Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thailand unmasks Kon Khon as Oscar pick

Kon Khon (คนโขน), Sarunyu Wongkrachang's melodrama about duelling masked-dance troupes in the 1960s, is Thailand's selection for the Academy Awards, according to the National News Bureau.

The committee from the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand (FNFAT), selected Kon Khon because it's unique to Thailand and promotes the Kingdom's arts and culture. Furthermore, the film, produced by Sahamongkolfilm International, had received support from the Culture Ministry, the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture and the ministry's "Strong Thailand" fund.

Starring Sorapong Chatree and Nirut Sirichanya, the drama is about khon troupes that stage competing performances of the Ramakien, Thailand's version of India's epic poem, the Ramayana. Love triangles and betrayals are thrown in to add to the story and set up a religious message about karma.

Kon Khon was a flop at the box office, opening in a wide release over the weekend of August 25-28 and earning $137,115, around 4 million baht, according to Box Office Mojo. At last count, the weekend of September 15-18, the film had earned $255,058, around 7.9 million baht.

It also fared poorly with critics. In his review, Bangkok Post film critic Kong Rithdee, while noting the movie's high-minded goals of cultural preservation, said Kon Khon was dragged down by cardboard-cliche characters and a predictable plot.

A member of FNFAT's Oscar committee, film critic Sananjit Bangsapan, wrote in a post on the Siam Dara website that the Oscar selection came down to two choices – Kon Khon or another film with a strong depiction of Thai culture – U Mong Pha Mueang, a.k.a. The Outrage by director ML Bhandevanop Devakula, which had fared better at the box office and with critics.

However, because U Mong is adapted from the tale of Rashomon, previously filmed by Akira Kurosawa, the committee worried about submitting a remake, so Kon Khon was the choice by default, Sanajit said in his article, according to the Soopsip column in tomorrow's Nation newspaper.

Furthermore, Sananjit says, it doesn’t matter what Thai film is submitted to the Oscars because no Thai studios are willing to mount the kind of promotion needed for the film to be nominated and win.

So far, none of Thailand's selections for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film have made the shortlist of nominees, not even last year's selection of the Cannes-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

(Via Veen_NT on Twitter)

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