Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apichatpong-a-rama: The 'Boonmee Effect' in Thailand, New York and Toronto

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is part of the opening lineup of Toronto's Bell Lightbox, a new cinema that's the new permanent home of the Toronto International Film Festival. Uncle Boonmee starts playing on September 23 as part of the Bell Lightbox's regular lineup, following the 10th edition of TIFF.

It's also has been announced for the main slate of the 48th New York Film Festival, set for September 24 to October 10.

And Uncle Boonmee is on tour in Thailand. Following its successful run in Bangkok, Uncle Boonmee has moved to the SF cinema branch in Apichatpong's boyhood hometown of Khon Kaen. It's playing until August 18. Other dates are Bang Saeng from August 19 to 25, Pattaya from August 26 to September 1 and Phuket from September 2 to 8.

There are many more festival dates yet to be officially announced. Here's New York's synopsis:

Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year for this gently comic and wholly transporting tale of death and rebirth, set in Thailand's rural northeast. Uncle Boonmee, a farmer suffering from kidney failure, is tended to by loved ones and visited by the ghosts of his wife and son. As for his remembered past lives, they might-or might not-include a water buffalo, a disfigured princess, a talking catfish, and the insects whose chirps engulf the nighttime jungle scenes. A sensory immersion, Uncle Boonmee is an otherworldly fable that lingers on earthly sensations, a film about a dying man that's filled with mysterious signs of life. Apichatpong's vision is above all a generous one: in the threat of extinction he sees the possibility of regeneration. A Strand release.

The Australian Broadcasting Company has a recent review on its website, from a listener who say Uncle Boonmee in Melbourne. Here's a snip:

If you do ultimately manage to go along with the ghosts, the Chewbaccas, the trancelike powerhold of the Thai jungle, straight after the credits roll, you might just end up eager to throw yourself back into it again, from the beginning.

I think it's important and helpful to stay seated through the credits, especially with Uncle Boonmee.

The success of Uncle Boonmee in Thailand has energized an already vibrant independent film scene.

The latest issue of BK magazine examines "the Boonmee effect", with a look at Extra Virgin's Director's Screen Project at Bangkok's SFX the Emporium cinema, and interviews with the directors, Mundane History's Anocha Suwichakornpong, Agrarian Utopia's Uruphong Raksasad and Aditya Assarat, whose shorts Phuket, Boy Genius and The Sigh will screen in October. They also talk to founding Extra Virgin producer-director Pimpaka Towira and Kittayporn Klangsurin, who's among the directors on another project, Brown Sugar, an anthology of erotically-themed shorts due in cinemas on August 26.

They say the Extra Virgin project is a direct result of Apichatpong's Cannes win and the successful limited release Uncle Boonmee in the Bangkok multiplex.

And the capper to the BK mag issue this week is a "First Person" interview with Apichatpong. He says:

I don’t think my films are more popular abroad than they are in Thailand. I think my films do best in Thailand, considering how small we are, and how bad our economic situation is. We don’t even have a proper film archive facility.

I am the first and foremost audience when I am making a film.

I have some stock answers if someone says, “I just didn’t get your movie.” I say, “It’s normal,” “See it again,” “So?” “Try to see it in a theater,” or, “OK, I will try harder next time.”

We need independent, art house cinema in Thailand. This type of cinema should not depend on government support because it’s never stable. It should be a private business. We need well-off investors who love art, cinema, and have guts. I think they exist. It’s a matter of time.

Go read the rest.

Update: Cinematical offers five must-see movies at the New York fest. Among them is, of course, Uncle Boonmee.

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