Friday, June 19, 2009

Pimpaka Towira, Bruce Gaston among Silpathorn Award honorees

Pimpaka Towira will receive this year's Silpathorn Award for film, the Ministry of Culture's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture announced yesterday.

And in a first for the contemporary arts honor, American musicologist and composer Bruce Gaston will receive the Silpathorn Distinguished Award, the first non-Thai to be honored.

Pimpaka, a former film critic and reporter for The Nation, made her directorial debut in 1997 with the short film Mae Nak, which told the point of view of the famous ghost wife. Her first feature was in 2003 with the psychological thriller One Night Husband (Kuen rai ngao). Her most recent feature was 2007's sweeping documentary on Thai politics, The Truth Be Told: The Cases Against Supinya Klangnarong. She was also director of the film within the film in 2005 Silpathorn honoree Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Worldly Desires.

With Mai Meksawan, Pimpaka's a co-founder of the indie production and distribution company, Extra Virgin. Her latest production is director Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia, which is touring the festival circuit. She's also been a festival programmer, having a hand in an edition of the old Bangkok Film Festival, and last year she and Mai took on programming duties at the Bangkok International Film Festival, set this year for September 24 to 30.

Her next feature will be The Island Funeral, which is in development.

As a Silpathorn honoree for film, Pimpaka joins Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Apichatpong, Wisit Sasanatieng, Thunska Pansittivorakul and Nonzee Nimibutr.

Created in 2004, the award is given to active contemporary artists between the ages of 30 and 50 whose works are considered to have a great impact on Thai culture. Honorees receive a jeweled brooch and a cash award. Other honorees announced yesterday were:

  • Literature -- Orasom Suddhisakorn
  • Visual arts -- Phatyos Buddhacharoen and Sakarin Krue-on.
  • Performing arts -- Janaprakal “Kru Chang” Chandruang
  • Music -- Den Euprasert
  • Creative design -- Kulapat Yantrasast, Eggarat Wongcharit, Somchai Jongsaeng and Prinya Roj-arayanont

And, for the first time, a non-Thai has been named as a Silpathorn honoree -- musician Bruce Gaston, an American composer who’s lived in Thailand for more than four decades and is well known for his work with the Fong Nam Orchestra in pioneering a blend of Western electronic music and Thai classical.

Gaston, 65, receives the “Cherd Choo Kiat” or Distinguished Award, which was created last year to honor artists over age 50 who are continuing to make active contributions to the contemporary arts scene.

Gaston's achievements include creating a score for the DVD release of the 1927 silent Chang. It was Gaston's score that was adapted by a live orchestra for an outdoor screening of Chang at the recent Bangkok Bananas!! arts fest.

In 1983, he collaborated with the late Thai dramatist Boonyang Ketkong for the 70-year anniversary of composer John Cage at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts' Alice Tully Hall.

It was back at New York's Lincoln Center in 2006 that Gaston collaborated with 2007 visual arts honoree Rirkrit Tiravanija, 2006 performing arts honoree Pichet Klunchuen and several Thai rock musicians for Nak Loy: A Rak Opera, the first Thai production at the center.

The show featuring the likes of rapper Joey Boy and Moderndog performing a rock opera based on the Ramakien. But the production was overshadowed by an onstage tussle by rocker Sek Loso and pop singer-actor Krissada "Noi Pru" Sukosol Clapp. Sek recently apologized and invited Noi to sing at his arena comeback concert next month.

But the Rak Opera also came under criticism from Thai cultural conservatives who deemed the show “inappropriate” for its blending of the sacred khon masked dance with rock music and contemporary dance.

The Silpathorn Awards presentation takes place in August.

(Via Daily Xpress, page 2, print edition only, June 19, 2009, "Silpathorn 'breaks rule', awards foreign artist" by Phatarawadee Phataranawik; photos from Facebook and Flickr)

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