Friday, October 5, 2012

25 more films picked for Thai historical registry

A still from Chok Song Chan (Double Luck). Only about one minute of the 1927 film survives.

King Rama VIII's arrival in Bangkok, a fragment of a 1927 silent and aerial footage of Bangkok being bombed during World War II are among the additions this year to the Thai Culture Ministry's Registry of Films as National Heritage.

The listing by the Culture Ministry and the Thai Film Archive coincides with Thai Film Conservation Day. The registry was initiated last year with 25 entries, and this year's list has 25 more historic films.

From 1938, King Rama VIII's Arrival in Thailand is "rare and precious" footage, archive director Dome Sukwong was quoted as saying by The Nation today. The newsreel chronicles the arrival of 13-year-old King Ananda Mahidol and members of his family, including his younger brother, the present king, the Princess Mother and sister Princess Galyani Vadhana. Picked as king when he was 9 years old, the boy monarch was born in Germany and raised overseas. He was chosen king after the abdication of King Rama VII, following a coup that established the constitutional monarchy.

The earliest entry on this year's list is 1927's Chok Song Chan (โชคสองชั้น, Double Luck), the first film produced by a Thai company, the Sri Krung studio. Before then, there was the Hollywood co-production Miss Suwanna of Siam, which has been lost. King Kong director Merian Cooper's jungle adventure Chang was made around the same time. But Double Luck is considered the first actual Thai feature film. Unfortunately, all that remains is about 82 feet – around 1 minute – of a car chase.

The World War II footage was shot aboard a B-29 bomber on December 14, 1944. Thailand, having been occupied by Japan, actually issued a declaration of war against the Allied powers. Another news clip from the World War II era is a parade of soldiers fighting for the Seri Thai or Free Thai movement, which was opposed to the Japanese occupation and the totalitarian Thai government of the time.

An interesting artifact is 1967's Gnathostoma Spinigerum and Gnathostomiasis in Thailand, a short film made by a Thai physician to present his findings about roundworms and the illness caused by them.

Another historic reel is the first Thai animated film, 1955's Hed Mahassajan (The Miraculous Incident), by the "Walt Disney of Thailand", Payut Ngaokrachang. The short depicts a humorous city outing by a gentleman – Payut himself – and culminates in a traffic pileup caused by a policeman being distracted by a popped button on an attractive lady's outfit.

Feature films on the list include the 1958 musical drama Dark Heaven, the first color film by pioneering auteur RD Pestonji. There's also 1959's Mae Nak Phra Khanong, the first of many adaptations of the famous legend of the ghost wife.

The romantic drama Reun Pae (The Houseboat) from 1961 is another enduring classic. Even today, youngsters can hum along to the theme song. Historic for a number of reasons, it was a Hong Kong co-production and was shot on 35mm with sound, rare for the era when post-dubbed 16mm films were still prevalent. It was chosen for restoration through a grant by Technicolor and the Thomson Foundation a few years ago.

Iconic screen couple Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat star in the 1965 entry, the sprawling musical comedy Ngern Ngern Ngern (Money, Money, Money) and 1970's action drama Insee Tong (Golden Eagle), which Mitr died making, being killed in a fall from a helicopter while filming the last scene. Petchara's first film, 1961's The Love Diary of Pimchawee, is also on the list.

Even the costumed B-movie antics of notorious cult director Sompote Sands are honored in this year's list, with Hanuman vs Seven Superheroes from 1974 making the cut. It has footage of Thai mythological characters intercut with footage from a Japanese Ultraman movie.

There are also examples of "social problem" movies, with Kru Bannok (The Country Teacher) from 1978 and MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's taxi-driver drama The Citizen starring Sorapong Chatree from 1977. Another social-realism stalwart, Vichit Kounavudhi, is represented with his early effort, 1961's Hands of a Thief.

Newer notable films are also included, such as 1999's gritty urban homelessness drama Kon Jorn. The most recent entry on the list being Uruphon Raksasad's award-winning farmer drama Sawan Ban Na (Agrarian Utopia) from 2009.

Registry of Films as National Heritage, 2012

  1. Chok Song Chan (เรื่องโชคสองชั้น , Double Luck), 1927
  2. Cheewit Kon 2475 (ชีวิตก่อน 2475, Life Before 1932, 1930
  3. Hae Rattathamanoon (แห่รัฐธรรมนูญ , National Constitution Parade, 1933
  4. King Rama VIII's Arrival in Thailand, 1938
  5. The bombing of Bangkok, 1944
  6. Seri Thai March, 1945
  7. Hed Mahassajan (เหตุมหัศจรรย์ , The Miraculous Incident), 1955
  8. Sawan Meud (สวรรค์มืด , Dark Heaven), 1958
  9. Mae Nak Phra Khanong (แม่นาคพระโขนง), 1959
  10. World Boxing Championship, match between Hua Hin native Pon Kingphetch and Argentina's Pascal Peres, Bangkok, 1960
  11. Meu Jon (มือโจร, Hands of a Thief), 1961
  12. Reun Phae (เรือนแพ , The House Boat), 1961
  13. Bunteuk Rak Khong Pimchawee (บันทึกรักของพิมพ์ฉวี, The Love Diary of Pimchawee), 1962
  14. Ngern Ngern Ngern (เงิน เงิน เงิน, Money, Money, Money), 1965
  15. Saneh Bangkok (เสน่ห์บางกอก , Charming Bangkok), 1966
  16. Gnathostoma Spinigerum and Gnathostomiasis in Thailand, 1967
  17. A Drug Inmate's Execution by Firing Squad, 1967
  18. Insee Thong (อินทรีทอง, Golden Eagle), 1970
  19. The Dalai Lama Visits Suan Mokkh, 1972
  20. Hanuman Pob 7 Yod Manut (หนุมานพบ 7 ยอดมนุษย์ , Hanuman vs the Seven Superheroes, 1974
  21. Thongpoon Khokpho Rassadon Temkhan (ทองพูน โคกโพ ราษฎรเต็มขั้น, The Citizen), 1977
  22. Kru Bannok (ครูบ้านนอก, The Country Teacher), 1978
  23. Muang Nai Mhok (เมืองในหมอก , City in the Mist), 1978
  24. Kon Jorn (คนจร ฯลฯ ), 1999
  25. Sawan Ban Na (สวรรค์บ้านนา, Agrarian Utopia), 2009

Kong Rithdee further details the list in his article today in the Bangkok Post.

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