Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Isaan Film Festival, December 17-January 9 at Jim Thompson Farm

Movies about Isaan – Northeast Thailand – are featured in the first Isaan Film Festival, running from December 17 to January 9 in Nakhon Ratchasima.

The selection varies from recent commercial features that celebrate Isaan culture, such as Chalerm Wongpim's rousing 2006 action feature Kon Fai Bin (Dynamite Warrior) and the social drama Kru Bannok (The Country Teacher), to short films like Apichatpong Weerasethakul's A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and works by Wichanon Somunjarn, Krissakorn Thintapthai, Jakrawal Nilthamrong, Pattanapong Chatukate, Boonsong Nakpoo and local students.

Other movies include Tongpan, a 60-minute docu-drama about the construction of a dam and its impact on a poor Isaan farmer. The film was made in the 1970s by a collective of socialist-minded student activists that included director Paijong Laisakul and scriptwriter Kamsing Srinok, and was at one time banned by the communism-fearing Thai government.

There's also Santi Taepanich's Sua Ronghai (Crying Tigers), a 2005 documentary that profiles Isaan people working in Bangkok, among them a movie stuntman, a female taxi driver and a luk thung singer. Crying Tigers actually received a commercial release by Sahamongkol Film.

The fest opens on Friday in Nakhon Ratchasima, the capital of the province that's also known as Korat and is considered to be the gateway to Isaan. The open-air screening will be held in the city's square, which has the monument to Isaan heroine Thao Suranari. The opening program features Surasee Patham's 2010 remake of his 1970s rural schoolhouse drama Kru Bannok. There's short films, including something called Bata Loob Fai (Foot Stroke Against Fire) and then Dynamite Warrior, starring Dan Chupong as a rocket-riding masked vigilante warrior who uses Muay Thai and homemade fireworks to fight buffalo rustlers, an evil steam-engine dealer and a demon wizard portrayed by Panna Rittikrai.

Other programs take place at the Jim Thompson Farm in Pak Thong Chai, Nakhon Ratchasima, as part of the farm's annual open house that also shows off the green agriculture, silk production, Isaan architecture and arts and crafts.

The full festival schedule and other details can be found at the Jim Thompson House website.

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