Monday, August 30, 2010

14th TSF&VF: The Digital Forum

The Digital Forum started in 2007 as a separate sidebar event of the Thai Short Film and Video Festival in recognition of the expanding role of digital filmmaking.

It's the place for features and medium-length works that are too long to fit in the short-film competitions, which aside from the Duke Award documentary category, are limited to films of 30 minutes or less.

Indeed, the first year of the Digital Forum, which was held in good old cinema 3 of the Grand EGV Siam Discovery (it's closed now, to make way for a wax museum), one of the featured films was Lav Diaz' Heremias: Book One, a butt-numbing 9-hour mind-blower about a man seeking justice after his ox is stolen.

Other films featured that first year were Pimpaka Towira's 3-hour political documentary, The Truth Be Told: The Cases Against Supinya Klangnarong and Tanwarin Sukhapisit's Phone Mood.

The Digital Forum was folded into the Thai Short Film and Video Festival when the event moved into its new home at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center in 2008.

This year the Digital Forum includes Jakrawal Nilthamrong's Unreal Forest, which premiered on Friday and the musical documentary Baby Arabia, which screens on Wednesday.

On Tuesday at 6.30 is I'm Here, You're Far (ฉันอยู่นี่ เธออยู่ไกล, a 90-minute documentary by Pattana Jirawong about two boys – one terminally ill with cancer and the other a survivor of the tsunami – who become friends via video link.

On Sunday night, I caught a pair of medium-length films that were a study in contrasts but both highly spiritual in their own way.

This Is Love Story (เรื่องนี้เกี่ยวกับความรัก) by Eakalek Maleetipawan was a gentle and sweet 51-minute romantic drama about a young man who works in his father's custom guitar shop. He's depressed over being dumped by a young lady axe-slinger and decides to live at the Buddhist temple. The film is enlivened by it's non-linear storytelling, with the narrative and scenes shuffled around. If it had been told straight, it wouldn't have been as good.

Then came the wild and crazy Misbehavers (หลงใหล), a 45-minute drama that plays out in the confines of a kitchen in a New York City apartment. Nattawut Poonpiriya directs this story of three young Thai hipsters buying marijuana off a visitor who turns out to be the drug dealer from hell, only his name isn't Satan. The three Thais are a tattooed dude, his petite short-haired girlfriend and spectacles-wearing neighbor girl with a mop of black hair and blond highlights. The dealer is the obnoxious buzz-killing motor-mouthed sort you wish would just sell you your dope and get out. And just when any hope of character development for the three Thais is lost, the movie redeems itself with an evil, violence-filled twist that even includes the sound effects used in stupid Thai sitcoms. Poohvis Thanathammakoon, Chompoonuch Junjajoongrit, Wanrapa Soontornpadungsin and an unrecognizable David Asavanont (Tom Yum Goong, Croc) star.

Festival notes

  • My struggles with the festival's flat-floored fourth-floor screening room ended on Sunday when I finally graduated myself up to the more suitable fifth-floor auditorium, but not until after the S-express Indonesia session (highlight: Children of the Mud) that had me sitting behind a tall fellow who came in late and planted himself in the middle of the front row next to his much-shorter girlfriend. From my fourth-row vantage point, the gentleman's head only covered up a corner of the screen, so I didn't raise a fuss and cause any disruption. He wouldn't have blocked any screen real estate if he'd moved off to the side, which I think he did in later sessions after I moved back up to the front row for the In the Realm of Conflict session (highlight: the Georgian-Soviet riot-squad drama Aprilis Suskhi).
  • Another quibble with the fourth-floor screening room is there's a speaker in the ceiling for the building's public-address system that can't be switched off. Right at the end of Saturday night's Each Film ... An Island? came the looping announcement that the Bangkok Art and Culture Center was closing in 15 minutes and blah blah blah blabbity blah. Everyone just laughed as it seemed to be a fitting and absurd end to a wonderful movie.
  • Ah heck. I will probably be back down in the fourth-floor head-blocking hell next Sunday for the Dedicated to Payut Ngaokrachang Animation Showcase and the Beyond Yangon shorts.
  • I hate to complain about the facilities. I suppose it's pretty trivial. I'm not bitching about the festival, its organizers or its fine programming. It's obvious that the Thai Short Film & Video Festival is continuing to grow, with two screening rooms packed out for most sessions. They need space, and this year's festival proves it. After just three years, it appears the festival has outgrown its new home at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center – a practically brand new facility that is already showing it's inadequate for the needs of the city's arts community. Trouble is, there is no other suitable downtown venue that I know of, except for perhaps one of the commercial multiplexes, and those places are an uncomfortable match for a film festival of this type. Also, if the festival were held in the multiplexes, it probably won't be free like it is now.
  • Each year for the Thai Short Film and Video Festival a short egg-themed clip precedes each program. This year's intro is by prominent indie-industry figure Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, who tries to shove a whole egg down a guy's throat and then breaks an egg on pair of men's tighty-whitey underwear briefs.

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