Monday, February 14, 2011

The Terrorists is up for a Teddy

Thunksa Pansittivorakul's The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย, Poo Kor Karn Rai) is playing in the Berlinale Forum, and while that is not a competition slot, the maverick indie director's latest provocative effort is eligible for the Teddy Award, which is for any film that has "queer content".

Here's what the Teddy Awards website says about The Terrorists:

The movie is divided into seventeen unrelated segments and is a mixture of both documentary and experimental film genres. By inhabiting the lives of laymen from different parts of Thailand, the movie brings us through blurry trails, distorted memories and recently constructed histories. We unearth missing pieces of the puzzle in our attempt to understand why Thai democracy is still considered backwards and frozen. Are we deceiving ourselves that we are in a democratic society when we are not?

The movie begins on a fishing boat, as we observe two boys conversing in an indecipherable tongue. It moves on to contemplate the light penetrating the sea and observe small lives swimming under the surface overlapped with a human body victimized by an unseen person. Beneath the darkness of a rubber farm, only faint light from the lamps illuminates the way. The truth from our present is superimposed with the blood-thirst from the past. The past is erased from the page of Thai history, and what is left is only the accusation that they are the terrorists.

By the way, the jury of this year's Teddy Award includes Thai raconteur Victor Silakong, the director of the World Film Festival of Bangkok, which tried to program Thunska's This Area Is Under Quarantine back in 2009, only to have it rejected by one of the cogs in Thailand's confusing film-censorship bureaucracy.

On Wednesday, Thunska will participate in a Berlinale Talent Campus presentation, As Queer As It Gets. He's with filmmaker Wieland Speck (one of the initiators of the Teddy Award), indie producer Christine Vachon, John Greyson the video artist, and director Monika Treut. They'll discuss the concept and form of the "queer film", the possible future role of queer cinema and the challenges faced by filmmakers in less queer-friendly parts of the world.

Should be interesting.

The Terrorists has three screenings at the Berlin International Film Festival. The first was on Saturday night. It, along with Aditya Assarat's Hi-So, was reportedly sold out. There's also a Valentine's Day screening and the last one on Friday, February 18.

Here's the official synopsis from the festival:

A black cloak of forgetting, suppressing and covering has descended on the events that took place in Bangkok in spring 2010. Black as the night of complete darkness in which the film opens. Two men are in a fishing boat talking. One feels more than one sees that the seawater around them is warm and smooth, teeming with brightly-colored fish. By night, the rubber plantation also comes across as enticing and full of secrets, until lurid reminders of the bloody massacre flash up. This film arose from of a state of shock – about the news, about the subsequent repression in the authoritarian kingdom but also about the debilitating passivity that followed the pro-democracy Red Shirt uprising. It is a radical personal assessment in 17 episodes. An angry protest in the form of a diary, where sexual resistance and erotic fantasies are juxtaposed with thoughtful rummaging through the director’s family album, creating a confusing pamphlet. As a young boy in the 1970s, Thunska was already forced to flee Bangkok for the south with his mother. The film poses questions without knowing the answers, providing an unusual insight into an extremely traumatized society.

1 comment:

  1. The premiere of "The Terrorists" at the Berlinale was packed. Before and after the movie, during the Q&A's, Thunska made comments which we can only hope no conservative Thai official did overhear. More than a few people left after the first 15 or 30 minutes, probably offended by explicit scenes of sexual violation, boners in close-up, exhausting shots of monotonous work at a rubber plantation and a fishing boat and, later, a masturbation scene including a cumshot.

    Those who stayed enjoyed how taboos were broken, sexual and political taboos at the same time. Scenes and stories from last year's red shirt battle as well as from the Thammasat massacre in 1976 were interwoven with depictions of everyday life and (male) sexual activities. The movie is a daring attempt at making Western audiences aware of truths usually hidden by casual observers of, and visitors to, Thailand. Unless a red shirt regime takes over in Thailand this movie will never be shown in Thailand. No chance. Unfortunately.


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