Monday, June 28, 2010

Phuket Film Festival 2010: Awards for Bitter/Sweet, Elephants, Clash and Killer

Wrapped up more than a month ago, the troubled Phuket Film Festival has finally announced its awards for this year's edition, with prizes doled out to Bitter/Sweet, Do Elephants Pray?, Clash and Friday Killer.

The Thai-Hollywood romance Bitter/Sweet (ข้ามฟ้า หาสูตรรัก, Kam Fah Ha Sut Rak) and the poetic indie English comedy Do Elephants Pray? shared the Audience Appreciation Awards.

"Bitter/Sweet ... filmed entirely in Thailand portrays a side of the Kingdom rarely seen in film, that of Thailand's coffee industry," says a festival press release issued today. "Stunning location shots of Koh Samui and a plethora of the movie's stars at the Coliseum Cineplex for the Thailand premiere helped make this picture an audience delight."

Do Elephants Pray?, meanwhile, was enthusiastically supported by director Paul Hills, writer-star Johnnie Hurn and actor John Last, who drove the length and breadth of the island in their tiny rented car, passing out fliers and urging all to come see the movie. When their Elephants was dropped from the schedule because of cutbacks, they took it upon themselves to hire a digital projector so it could be shown. They had probably the biggest audience of the festival, with around 80 or 90 people turning out at the Green Man pub to see it.

Vietnamese helmer Le Thanh Son was named the New Asian Director for his gritty action drama Bẫy Rồng (Clash), starring the dynamic duo of Ngo Thanh Van and Johnny Tri Nguyen. Le brought the 35mm print of the film to the festival himself, walking the cans through the airports.

"First screened at this year's Tribeca Film Festival as part of their Cinemania slate, Clash is a broad, colorful, snappy action flick that delivers the basic goods at a very brisk clip – and doesn't waste a lot of brain cells while doling out the violence. A great start to a budding genre in Vietnam," says the Phuket fest.

Yuthlert Sippapak's new crime drama Friday Killer (Meu Puen Dao Prasook, มือปืน ดาวพระศุกร์) was given the top prize, the International Break-out Award, with the prediction that the prolific genre-hopping director will have "great success with his trilogy of hitman films (Friday Killer, Saturday Killer, Sunday Killer) but will go on to break-out of directing domestic Thai films and pick-up a wider regional and international audience."

Friday Killer was the fest's closing film, shown on a first-edit DVD screener that was subtitled and rushed to the festival by Yuthlert himself. However, it appears the dramatic Friday Killer is too downbeat for Yuthlert's producers at Phranakorn Film, who will likely release the more comedy-oriented Saturday Killer and Sunday Killer first with Friday Killer coming out sometime next year. The films all pair veteran comic actors with starlets in a mash-up of genres that include crime drama, romance and comedy. Friday Killer stars Thep Po-ngam as an ageing gunman who's released from prison to discover he has a daughter, and she's a policewoman gunning for him. Saturday Killer (มือปืน ดาวพระเสาร์) stars Choosak "Nong Chachacha" Iamsuk and Cris Horwang while Sunday Killer (มือปืนพระอาทิตย์) pairs Kotee Aramboy with May Pitchanart Sakhakorn.

As for the Phuket Film Festival's troubles this year, the festival press release explains further:

Lower-than-expected attendance, a reluctance to travel to "town" to view movies, a need by organizers to cut financial losses by releasing screening equipment early (equipment that was costing nearly 30,000 Baht a day) shortening the Festival to seven days from 10 and underfunding (Festival was supported by one private sector source with only a 300,000 baht grant from the Thai government), all led to the poor performance of the 2010 Phuket Film Festival.

Due to the overall lack of interest and support on the part of the Phuket community, the People's Choice Awards for the Festival have been canceled.

"While the Festival had some very strong supporters in the community, lack of overall response to movies that did play the Festival does not allow us to proceed with a People's Choice Award," said organizer Scott Rosenberg. "It is unfortunate that while our business plan was strong, things just did not pan out the way they should have. You never expect to make money but you can break even if you fill the auditorium with an audience, which we just were not doing. It was embarrassing for us and embarrassing for the international filmmakers that attended the Festival to see their film screen to less than a handful of people."

While the People's Choice Awards are not being presented, the organizing committee does feel some filmmakers and their craft do deserve international attention, thus the following special festival awards are presented ...

It's unknown if there will be another Phuket film festival.

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