Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You've met Uncle Boonmee, now meet Uncle Naew

As three Thai films head off to the 68th Venice Film Festival starting next week, The Nation has a look at one of them in a story today.

Lung Naew Visits His Neighbours is the debut feature by Rirkrit Tiravanija, an internationally acclaimed artist. A 2007 recipient of the Culture Ministry's Silpathorn Award for visual art, he's famed for his "relational aesthetics" –exhibitions that will have him serving up spicy curry dishes for his guests.

Lung Neaw, or "uncle" Neaw, is an elderly laborer and farmer in Chiang Mai who has been a subject of Rirkrit's recent works. Rirkrit first encountered Neaw when the man was part of a crew building the artist's home. The Nation's Phatarawadee Phataranawik has more in today's story, "Lung Naew goes to Venice":

Rirkrit’s been pestering Neaw almost since the day he moved to Chiang Mai four years ago. He filmed him with a 16mm camera and has previously used some of the footage in other artistic media.

You might have seen Neaw, for example, in singer Petch Osathanugrah’s “Let’s Talk About Love” video project. And his portrait was among those in the blueprint-sheet flip-books in the “Imagine Peace” exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre a year ago. Rirkrit helped Apinan Poshyananda of the Culture Ministry curate that show.

Londoners last year got to see Rirkrit’s Lung Neaw, an eight-hour-plus video loop projected onto two huge screens. There was our farmer, picking his nose, combing his hair, dozing and eating – but never once doing any work.

He’s more active in the new film, though not much. Neaw walks to his old rice field, rests in his little sala and plucks some ma kua puang to sell at the market. He goes into a forest to pick various plants for dinner and bathes in the river in front of his house.

Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours is produced by Cristian Manzutto of Estudio de Produccion in Mexico. It's in competition in the Orizzonti (Horizons) section alongside the 13-minute short Passing Through the Night by Wattanapume Laisuwanchai.

A third Thai film, added late to the Venice line-up is P-047 by Kongdej Jaturanrasamee.

The Venice Film Festival runs from August 31 to September 10.

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