Thursday, October 3, 2013

Karaoke Girl, Ilo Ilo and a Poj Arnon 3D horror in Bangkok cinemas

It's an interesting week for fans of Southeast Asian cinema in Bangkok, with the release of Ilo Ilo, the first Singaporean film to be awarded at the Cannes Film Festival and the city-state's submission to next year's Academy Awards.

There's also Karaoke Girl, the debut feature by indie Thai filmmaker Visra Vichet-Vadakan. A fixture from this year's festival circuit, Karaoke Girl is an experimental documentary and drama about a young woman who works as a bar "hostess" in Bangkok.

And as a weird aside, there's Mor Hok/Haa Pak Maa Taa Pee, the first 3D movie from Phranakorn Production and controversial director Poj Arnon.

Ilo Ilo is a family drama set against the backdrop of the 1997 financial crisis. Directed by Anthony Chen, the partly autobiographical story is about a Filipina maid who moves into an apartment with an ethnic Chinese family. She becomes a confidant to the bratty spoiled schoolboy son and newly unemployed dad, earning her a hairy eyeball from the pregnant domineering mother.

By coincidence, Ilo Ilo has a Bangkok connection, thanks to one of its producers, Wahyuni A. Hadi, wife of Thai indie filmmaker Aditya Assarat and herself one of the driving forces behind the promotion of Singaporean independent cinema. Winner of the Cannes Camera d'Or Award for best first feature – the first Singaporean film to be awarded at Cannes – Ilo Ilo is at House on RCA. Check out the trailer embedded below.

Karaoke Girl (สาวคาราโอเกะ, Sao Karaoke) depicts the grim life of a young woman who works as an escort. The debut feature of Visra  is the story of Sa, a country girl who was sent to Bangkok when she was just 15. After three years in a factory, she entered the sex trade in order to support her family. Four years later the filmmaker met her, documented her life in the city and in the country and also wrote a fictional script for her to act in. The story is drawn from Sa's actual experiences, threading memories of her rural childhood with the complicated reality of her urban life.

Boasting impressive credits, with New York University professor and Salaam Bombay cinematographer Sandi Sissel as a director of photography, Karaoke Girl premiered in the main competition at this year's International Film Festival Rotterdam, where it earned positive reviews. It went on to a bunch of other fests, including Helsinki and London's Terracotta Far East Film Festival as well as Karlovy Vary, Vancouver, Jeonju, Hamburg and Luxembourg City. It won the award for Emerging International Filmmaker at London's Open City Docs Fest.

Happily, the film had a positive effect on Sa, and she's turned her back on her old life, according to the filmmaker.

Karaoke Girl is in limited release at the Apex cinemas in Siam Square and the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada. It'll open next week at Major Cineplex Airport Plaza Chiang Mai and at Bangkok's House cinema on October 17. The trailer is embedded below.

Mor Hok/Haa Pak Maa Taa Pee (มอ6/5 ปากหมา ท้าผี, a.k.a. Make Me Shudder is the first stab into 3D by B-movie studio Phranakorn and schlock filmmaker Poj Arnon.

The horror comedy is about young schoolboys in short pants who challenge themselves by entering haunted buildings.

I don't know what else to say about this, except it looks like utter nonsense but I will still watch it because I haven't filled my Poj Arnon quota this year. The trailer is embedded below.

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