Friday, November 6, 2009

WFFBKK '09: Despite censors, there are still Thai films to see

Censors have banned one of the Thai entries in this year’s World Film Festival of Bangkok, but there remains an exceptionally strong selection of experimental homegrown shorts and features.

The short explanation is that Thunska Pansittivorakul’s controversial This Area is Under Quarantine went unrated by the Culture Ministry, meaning it would have been illegal to show the politically and sexually charged film.

Meanwhile, the opening film, Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History, has received the first 20+ restricted rating for a Thai film. It's not censored, nor is it banned, but you'll have to be 20 years old to see it. IDs are supposed to be checked. It's the top pick of festival programmer Pathompong Manakitsomboon in his top 10 "must see" movies.

The biggest name among the Thai selection is none other than Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who battled censors over his 2006 feature Syndromes and a Century. His short A Letter to Uncle Boonmee will show. In the village of Nabua, Nakhon Phanom, Apichatpong has men read a letter to his reincarnated uncle as the camera tracks around, taking in such sights as a smoking wooden spaceship and a monkey ghost under a mosquito net. The short is part of the filmmaker’s larger Primitive video-art installation that’s on show in Liverpool and Paris. It’s a surreal examination of the village’s violent past involving a 1965 anti-communist purge by Thai government troops. See it on Monday at 6.15 or on November 15 at 11am.

Thai cinema itself is examined in I Am the Director, in which young filmmaker Nitchapoom Chaianun interviews nine directors – five established ones (Sakchai Deenan, Aditya Assarat, Wittaya Tong-U-Yong, Chookiat Sakveerakul and Komkrit Treewimol) and four aspiring helmers (Uten Sririwi, Supakit Seksuwan, Harin Paesongthai and Pitchaya Jarusboonpracha). It’s showing on Sunday at 3.20 and on Tuesday at 1.

There’s a variety of experimental shorts in the Guts Short Programme 1 on Sunday at 1 and next Friday at 3.30. The package comprises The Great Dictator by Noraset Vaisayakul, Lumphini 2552 by Tomonari Nishikawa (featured earlier this year in Toronto), Jakrawal Nilthamrong's Man and Gravity: Plateau (from the 13th Thai Short Film and Video Festival), My Mother and Her Portrait by Chaisiri Jiwarangsan, Now Showing by Nitipong Thinthupthai, Parallel; The Dawn, The Day, The Dusk, The Dark by Sudsiri Pui-Ock, Spirits by Chulayarnnon Siriphol, The Absent Island: A Soundscape Video by Marut Lekphet, aka Nok Paksnavin.

In the Short Wave program there will be a finally subtitled version of Ratchapoom Boonbunchachoke's 41-minute experimental gay romantic drama Bodily Fluid is So Revolutionary on Wednesday at 4. It's much acclaimed by local indie film enthusiasts who saw it at the 13th Short Film and Video Festival's Digital Forum.

Zart Tancharoen has his feature Lost Nation (Phom Chue Chard) tomorrow at 6.30 and Sunday at 11. It's about a man named Chard lost in a forest and while he is dissolving in the dark green wild, his identity becomes clearer in the memories of people who keep talking about his vanishing.

Also in the Short Wave is Visra Vichit-Vadakan’s In Space on Thursday at 7 and November 14 at 4. In it, a younk monk finds a safe space between the present and the afterlife.

Japanese director Riyo Naoi documents the life of an HIV-positive woman in a northern Thai village in Path of Anna at 1.15 tomorrow and 1 on Sunday.

Determination is captured by the characters in the docudrama Colors of Our Hearts, in which director Supamok Silarak weaves together true stories of migrant workers and minority families as they aspire for better lives and to escape from the trap of statelessness. This one made an emotional wreck of me when I saw it in Chiang Mai on World Refugee Day back in June. It shows on November 14 at 6.45 and on November 15 at 5.

And finally, there is a documentary so new, it's still being edited -- Echo from the Well: I Can Hear the Mekong Weep by Nation Channel director Pipope Panitchpakdi, covering Nation Group editor-in-chief Suthichai Yoon's travels along the storied waterway, interviewing people whose livelihoods are threatened by development of the river. The 70-minute doc is being adapted from a series and is scheduled for one screening next Friday at 9.45pm.

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