Monday, January 30, 2012

It's April in Rotterdam

The International Film Festival Rotterdam is underway, and as in the past recent years, there is a Thai film in competition and several others in the other programs.

Up for the Tiger Awards is In April the Following Year, There Was a Fire (สิ้นเมษาฝนตกมาปรอยปรอย) by Wichanon Somumjarn. Previously titled Like Raining at the End of April, it's the debut feature from the director of the award-winning short Four Boys, White Whiskey and Grilled Mouse.

The story of a young man returning to his hometown in northeastern Thailand from his job in Bangkok to attend a friends’ wedding takes place during the hottest month of the year, "turns into a semi-autobiography, and a journey into the labyrinth of the real and the imagined, the past and the present, the personal and the political."

The buzz about April is already quite positive, with IndieWire noting it as "advancing" in its first dispatch from Rotterdam:

"Very playful from the start: what looks like the lead character stops by an indie film set and asks his buddy what film they're shooting; friend replies In April the Following Year, There Was a Fire, the name of this film. Later at a bus depot at first it sounds like ambient muzak playing in the back, but reveals itself to be a non-digetic score for the credit sequence, and very lush at that. These are the kinds of slippages on which Apichatpong Weerasethakul made his bones; so for this is lively enough not to be dismissed as a carbon copy."

In a video introduction for his film, Wichanon says "you shouldn't miss this film because it has horses. Horses are beautiful." There's also a trailer (embedded below) and a Facebook page.

Another Thai feature in Rotterdam is I Carried You Home, which opened the recent 9th World Film Festival of Bangkok. The debut feature by Tongpong Chantararankul makes its European premiere in the IFFR's Bright Future line-up for new directors.

There are 196 short films in the International Film Festival of Rotterdam, a jaw-dropping number that the IFFR says is "not as extensive as past years".

Among the selection of Spectrum Shorts is Schip by Tanatchai Bandasak, which has a ship floating down the Mekong, and 15th Thai Short Film and Video Festival: Opener, a two-minute clip by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit that was the introduction to screenings at last year's Thai Short Film and Video Festival. Heralding the preponderance of Canon digital photo cameras in filmmaking, it has granny showing off her 7D and explaining its features.

As part of the Rotterdam fest, there's CineMart, where filmmakers gather to make their pitches for financing. Past Tiger Award winner Aditya Assarat (Wonderful Town) is there trying to raise cash for something called White Buffalo and Apichatpong is wearing his producer's hat for a project by French filmmaker Christelle Lheureux, Le Vent des ombres.

The influence of Apichatpong looms large over the independent film scene in Thailand, and his win at Cannes for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives has opened more doors for Thai filmmakers. Just about every indie feature and short being made today seems to have been inspired by Apichatpong. His influence is felt outside Thailand too, and Variety in particular notes the trend of visual artists turning to film. Here's an excerpt:

Leif Magne Tangen, of art-oriented production company Vitakuben, sees a new appetite in the market.

"Everything changed with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the Thai filmmaker and artist who won Cannes in 2010. You can see that more independent producers are looking towards projects that cross this bridge between contemporary art and filmmaking."

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