Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Documentary The Stunt gives voice to Thailand's unheralded stuntmen

Before Ong-Bak hit the scene in 2003, Thai action cinema was largely unheard of outside Thailand, except perhaps for a handful of cult-film nerds.

Ong-Bak changed all that, spawning hordes of fanboys worldwide. With its rough-and-tumble, "no wires, no CGI" style, the movie made household names of star Tony Jaa, his mentor martial-arts choreographer Panna Rithikrai and director Prachya Pinkaew. Before Ong-Bak, Panna had toiled away in obscurity for years, making C-grade direct-to-VCD action flicks. But with Ong-Bak, an entire industry has grown up around Panna, who now runs a major martial-arts and stunt training center that's grooming the next Tony Jaa as well as the legions of black-shirted foes who oppose him.

Nonetheless, the lot of most Thai stunt performers has not much improved in the decades since the start of the industry, with no stuntmen's guild and sometimes a shocking lack of safety standards. Many stunt actors still grind away to earn a living, performing death-defying acts in live stunt shows in the Thai countryside.

A new documentary film, The Stunt, produced by Dream Maker Entertainment with support from the Department of Tourism, looks into the history and hardships of the still largely unheralded Thai stuntmen. It's directed by Sathanapong Limwongthong.

Interviewees include Panna and Prachya, and the documentary goes deeper into the industry by giving voice to several other players – "Seng" Kawee Sirikhaerut (The Hangover Part 2, Rambo 4), Pangrit Saengcha, Ant Vatcharachai (King Naresuan), Kecha Jaika, Nhong N.T., Thep Baanrig, Nung Pradit, Tik Bigbrother, Nerun Sreesun (Fireball, Red Eagle), Wych Kaosayananda and Gary Daniels.

The Stunt will screen on Sunday, January 20 at 2pm at the Lido cinemas in Siam Square, Bangkok.

Find out more by checking out the film's Facebook page and by watching English-subtitled trailer below.

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