Friday, February 22, 2013

CAAMFest brings Thai cheer to San Francisco

The Cheer Ambassadors, a rousing documentary about Thai cheerleaders that shows what sheer determination and teamwork can accomplish, will have its North American premiere the Center for Asian American Media's CAAMFest, formerly the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival.

It’ll join another Thai film at the festival – Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Mekong Hotel.

The Cheer Ambassadors follows the plucky underdogs of the Thai national cheerleading squad as they surprise everyone by beating the powerhouse U.S. team to bring home medals from the World Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Florida.

Since debuting at the ninth World Film Festival of Bangkok in January 2012, it’s been shown in nine countries, winning Best Documentary at the 60°N Os festival in Norway and the Audience Award at the ChopShots documentary Edge Festival in Jakarta.

The film struck a chord with CAAMFest’s Masashi Niwano.

“This is a film with heart and soul, it speaks to people of all ages and races, regardless of if they have heard of cheerleading, Thailand or not. It has tremendous breakout potential, I have high hopes that its inspirational message will reach beyond the festival circuit and touch people across the world,” Niwano said in a press release. “The fact that it’s a debut film from a group of self-taught filmmakers is amazing. We look forward to working with them in the future.”

Luke Cassady-Dorion, the film’s director, says he does indeed have more projects in the works about Thailand – “a country that has taken me on as an adopted son”.

Plans are to release The Cheer Ambassadors in Thai cinemas at the end of this year, a prospect cheered on by filmmaker Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, president of the Thai Film Directors Association.

“It’s exciting to see the quality of work that comes from the right collaboration. The Cheer Ambassadors was made by Americans and Thais working together, and represents a new wave for Thai documentary cinema. This film doesn’t just chronicle the greatest victory for a Thai sports team ever, it also gives a unique lesson on Thai culture.”

CAAMFest runs from March 14 to 24 in various venues around San Francisco.

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