film a huge hit in Singapore and Malaysia and the director hopes it will be a hit in Bangkok too -- Sahamongkol Film International picked it up for distribution and hopes to release it later this year.

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