Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pen-ek to 'Shoot the Music'

Pen-ek Ratanaruang follows in the footsteps of such directors as Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme and Jim Jarmusch, making a movie of a concert.

Okay, it's not the The Last Waltz, Stop Making Sense or Year of the Horse, but it is a big undertaking.

Sponsored by Heineken, Shoot the Music with Pen-ek will be at the end of May at the Dusit Thani Hua Hin, on the beachfront. The line-up will be a bunch of Thai rock and pop acts with R&B artist Babyface as the headline act.

As "creative" of the event, Pen-ek, "a leading movie director of Thailand", will put on a "cinematic show ... orchestrat[ing] all the elements ... taking care of every detail of it.

"The audiences wouldn’t be able to tell whether it’s a movie or a concert. A lot of surprises and impressions are waiting to happen," says the blurb on the ThaiTicketMaster website.

In addition to Babyface, performers in the May 28 show include the Thai acts Lipta, pop-pianist Tor Saksit, Too Phobthorn, Ben Chalatit, Sqweez Animal, Nui Wiriyapa, Boy Trai Bhumi, Tong of Save da Last Piece, Poe from Yokee Playboy and Yai of Monotone.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Red Eagle, Intruder and Eternity in Seattle

Wisit Sasanatieng's dark action thriller The Red Eagle will make its North American premiere in the 37th edition of the Seattle International Film Festival, which has also lined up Sivaroj Kongsakul's Eternity and that snakes-in-an-apartment movie The Intruder.

The Red Eagle (Insee Dang, อินทรีเเดง) and the indie romantic drama Eternity (Tee Rak, ที่รัก) are part the 13-film line-up of a new program, "the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Presents Asian Crossroads".

The Intruder (Kheaw Aa-Kaard, เขี้ยว อาฆา), directed by Thanadol Nualsuth and Thammanoon Sakulbunthanom and produced by Poj Arnon, makes its U.S. premiere in Seattle.

The Seattle International Film Festival runs from May 19 to June 12.

(Via IndieWire)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tony Jaa and Jeeja in 3D for Tom-Yum-Goong 2

Tony Jaa is ready to get back to work. And this time he'll be in 3D.

The martial-arts star, who entered the monkhood after a contentious time with studio Sahamongkolfilm International during the making Ong-Bak 2 and Ong-Bak 3, appeared at a press conference today alongside studio executive Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert, as well as director Prachya Pinkaew and action choreographer Panna Rittikrai for the announcement of Tom-Yum-Goong 2 (ต้มยำกุ้ง2).

A sequel to the 2005 action drama that had Tony Jaa jet off to Australia in search of his missing elephant, Tom-Yum-Goong 2 will be in 3D.

Sahamongkol is reportedly budgeting 300 million baht for the picture. The movie's release will be sometime next year.

Ong-Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong helmer Prachya will again direct, after Tony Jaa took over the director's chair himself for the two Ong-Bak sequels and ran into budgetary problems that led to his celebrity meltdown. The movies got back on track when Tony's old mentor Panna took over as co-director. Panna will again lead the martial-arts stunt team on Tom-Yum-Goong 2.

Tom-Yum-Goong 2 will mark the first time another of Sahamongkol's major action stars, "Jeeja" Yanin Vismitananda, will co-star with Tony. She stars in the action-comedy Jakkalan (directed by and also starring Tom-Yum-Goong co-star Mum Jokmok), opening this week, is featured in the upcoming Korean-Thai co-production, The Kick (also with Mum) and is also set for a 3D sequel to her debut film Chocolate.

Comedian Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao was also present for the Tom-Yum-Goong 2 press conference. In the first Tom-Yum-Goong, he played a Thai-Australian police officer in Sydney's Thai community.

The announcement of Tom-Yum-Goong 2 follows rumors that Tony was unhappy with Sahamongkol and was looking to work overseas, and might star in a project by Hong Kong superstar Sammo Hung.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Visit Laddaland, home of ghosts and Sophon Sakdaphisit

Sophon Sakdaphisit is the horror writer who spun a sense of dread about looking at photos in Shutter. He made being a formerly conjoined twin sibling a hellish affair in Alone. And he made folks scared of pirating movies and visiting the cinema in Coming Soon.

He's now set his sights on the posh housing developments that are popping up around the edges of Thailand's cities with Laddaland (ลัดดาแลนด์, a.k.a. The Lost Home).

Starring Saharat Sungkhapreecha and Piyathida Worramusik, the thriller has a family who are happy in their home until ghostly things start cropping up.

The tale is based on fact – an housing development in Chiang Mai that was eventually abandoned after a series of unexplained deaths.

You can read more about the writer-director, who's jokingly nicknamed "Jim Carpenter", in a Bangkok Post story by Kong Rithdee.

There's also a trailer, embedded below.

Laddaland is in cinemas this week by GTH, going head-to-head with the likes of Thor, Drive Angry and another big Thai studio release, the martial-arts comedy Jakkalan, starring Jeeja Yanin, directed by Mum Jokmok and released by Sahamongkol.

Chao Phraya River Express sponsors short film contest

The Chao Phraya River Express, the public transport service that ferries commuters and tourists up and down Bangkok's scenic big river, is sponsoring a short film contest, on the theme of "take the Chao Phraya River Express and smile."

The grand prize is 100,000 baht.

The aim is to make a movie that will get more young people interested in using the Chao Phraya River Express.

Applicants are asked to submit their one-page proposals by the deadline of May 20. From those, 20 will be selected and given 5,000 baht to make their film for the final competition.

They've even made an example video to show what they are looking for. It's embedded below.

Find out more at the contest blog or on Facebook.

Cannes 2011: Four to try for funds in Thai Pitching Event

There are no Thai films in any of the official selections of the Cannes Film Festival this year. Say it ain't so.

But four Thai projects will make their cases for funding at the Thai Pitching Event, sponsored by the Culture Ministry's Office of Contemporary Arts and Culture.

The projects are:

  • eNEMIES (พี่ น้อง ศัตรู เพื่อน) – Ekachai Uekrongtham directs this tale of boyhood friends that's set against the backdrop of the bloody 2003 "war on drugs" during the administration of Thaksin Shinawatra. Pantham Thongsang is producing. Ekachai, who previously directed Beautiful Boxer and The Coffin, is now staging the Muay Thai vs. B-Boy theatre production Boxing Boys in Bangkok, previously pitched Enemies at the Tokyo Project Gathering and at Pusan.
  • A River's Tale (สายน้ำลูกผู้หญิง) – Rutaiwan Wongsirasawad, a veteran filmmaker, has long been at work on a follow-up feature project to her 2005 GTH family comedy Wai Ounlawon 4 (Oops, There's Dad). She also did a short for the Sawasdee Bangkok anthology and recently had a cameo in SuckSeed. A River's Tale is about young professional Bangkok woman dealing with an unplanned pregancy with her schoolteacher mother while on a visit back to her provincial riverside hometown. Siriphan Wattanajinda and Rungnapa Kittivai star. There's a sneak preview by Local Color Films. Pawas Sawatchaiyamet is producing. A River's Tale is among the Culture Ministry's "Strong Thailand" projects.
  • Karma Police – Visra Vichit-Vadakan's film has Thailand's first female prime minister trying to send the first Thai into space. Meanwhile, a Buddhist monk pads his way around Bangkok's slums. Visra, an award winner for her Buddhist-themed short In Space, has previously pitched Karma Police at Rotterdam. She has also been supported by Rotterdam's Hubert Bals Fund.
  • Three Marks of Existence (อินเดียรำลึก) – Krittanut Tarawisid directs this tale of a young man on pilgrimage to Buddhism's holy sights, and the various characters he encounters along the way. Autchavipa Pattapheesin is producing.

Full details and posters are available at the official blog. The Thai Pitching Event will be held May 11 to 16 at the Thai Pavilion in Cannes.

(Via Screen Daily)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pen-ek, Apichatpong and more in Blissfully Thai series in New York

Classic and contemporary films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Pen-ek Ratanaruang, as well as Wisit Sasanatieng, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon. Aditya Assarat and ML Mingmongkol Sonakol will be featured in a film series from May 13 to June 17 at the Asia Society in New York, co-organized by Cineaste magazine.

Here's more from an e-mailed press release:

[This] major film series celebrates the current Thai film renaissance and the emergence of some of the world’s most original cinematic voices since the late 1990s.

Directors such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Wisit Sasanatieng have put Thai cinema on the international map. Thai films are now regular fixtures in major film festivals, garnering awards around the globe, culminating in the riveting Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or win of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong, 2010).

"Although these filmmakers share an innovative and kindred spirit, what is really exciting is that they embody very different artistic visions,” says La Frances Hui, curator of the series and Senior Program Officer of Cultural Programs at Asia Society. This series includes works made since 2000 by six filmmakers, all born in the '60s and '70s, and offers New York audiences a rare opportunity to sample a diverse group of films from Thailand.

Highlights of the program include appearances by Apichatpong and Pen-ek for individual Q&A session after their film screenings and together in a May 14 discussion on the burgeoning Thai film industry.

All films will be shown on 35mm prints with English subtitles. Here's the lineup:

Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007, 107min.) – A death in the family brings husband and wife, Wit (Pornwut Sarasin) and Dang (Lalida Panyopas), back to Bangkok from the US. Jetlagged and restless, Wit encounters a young lady, Ploy (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, in her debut role), in the hotel bar while she is waiting for her mother to arrive from Stockholm. The couple and this stranger soon find themselves trapped in a hotel room, where paranoia and jealousy force the couple to confront their rocky marriage. Seamlessly moving between dream and reality, this unsettling drama mirrors the characters’ state of sleep deprivation. Friday, May 13, 6:45pm with a post-screening Q&A by Pen-ek.

A Conversation with Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Pen-ek Ratanaruang – Two award-winning figures of Thai cinema join La Frances Hui of the Asia Society in a conversation about the Thai film renaissance. Saturday, May 14, 2pm, followed by a reception.

I-San Special (Mingmonkul Sonakul, 2002, 110min.) – On a full-moon night, something unusual takes place aboard a bus traveling from Bangkok to I-San in northeastern Thailand. Seemingly possessed, passengers act out parts of a soap opera playing on the radio. Whenever the bus makes a stop, the passengers spring back to real life. Inspired by an idea of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, this unusual and dream-like road movie playfully explores the dichotomies of real life and drama, and of professional actors on the radio and non-actors playing passengers. Friday, May 20, 6:45pm

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010, 113min) – Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Uncle Boonmee follows the final days of a man’s life. In the lush countryside, Boonmee is visited by his loved ones, including his deceased wife appearing as a ghost and his long-lost son who has taken on a non-human form. Mysterious as it is, nothing is scary in this world. This peaceful and poetic film meditates on the myths and secrets of the universe. Sunday, May 22, 5pm, with post-screening Q&A by Apichatpong.

The Iron Ladies (Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, 2000, 104min.) – This fact-based sports drama is about a male volleyball team of gays and transsexuals that competed in the Thai national championships in 1996. Depicting the rise of a team against all odds, The Iron Ladies is filled with such colorful characters as a transsexual cabaret beauty, a muscular cross-dressing army sergeant and three seemingly identical cheerleaders always moving in synchrony. This upbeat and hilarious comedy was a major audience hit in Thailand and has picked up awards at many international LBGT film festivals. Thursday, May 26, 6:45pm.

Monrak Transistor (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2001, 115min.) – Newly married with a pregnant wife, the charming country boy Pan (Supakorn Kitsuwan) is drafted into the army, where he enters a singing contest and places second. In order to follow his singing dreams, Pan deserts his post and ends up in Bangkok, where he faces a series of misfortunes. “A piece of candy with just a taste of satirical poison at its center,” is how director Pen-ek Ratanaruang describes this tragic, bittersweet tale. Paying homage to the luk thung music of Thai pop star Surapol Sombatcharoen (1930-68), Mon-Rak brims with melancholy and longing. Friday, June 3 at 6:45 PM

Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000, 113min.) – Some call this a Pad Thai western but it is no ordinary cowboy movie. At the center is a doomed romantic affair between the impossibly stunning Rumpoey, daughter of a governor, and Dum, her childhood love turned bandit, a.k.a. Black Tiger. With its corny dialogues, over-the-top action choreography and digitally enhanced pulpy hues, this irresistible eye-candy film – the first Thai film to be screened at Cannes – pushes cinematic boundaries in every direction and is a big-screen must-see. Friday, June 10, 6:45pm.

Hi-So (Aditya Assarat, 2010, 102 min.) – Ananda (Ananda Everingham) has returned to Thailand to work as an actor after living abroad. On a seaside movie set, he is visited by his girlfriend from California. Tacitly, the two are drifting apart. Several months later, Ananda is in Bangkok living with his new girlfriend. The two share moments reminiscent of Ananda’s previous relationship. A directorial follow-up to the much praised Wonderful Town (2007), Hi-So, which refers to Thailand’s high-society types, portrays life between languages and cultures with an eloquent grace. Saturday, June 11, 3pm

Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002, 125 min.) – Set in a small town and a jungle near the Burmese border, Blissfully Yours follows a young Thai woman and her Burmese boyfriend, an illegal immigrant, on an afternoon of blissful interlude. Though peaceful and calm on the surface, the lovers and a middle-aged woman who joins them, and the jungle itself, embody hidden conflicts. With the opening credits leisurely appearing 45 minutes into the film, this early work by Cannes Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul offers a meditative journey into a world of nature and manmade conflicts. Friday, June 17, 6:45pm.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Insects in the Backyard, Slice at Torino GLBT Film Festival

Banned in Thailand, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's Insects in the Backyard, is in the feature film competition at the Torino GLBT Film Festival.

Here's the festival synopsis:

In Blue Velvet, David Lynch reconstructs the trauma of a quiet American country town starting from an ear that has been chopped off and thrown away. In a similar way Thai Sukhaphisit manages to portray an atypical family, in a crescendo of barely repressed tensions, who are living a surreal life masked by the mundane rituals of everyday life. Tanya is a transgender raising her younger "sister" (Jennifer) and her younger "brother" (Johnny). She suffers because people do not accept her for who she is and, obsessed as she is by her own sexuality, she is overcome by desperate loneliness. Soon the younger two will be spurred by their disappointments in love to make a change, but this will cost them dearly. The themes are transgenderism, prostitution and loss, handled in a gentle but visionary way that recalls Tonia of Morrer Como Um Homem by João Pedro Rodrigues. The transgender director plays the main character in a movie that was censored in Bangkok.

Torino also has Kongkiat Komesiri's twisty 2009 crime-thriller Slice (Cheun). It's playing in the fest's Midnight Madness program.

The Torino selection of Insects in the Backyard comes in the midst of legal action taken by Tanwarin, who has filed a petition with the administrative court, seeking to overturn the ban on the film, and allow it to be shown in Thailand for educational purposes.

According to what I've been told, the court is deciding whether to accept the case and a decision is expected sometime after the Songkran Thai New Year holiday.

The Torino GLBT Film Festival runs from April 28 to May 4.

(Via Veen_NT)

Watch this: Censorsh*t

A student's short film Censorsh*t (embedded above), makes a mockery of the censorship on Thai television in which various things deemed offensive by cultural authorities are pixellated or blurred. Such acts as smoking or alcoholic beverages are blurred on Thai TV, but the list of forbidden images also includes various acts of violence as well as intimacy.

Censorsh*t smartly takes things a step further, applying the blurring censorship to everyday objects, street scenes, landmarks, stores and people.

It points to the ridiculousness and futility of the TV censorship, which only serves to wag a parental finger at viewers and say "ah, ah, ah, don't do that." But viewers aren't stupid, and they know exactly what's going on behind the blur. The censorship prevents nothing. It only annoys.

The film is made by a student named Madastro as a mid-term project for school, and Madastro talks more about Censorsh*t in an interview with Jon Russell at Asian Correspondent.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Udine 2011: Crazy Little Thing, Bangkok Knockout, Mindfulness and Murder

Three Thai films are listed in the just-released program of Italy's 13th Udine Far East Film Festival.

They are the teen romance Crazy Little Thing Called Love, the action extravaganza Bangkok Knockout and the mystery thriller Mindfulness and Murder.

Sahamongkol's hit romantic comedy Crazy Little Thing Called Love, a.k.a. First Love (Sing Lek Lek Thee Riak Wa … Ruk (สิ่งเล็กๆ ที่เรียกว่า...รัก), won an award at last month's Okinawa International Movie Festival. It makes its European Premiere in Udine.

Panna Rittikrai's action-crazy Bangkok Knockout (โคตรสู้ โคตรโส, Koht Soo Koht Soh) won the Best Stuntwork Award at last weekend's ActionFest in the U.S., but Udine is being billed as its "International Festival Premiere".

Meanwhile, Mindfulness and Murder (Sop Mai Ngeap, ศพไม่เงียบ) is still slugging it out in Thai multiplexes after a release last week. Director Tom Waller's Buddhist-monk detective thriller has also been touring the festivals in recent months. In addition to picking up awards at last year's ThrillSpy in the U.S., it's also been to fests in Cambodia, Mexico, Egypt, Russia and Iran. Udine is its European Premiere. And producers from De Warrenne Pictures will be pitching for funds to make a sequel, Killer Karma, at the Ties That Bind workshop in Udine.

Other festival highlights include the special program "Asia Laughs! A Survey of Asian Comedy Films", but it oddly does not include any classic Thai comedies, even though there are several still in existence to choose from. Too bad.

Hey, check out the festival trailer, which is always fun. This year's short is directed by Hong Kong's Clement Chang.

The Udine Far East Film Festival runs from April 29 to May 7.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nang Phee isn't the same old Cinderella story

Director Sarawut Intaraprom, who last year did the cracking horror thriller Tai Tang Klom (The Snow White) is still on a vaguely fairytale bent with his latest film, Nang Phee (หนังผี), a.k.a. The Cinderella.

I'm not sure how the story of the glass-slipper-wearing maiden figures into this ghost movie.

The plot description I've been given involves a hot-tempered young actor named Rashane who dies on a movie set. His mother then calls back his soul to take revenge on those who were involved in his demise.

Sarunyoo Prachakit stars with Pattaranan "Nannie Girly Berry" Deeratsamee and "Nut" Niranaat Victoria Coates.

It's released by Golden A Entertainment. See a bit more of the gore (and bikinis!) in the trailer (embedded below).

It opened in Thai cinemas today, just in time for the Songkran Thai New Year holiday that runs from tomorrow until Friday. It's rated 18+.

ActionFest 2011: Awards for Bangkok Knockout, Sahamongkol's Sia Jiang

ActionFest was knocked out by the stunt extravaganza Bangkok Knockout (โคตรสู้ โคตรโส, Koht Soo Koht Soh).

The second annual ActionFest wrapped up over the weekend in Asheville, North Carolina, with an award for best stuntwork going to Panna Rittikrai's Bangkok Knockout, specifically for a massive sequence that gets the entire cast in the frame fighting each other in a battle royale. And if that's one I'm thinking of, it is a pretty awesome scene.

ActionFest also honored veteran producer Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert (สมศักดิ์ เตชะรัตนประเสริฐ). The chief executive of Sahamongkol Film International, which has been behind such action-cult favorites as Ong-Bak, Chocolate and a dozen or so others, was named Producer of the Year. has the lowdown on all the awards, which includes the lifetime achievement award for stunt hero Buddy Joe Hooker.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Killer Karma, Suriya in Ties That Bind funding workshop

Two Thai projects, Wisit Sasanatieng's Suriya and Killer Karma, a sequel to Tom Waller's Mindfulness and Murder, are among the selection for the Ties That Bind workshops.

Organized by EAVE, the third Asia-Europe Producers Workshop will be held in two places, at the Udine Far East Film Festival and at the Busan (not Pusan) International Film Festival's Asian Project Market. Workshop 1 takes place in Udine, Italy, from May 3 to 7, while the second one runs from October 10 to 13 in Busan.

The producer of Suriya is Pran Tadaveerawat of Trois Film. It's the indie Muay Thai biopic that Wisit is trying to find funding for. They previously sought funding at Cinemart in Rotterdam.

Killer Karma is based on another "Father Ananda Mystery" novel by Bangkok-based writer and newspaper sub-editor Nick Wilgus. De Warrenne Pictures' Michael Pritchett is producing. The first film in what will hopefully be a series is Mindfulness and Murder, which has a cop-turned-monk working to solve a mystery. It opened in Thai cinemas this week.

(Via Film Business Asia)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ready for Mindfulness and Murder?

The controversially edgy monastic mystery thriller Mindfulness and Murder hits Thai cinemas this week.

The Thai title is Sop Mai Ngeap (ศพไม่เงียบ ), literally "the corpse is not quiet". It's rated 15+, and was passed without any cuts by censors.

Directed by Tom Waller, and adapted from one of the "Father Ananda" mystery novels by Thailand-based writer Nick Wilgus, the hard-boiled tale has an ex-cop-turned-monk investigating the murder of a homeless boy in the Buddhist temple. As Ananda uncovers clues, it's revealed that all is not holy behind those sacred walls.

Vithaya Pansringarm stars as Father Ananda with Thaitanium rapper Way Prinya as a junior monk and veteran actor Jaran "See Tao" Petcharoen as the temple's abbot. "Kaew" Charina Sirisingha of the pop group ZaZa plays a reporter. Late actor "Muek" Abhijati Jusakul, who died last September, portrays Inspector Somchai. And former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova (recently split from her ex-tennis-star husband Paradorn Srichapan) makes a cameo.

Mindfulness and Murder had previously won awards on the festival circuit.

Waller's De Warrenne Pictures secured a release through M Pictures, the distribution arm of Thailand's biggest theatre company, Major Cineplex, which will show it exclusively in the chain's 21 digital "Silver Screen" halls. The indie thriller is positioned as alternative programming to a certain mega-budget Thai movie that's been unspooling on virtually all the screens in all the multiplexes over the past week.

There's a Facebook page as well as a trailer (embedded below).

Colorful comedy hijinks from Mr. Pink in Ha Zard

Cover your eyes if you don't want to be blinded by the latest hyper-colorful comedic fantasy by Bangkok Loco director Pornchai Hongrattanaporn, better known as Mr. Pink.

Produced by Five Star Production, it's called Ha Zard (ฮาศาสตร์) and has Fan Chan star Charlie Trairat and Boonchu boy Thanachart Tulyachat teaming up to clown around at a comedy school that's in danger of being shut down.

Pimchanok Ponlaboon, Kirk Schiller, Jaturong Mokjok and Kom Chuanchuen also star. I think I also spotted a cameo by the pantomime trio Baby Mime.

Ha Zard is in cinemas this week. Watch the trailer if you dare.

Friday, April 1, 2011

HKIFF 2011: Eternity (Tee Rak) takes Silver Digital Award

Indie director Sivaroj Kongsakul's spiritual romantic drama Eternity (ที่รัก, Tee Rak) keeps winning awards.

The latest honor for the Eternity, the debut feature by Sivaroj, comes from the Hong Kong International Film Festival's Asian Digital Competition, where it took the second-place Silver Digital Award.

Film Business Asia has the full scoop on all the prizes.

The Hong Kong win for Eternity follows honors in Deauville and Rotterdam.

Eternity is playing in Hong Kong alongside Hi-So, directed by "Karn" Sivaroj's producer, Aditya Assarat, as well as Apichatpong Weerasethakul's contribution to the Quattro Hong Kong 2 short-film anthology.

Karn actually made it to Hong Kong, taking a break from Paris, where he's participating in the Cannes Residence Program. You can read all about his homesickness and travel adventures at the Pop Pictures blog.