Friday, July 2, 2010

Apichatpong-a-rama: A Primitive utopia, Letter in Berlin and Montreal, congratulations from Foreign Minister

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Primitive art project is covered in the latest issue of Chroma.

The article is illustrated by super-saturated images from the Primitive art book produced by Cujo, which is another platform in the massive art project that includes the seven-channel Primitive video-art installation, the short films A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and Phantoms of Nabua and the feature, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

The launch of latest issue of Chroma, held on Friday in London, was at the BFI Southbank, where Phantoms of Nabua is installed until Saturday.

Here's a snip from a blog post about the article and the magazine's theme of "Utopia":

During an on-stage conversation at the BFI (which he nearly couldn’t attend due to the closure of the British Embassy in Thailand during the red-shirt protests, and due to the Home Office’s highly restrictive artist visa rules – reminders that we live far short of utopia) shortly after his win at Cannes, Apichatpong said that he’d become interested in Boonmee as a teenager, after hearing about him from a priest in Khon Kaen where he grew up. It was when he travelled to the village of Nabua, in the Isan province in the north-east of Thailand, that Apichatpong was reminded of Boonmee, a resident of Isan. His interest in Boonmee was, literally, reincarnated through his work with the young men of Nabua, a generation raised fatherless after an infamous conflict. As Apichatpong notes, “This small village was one of the places the Thai army occupied from the 60s to the early 80s to curb the communist insurgents. The soldiers erected a base to administer the villagers' daily activities. The locals were psychologically and physically abused on the grounds of withholding information. Women were raped. Some were murdered in their homes. Consequently, the villagers, mostly farmers, fled into the jungle. Most of them didn't understand the word Communism though they were accused of being communists,” leading to the gun battle that sparked a long-running conflict. Working over several months with the young men, Apichatpong created Primitive, a video installation that fuses their relationship with their absent fathers (and with the current Thai government) with the story of Boonmee’s reincarnations.

Meanwhile, the 20-minute A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, which features that smoking wooden spaceship getting ready to take off from its launchpad in Nabua, is in Berlin until Sunday at the Rencontres Internationales.

And Letter is at Montreal's Cinéma du Parc until July 8, where it's been playing before Blissfully Yours and Syndromes and a Century.

Back in Thailand, the Cannes Golden Palme winner Uncle Who Can Recall His Past Lives is continuing to be the talk of the town, with Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya getting in on the act of holding a reception to congratulate Apichatpong. Here's part of a press release about the felicitations on Monday:

The Foreign Minister congratulated Mr. Apichatpong on receiving such a prestigious award and commended him for propelling the Thai film industry to the international level. He also stated that by making movies with a universal message, Thailand can ride on the wave of globalization and expand its reputation to include movies in addition to the Kingdom’s famous hospitality and cuisine. The Foreign Minister also highlighted the importance of creating an atmosphere that is amicable to those with talent and vision. He mentioned the role of the Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates-General as coordinators and promoters of cultural affairs, emphasizing the uniqueness of thai culture, which is a part of Thailand’s integrated foreign policy.

Mr. Apichatpong thanked Foreign Minister Kasit for hosting the event and agreed with the Foreign Minister that movies and films are another way to further enhance understanding between cultures and nations. He also expressed his appreciation for the Foreign Ministry’s assistance in the past and looked forward to working with the Ministry to promote the Thai culture in the future.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is still pulling in the crowds in its limited screening at Bangkok's SFX the Emporium multiplex. A co-worker hit a showing at mid-week and had to sit down front because the entire back section was taken up with eager moviegoers.

With the success of Uncle Boonmee, Apichatpong is looking at possibly re-submitting his previous feature, Syndromes and a Century, for another run past the censors who in 2008, before Thailand's motion-picture ratings system came into effect, ordered that six scenes be cut. Earlier, Apichatpong had said he didn't think it was worth the trouble to try and show Syndromes uncut, but the outpouring of interest in Uncle Boonmee now perhaps makes him think otherwise.

(Via Animate Projects)

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