Saturday, October 10, 2009

PIFF '09: Leapin' lizards! It's Pramote's proposed feature

In his roundup of the Pusan International Film Festival, the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee profiles a project by child actor turned bearded indie filmmaker Pramote Sangsorn.

In August, it was announced that Pramote was to receive script-development funds from Pusan's Asian Cinema Fund for his long in-the-works feature Tam Rasisalai.

It's set in the village of Tam Rasisalai in Si Sa Ket Province, in the northeast of Thailand, where construction of a dam threatens people's livelihoods. Kong explains there is more to the story:

The drama happens in a small family where the father believes that his dead son has been reborn as a monitor lizard, the blasphemous reptile deemed as the ultimate omen in Thai beliefs.

''When I submitted the script to one of the Thai producers, they asked if I could change the lizard to a bird,'' Pramoj says in a deadpan tone. ''Of course I couldn't.''

I believe the lizard angle might be inspired by an occurrence from several years ago, when a Thai family kept a monitor lizard in the belief it was their reincarnated son. It attracted a lot of attention from locals who believed it to be good luck and rubbed its skin in hopes of divining the winning lottery numbers.

And then last year, during the short-lived government of Samak Sundaravej, mating lizards in the compound of Government House were seen as a bad omen.

Seeing a monitor lizard is like seeing a black cat crossing the road in Western culture.

Also, the Thai word for monitor lizard -- I shall not utter it here -- is a grave insult.

The lizards are actually quite common in Bangkok. Santi Taepanich seemed drawn to the big ones that inhabit Lumpini Park in his documentary segment for Sawasdee Bangkok, I Love BKK, which caused many in the audience to snicker as they wondered about the symbolism.

Pramote, whose previous works include the tsunami short Tsu (selected for Venice in 2006) and Observation of the Monk, surely has lots of symbolism in mind for the lizard in Tam Rasisalai. I hope he gets to make the film and that he finds a fantastic lizard to star in it.

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