Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Filmvirus puts Chulayarnnon Siriphol in spotlight

Chulayarnnon Siriphol is a perennial award winner at the Thai Short Film and Video Festival, where his films, usually satiric views on Thai society, are a highlight. They include documentaries, spoof documentaries and experimental films.

This Saturday, Filmvirus and the Reading Room offer a chance to see a bunch of them all at once with Wildtype Masterclass 001: Fuck Alligator.

The selection goes back as far as 2005 with Golden Sand House, and includes his 2008 winning student film Danger (Director's Cut)2011's award winners Mrs. Nuan Who Can Recall Her Past Lives and A Brief History of Memory and this year's award-winner Myth of Modernity.

There are two programs, at 1 and 3.30pm, followed at 6 by a masterclass and talk by Chulayarnnon.

The venue is the Reading Room, a fourth-floor walk-up gallery on Silom Soi 19, opposite Silom Center.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teacher's Diary chalked up for the Oscars

The sweet, sentimental romance The Teacher's Diary
(คิดถึงวิทยา, Kid Tueng Wittaya) has been submitted as Thailand's entry to the 87th Academy Awards, the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand has announced.

Directed by Nithiwat Tharatorn, the comedy-drama follows the slowly intertwining stories of two lonely teachers, a young woman and a young man, who are posted to the same rural school a year apart. Sukrit "Bie" Wisetkaew is a bumbling-but-enthusiastic ex-jock who is assigned to the remote floating schoolhouse. Cut off from such modern conveniences as electricity and telephone service, Song takes to reading an illustrated diary left by his predecessor Ann, and he slowly falls in love with her. Song later moves on, and when the headstrong and opinionated Ann (Chermarn "Ploy" Boonyasak) returns to her old post, she finds the battered diary has been expanded upon, and she develops feelings for Song, even though the two have never met.

Released in March by the GTH studio, The Teacher's Diary was a hit at the box office, and was the No. 1 film for two weeks with earnings of more than $3 million.

The 21st Thai entry into the Oscars' foreign-language division, The Teacher's Diary follows last year's submission, the thriller Countdown, which was also from GTH. Other Oscar submissions from GTH include 2009's Best of Times by Youngyooth Thongkonthun and 2005's The Tin Mine by Jira Maligool.

Thailand began submitting Oscar hopefuls in 1985, intermittingly at first, but annually from 1997, with entries by such names as MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, Bhandit Rittakol, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. So far, none have made the final short list of nominees.

Update: The Nation's Soopsip column has more background on the choice. Tang Wong would have been the first choice, but it was released just two days too early for next year's Oscars (it should have been chosen last year, I think). Other contenders were Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy and The Last Executioner. They garnered votes of 4-3, while Teacher's Diary got a 5-2 vote from the Federation committee.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Concrete Clouds

  • Directed by Lee Chatametikool
  • Starring Ananda Everingham, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Janesuda Parnto, Prawith Hansten
  • Limited release in Thai cinemas on September 18, 2014; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Like its English title, Concrete Clouds, the movie Phawang Rak (ภวังค์รัก)0 is full of contradictions. It’s breezy, but deals with heavy emotions. It’s a romance, but there’s little real love. It feels unstructured, even though the minds behind it have very specific ideas about what they want to say and how they want to say it.

The much-anticipated directorial debut by long-time film editor Lee Chatametikool, Concrete Clouds is set during the complex and uncertain days of the 1997 financial crisis. It feels newer, yet is somehow still timeless.

Ananda Everingham stars as Mutt, a currency trader in New York who must suddenly return to Bangkok when his father takes a shortcut to the ground floor from the roof of his four-storey shophouse. After the funeral, Mutt tries to reconnect with Sai (Janesuda Parnto), his old girlfriend from high school. Meanwhile his younger brother Nic (Prawith Hansten) has struck up a relationship with Poupee (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk), a teenager who lives in a low-income flat behind their shophouse.

They are all conflicted characters. Mutt, who quite possibly enriched himself and his New York firm by betting on the Thai economy’s downfall, has a Westerner girlfriend back in the Big Apple. Yet he’s pursuing Sai, an actress and model in the midst of remaking herself as a businesswoman. But she’s not as happy nor as successful as she appears to be, and her pricey riverfront condo sits mostly empty.

Nic is too young to know what he wants out of life. Much younger than Mutt, he has little in common with his brother. Mutt, sitting at this father’s old desk, lectures the boy, in English, basically telling him it’s time to get out of Thailand. Mutt, who wants rid of the rundown family home, seeks to uproot Nic.

Poupee, meanwhile, is introduced while inhaling the vapours of a pink ya ba pill, which she quickly puts away when cops show up on the roof of the house across from hers. It seems likely she’ll follow her sister into the bar industry, but is content for the moment in her burgeoning romance with Nic.

As the couples pair off, the movie falls into a rhythm. Static scenes of the characters staring off in sadness are filled with silence that is stifling. But they are interchanged with livelier activities, such as Mutt visiting a Bangkok gentleman’s club with his old pals, or Sai doing a modelling gig and reconnecting with her friends.

Nic and Poupee are the characters in fantasy karaoke-video segments, which are complete with the lyrics for singing along. The karaoke dreams are vividly presented in the super-saturated colours of 1990s videos, making for eye-popping images that also recall Thai films of the time.

It’s a stuttering, shattered reflection on 1997 by Lee, who returned to Bangkok that year after being schooled overseas. In the years since, he’s gone on to be a major figure in the Thai movie business. As an editor, he’s helped shape such films as Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cannes prize-winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Mundane History, as well as various mainstream Thai movies.

Both Apichatpong and Anocha are producers on Concrete Clouds, along with veteran Thai independent-film hand Soros Sukhum and Taiwanese actress-director Sylvia Chang. It’s been supported along the way by various cinema funds and project markets, including Visions Sud East from Switzerland, the Busan film fest’s Asian Cinema Fund and the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Concrete Clouds is a tribute to Lee’s stunning resume and it shows just how big an influence he’s been on Thai indie cinema, even if it’s hard to tell just whose hand is on the tiller. Really, it’s a dizzying blend of all the usual elements of Thai indie films. There is the stillness and silences that punctuate Apichatpong’s offerings, and the jittering, jazz-like narrative structure reminded me of the chopped-and-diced timeline of Mundane History.

Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s 1997 debut Fun Bar Karaoke is specifically referenced, with a poster on Nic’s wall, but also in the dream-like karaoke sequences.

The presence of Ananda, well suited for the role of Mutt, recalls another project Lee edited and Ananda starred in, Aditya Assarat’s Hi-So, which dealt with the cross-cultural conflict of a Thai-American actor.

Spirited young actress Saipan Apinya again spreads her magic pixie dust, enlivening yet another film in much the same way she did in her debut in Pen-ek’s Ploy in 2007. And her character here feels like an extension of the one she played in Tongpong Chantarangkul’s 2011 road-trip drama I Carried You Home. Not only does she smoke ya ba (the main reason for the movie’s 18+ rating), she strips down do her knickers for a daring sex scene. Deft lighting, editing and probably makeup ensure that outspoken Saipan’s very un-’90s tattoos stay hidden.

And, like most indie films, there are startling discoveries of new talent, like the lovely brooding Janesuda and Prawith, making his screen debut as the angst-filled teen.

See also:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: Tukkae Rak Pang Mak (Chiang Khan Story)

  • Directed by Yuthlert Sippapak
  • Starring Jirayu La-ongmanee, Chonthida Asavahame
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 28, 2014; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Yuthlert Sippapak pays homage to his roots with the partly autobiographical romantic comedy Tukkae Rak Pang Mak (ตุ๊กแกรักแป้งมาก, a.k.a. Chiang Khan Story.

Spanning 20 years from the 1970s to the '90s in the Mekong River town of Chiang Khan in Yuthlert's home province of Loei, it's the story of childhood friends, the poor little orphan boy with the odd name of Tukkae (after the large chirping house lizard that's believed be a bad omen) and the wealthy girl Pang. They later grow apart, but are forced back together by circumstances that only happen in romantic comedies.

The first half of the movie, featuring a cast of child actors, is energetic, sweet and nostalgic, weaving in memories of 4-baht wooden cap guns with the rubber-band action, the then-newfangled foreign treat of jellybeans and GAF Viewmasters.

Tukkae and Pang take to hanging around the town's wooden shophouse cinema. It's during a magical time when such Thai cinema classics as Sombat Metanee's gritty actioner Chumpae is playing alongside Payut Ngaokrachang's animated triumph The Adventures of Sudsakorn and Sompote Sands' insane Hanuman vs. 7 Ultraman.

The kids are mentored by the theater's poster painter, played by Yuthlert's longtime collaborator "Uncle" Adirek Watleela. His character Pong Poster is a heartfelt tribute to still-living 1970s' director Piak Poster, who started out as a poster artist, as well as Uncle's late Buppa Rahtree co-star, character actor and production designer Bunthin Thuaykaew.

Tukkae, always on the defensive because of his funny nickname and his status as a poor orphan kid, seeks to play with the gang of chubby boys who always bully him. In lively action scenes, they blast away with their cap guns while wearing Red Eagle masks, like Mitr Chaibancha. And Tukkae accepts a dare that drives Pang out of his life, seemingly forever.

Flash forward a few years to Bangkok, Tukkae is a comic-book artist with aspirations of getting in the movie business. He's partnered up with a level-headed and experienced film hand, amiably played by Slice director Kongkiat Khomsiri, one of several film industry hands in the cast. In another scene, Thanit Jitnukul (Bang Rajan) turns up as a producer. He can't believe Tukkae doesn't know what a "treatment" is.

The guys are tasked with making a Mae Nak "liverscape" movie by a hilariously marble-mouthed B-movie producer who sees nothing wrong with moving the famous ghost story from Phra Khanong to Chiang Khan. Tukkae has other ideas, and he writes an "untitled" screenplay that is basically his life story, with a focus on his relationship with Pang.

The implausibilities stack up as Tukkae encounters Pang by chance in a Bangkok disco, and she doesn't remember him at all. In fact, nobody from Tukkae's old school remembers what anybody looks like. But this is, refreshingly, before Facebook and selfies, so I suppose the disbelief can be suspended somewhat. Mistaken identities and misunderstandings add to Tukkae's woes as Pang wakes up in Tukkae's bedroom and doesn't recognize Tukkae or any of his stuff (not even the Viewmaster she gave him).

But the two are thrown together anyway when Pang, now a famous actress, is cast for the role in Tukkae's movie. Awkwardness ensues on the set as Pang is confronted with the guy she only recognizes from that bad night out. She doesn't realize it's her old childhood friend, nor does she seem aware that he actually wrote the screenplay for the movie she's in.

The energy and sweetness of the movie's first half gives way to a wallowing slackness that's struggling to find an ending. It's not helped by the rather wooden performances by Kao Jirayu and Pleng Chontida. Kao, a former child actor with many credits, has better chemistry in later scenes with his character's dementia-addled grandmother who raised him. Pleng, the celebrity offspring of singer Nantida Kaewbuasai and scandal-plagued politician Chonsawat Asavahame, is making her screen debut, but seems to let a curly hairstyle and aviator sunglasses do all the work for her.

The supporting cast, especially the Tukky-type actress who plays Pang's best friend and manager, help to liven things up. She is friends with soldiers at the local army base, and they turn up on command to dish out beatings to anyone getting on her wrong side. Boriboon Chanruang portrays a director who spent so long in New York he's forgotten to speak Thai. He becomes Tukkae's chief rival in romancing Pang.

Yuthlert seems to have suppressed his infamous genre-jumping tendencies in an effort to make what he's called his first romantic comedy, though melodrama, horror and slapstick all creep their way in, just not as much or as often as his past films.

Tukkae Rak Pang Mak also marks a comeback of sorts for Yuthlert, who has done more than a dozen films over around half as many years up until a year or so ago. However, his last effort, the potentially controversial Deep South drama Fatherland (ปิตุภูมิ พรมแดนแห่งรัก, Pitupoom) was yanked from release by the film's producer. So Yuthlert retreated to Loei to regroup.

His new film is the first release from a new studio, Transformation Films, which is a joint venture of M Pictures, Bangkok Film Studio (formerly Film Bangkok), True I-Content and Matching Studio.

Box-office performance for Tukkae has been middling, with 12.7 million baht in earnings at last count, but hopefully the company will soldier on and perhaps give one of Thai cinema's most distinctive voices yet another chance to tell his stories.

See also:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thai Short 18: Endless, Nameless takes top prize

Cabezón (Big Head), winner of the International Competition.

Endless, Nameless, a highly experimental film that was actually shot on film, won the top-prize R.D. Pestonji Award for general Thai filmmakers at the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival on Sunday.

Directed by Pathompon Tesprateep and shot on Super 8 footage that was then processed by hand, the flickering images depicted soldiers gathered in a high-ranking officer's backyard. They are pitted against various objects, inanimate and otherwise, including a hissing cobra, which sways back and forth.

The pick of Endless, Nameless came as the Thai Short Film and Video Festival paid tribute to the Thai Film Archive's 30th anniversary, with Archive EX, a special program of Thai experimental films from pre-digital age.

But the triumph of the 8mm experimental film also comes as one of the festival's long-running awards, the Kodak Filmschool Award, for student films made with Kodak stock, is no more. Aside from Endless, Nameless, no other competition entries were made on film – all were digital productions. Meanwhile, two production service companies, VS Service and Cinetoys, stepped in this year with two new special awards, both honoring movies about movie-making.

The Cinetoys' prize went to Rest in Peace by Nonthakorn Patphol (The Thai title ภาพยนตร์เรื่องสุดท้ายพระเอกตายตอนจบ refers to the action-movie hero dying in the end) while VS Services' gong went to Endslate, capturing a day on the set of an indie movie.

Other entries in the R.D. Pestonji competition, named for Thailand's pioneering auteur of the 1950s, included the runner-up Endlessly by Sivaroj Kongsakul, about a grandmother and her grandchild spending a day together. It was also among winners of the Vichamatra Award for distinctive achievements in filmmaking.

Another Pestonji entry, Isan Mars, about a project to send workers from Thailand's rural Northeast to Mars, was among the winners of the BACC Award, instituted last year by the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, which hosts the festival.

Also from the Pestonji line-up was The Way of Life, Tah Kwa's look at the forced ouster of indigenous people from their traditional homes in the upland forests to the lowlands. It won a special mention in the Pestonji category and the Pirabkhao (White Dove) Award from the 14 October 73 Memorial Foundation for films highlighting social concerns.

In the International Competition, the top prize went to Cabezón (Big Head), a Chilean comedy in which a painter is tasked with painting a portrait of a client's pet dog – an old stubborn and lazy mastiff. The painter eventually bonds with his subject, plying the epically drooling canine with sliced ham.

The White Elephant Award top prize went to the coming-of-age friendship drama Menstrual Synchrony by Jirassaya Wongsuthin, which also shared the Popular Vote award with The Second Friendship Book by Pakchayos Charanchol, which competed in the Special White Elephant category for filmmakers under 18.

In animation, the Payut Ngaokrachang Award went to Neither Lit Nor Dark by Chanon Treenate. The prize is named after Thailand's pioneering animator. Among the runners-up was I Can Fly by perennial award-winner Twatpong Tangsajapoj, which also won a Vichamatra Award. A special mention went to The Bird and the Fish by Kanitrin Thailamthong, in which a lifelike cartoon pigeon witnesses a fish falling from the sky. It also won a BACC Award.

BACC Award

  • The Bird and the Fish by Kanitrin Thailamthong
  • Isan Mars by P. Sangsorn

Special Award from Cinetoys and Services Co., Ltd.

  • Rest in Peace by Nonthakorn Patphol

Special Award from VS Service Company Limited

  • Endslate by Chinnavorn Nongyoa

Pirabkhao award

  • The Way of Life by Tah Kwa

Duke Award (documentaries)

  • Special Mention – Khon Tie Tor by Kittipat Kanoknak and Dad by Tipwan Narintorn
  • Runner-up – Once in a Year by Teerapan Ngaojeeranan and Lice in the Wonderland by Boonyarit Wiengnon
  • Grand-Prix – Rao Choana Yoo Kub Kwai (เราชาวนาอยู่กับควาย ) by Wachara Kunha

R.D. Pestonji Award International Competition
  • Special Mention – Mama by Lidia Sheinin, Russia
  • Best International Short Film – Cabezón (Big Head) by Jairo Boisier, Chile 

R.D. Pestonji Award (for general Thai filmmakers)
  • Special Mention – The Way of Life by Tah Kwa, Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport by Soroyos Prapapan and Narayana’s Arrow Spaceship: Between the Orbits of Mars and Jupiter by Paranoid Team
  • Runner-up – Endlessly by Sivroj Kongsakul, Somewhere Only We Know by Wichanon Somumjarn and Myth of Modernity by Chulayarnnon Siriphol
  • Grand Prix – Endless, Nameless by Pathompon Tesprateep

Payut Ngaokrachang Award (animation)
  • Special Mention – The Bird and the Fish by Kanitrin Thailamthong, Congratulations by Pathompong Thititan and Aelio by Pongpreecha Kittiporniwat
  • Runner-Up – I Can Fly by Twatpong Tangsajapoj and The Blanket by Pasraporn Tampanon
  • Grand Prix – Neither Lit Nor Dark by Chanon Treenate
Special White Elephant (students under 18)
  • Special Mention – Past Perfect by Wethaka Jarampornsakul and Sirya Lertsmithwong and The Second Friendship Book by Pakchayos Charanchol
  • Grand Prix – The Misplaced Flower by Zo Chamuleur
White Elephant (student films)
  • Special Mention – Duct Move Past by Nichapa Trongsiri  , Hula Hoop by Reawadee Ngamloon, Khmer Talisman by Pissamai Duangnoi and /'Spel,baund by Nat Eiamkhunthongsuk
  • Runner-Up – 329 by Tinnawat Chankloi and Gandharva by Theerapat Ngathong
  • Grand Prix – Menstrual Synchrony by Jirassaya Wongsuthin

JENESYS 2.0 Award (Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youth)
  • A-ANT by Natpong Prasri
  • Inspiration by Punya Choo
  • Red Shoes by Wannisa Pinjai
  • Dream and Bad Day by Pakawadee Pongisrapan
  • Home by Apinya Mahatham
  • Brush by Nat Watanakul
  • Do you? by Patraporn Rachatakittisuntorn
  • Illusive Dream by Patrin Chaopanich
  • Window Job by Parunyu Chaisri
Best Actor
  • Ornanong Thaisriwong from Anna

Vichitmatra Award
  • Scent of the Morning Sun by Monkham Khukhuntin and Harin Paesongthai
  • Goodbye by Nakorn Chaisri
  • I Can Fly by Twatpong Tangsajapoj
  • Endlessly by Sivaroj Kongsakul

Popular Vote
  • Menstrual Synchrony by Jirassaya Wongsuthin
  • The Second Friendship Book by Pakchayos Charanchol

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Vientiane in Love premiere set for 2014 line-up of Luang Prabang Film Festival

Vientiane in Love is one of four Lao films in the fest.
The world premiere of Vientiane in Love, an omnibus romance by four Lao directors, will open the fifth edition of the Luang Prabang Film Festival, set for December 6 to 10 in the Unesco World Heritage former royal capital of Laos.

Screening on the main screen in the festival's 800-seat outdoor main venue, Vientiane in Love is by four directors from Lao New Wave Cinema, Vannaphone Sitthirath, Xaisongkham Induangchanthy, Phanumad Disattha and Anysay Keola, who made his debut in 2012 with the thriller At the Horizon.

Three other features from Laos' newly emergent film industry will also screen – Really Love by Jear Sirivongsa, which had a successful theatrical run in Laos, Tuk-Tuk by the Lao-French director Simon Luang Kiyé, and the Lao-Thai co-production by My Teacher, by Thai director Niyom Wongpongkham.

Celebrating the best in Southeast Asian cinema, the festival will feature works by such well-known auteurs as Cambodia's Rithy Panh, and his Oscar-nominated autobiographical documentary The Missing Picture, and Indonesia's Riri Riza, whose latest is The Jungle School. Also from Cambodia is Chhay Bora's new film, the drama 3.50, in which a documentary filmmaker tries to rescue a girl sold into prostitution.

Other festival highlights are the crowd-pleasing Thai hits Pee Mak Phra Khanong and Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy and Singapore's Cannes Golden Camera winner Ilo Ilo.

Documentaries include the coffee-infused Aroma of Heaven from Indonesia, the Thai environmental disaster of By the River, The Boatbuilders of Mermaid Island from Malaysia, and The Songs of Rice, an explosive music-and-dance-laden look at the festivals that accompany rice cultivation in Thailand.

Vietnamese offerings include the award-winning musical The Talent by first-time director Nguyen Quang Huy, which won six Golden Kites, including best feature, the country's top film award.

Among the Filipino films is the crime drama The Patriarch, romance with Shift, coming-of-age drama in Catnip and young-punk adventures in Iskawalags.

Myanmar is represented by Midi Z and his partly autobiographical coming-home drama Return to Burma.

Other Thai features include Lee Chatametikool's Concrete Clouds, starring Lao-Australian leading man and festival favorite Ananda Everingham, and the hit GTH romance The Teacher's Diary.

All screenings and activities of the festival are free and open to the public. Selected by LPFF's Motion Picture Ambassadors (film experts in each of the participating countries), the feature films in the 2014 festival will be:

  • 3.50, directed by Chhay Bora, Cambodia
  • Aroma of Heaven, directed by Budi Kurniawan, Indonesia
  • The Boatbuilders of Mermaid Island, directed by Azharr Rudin and Imri Nasution, Malaysia
  • By the River, directed by Nontawat Numbenchapol, Thailand
  • Catnip, directed by Kevin Dayrit, Philippines
  • Concrete Clouds, directed by Lee Chatametikool, Thailand
  • Ilo Ilo, directed by Anthony Chen, Singapore
  • Iskalawags, directed by Keith Deligero, Philippines
  • The Jungle School, directed by Riri Riza, Indonesia
  • Madam Phung’s Last Journey, directed by Tham Nguyen Thi, Vietnam
  • The Mangoes, directed by Tonny Trimarsanto, Indonesia
  • Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy, directed by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Thailand
  • The Missing Picture, directed by Rithy Panh, Cambodia
  • My Teacher, Niyom Wongpongkham, Laos
  • The Patriarch, directed by Borgy Torre, Philippines
  • Pee Mak Phrakanong, directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, Thailand
  • Really Love, directed by Jear Sirivongsa, Laos
  • Return to Burma, directed by Midi Z, Myanmar
  • Sayang Disayang, directed by Sanif Olek, Singapore
  • Shift, directed by Siege Ledesma, Philippines
  • The Songs of Rice, directed by Uruphong Raksasad, Thailand
  • Streetside, directed by Daniel Ziv, Indonesia
  • The Teacher’s Diary, directed by Nithiwat Tharathorn, Thailand
  • The Talent, directed by Nguyen Quang Huy, Vietnam
  • Tuk-Tuk, directed by Simon Luang Kiyé, Laos
  • Vientiane in Love, directed by Vannaphone Sitthirath, Xaisongkham Induangchanthy, Phanumad Disattha and Anysay Keola, Laos
  • We Are Moluccan, directed by Angga Dwimas Sasongko, Indonesia

In addition to these feature film screenings, LPFF will have short films, including all 18 entries from DocNet Southeast Asia's second ChopShots fest. Short-film competition entries from Laos' other film festival, the Vientianale, will also be shown.

As always, LPFF will create a space for regional film professionals and fans to network, dialogue and encourage local film production. There will be panel discussions, question-and-answer sessions, music, dance and puppetry performances.

Festival-goers can expect an update on the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project (the director of which will be speaking later this month at TEDx in Chiang Mai), as well as other film-related exhibitions.

In an exciting new partnership, representatives of leading Thai theater chain Major Cineplex will be in attendance and one of the festival’s films may be selected for theatrical distribution.

Coca-Cola is one of the festival’s biggest sponsors once again this year, having also made a very generous donation to LPFF’s Lao Filmmakers Fund, a publicly-generated fund that allows filmmakers in Laos to apply for grants to help realize their film projects. This year, filmmakers are able to request up to US$10,000 in support.

For further information, visit www.lpfilmfest.org or stay up to date at Facebook.com/lpfilmfest.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thai Short 18 review: R.D. Pestonji 2-3

Thai short films entered the Twilight Zone in the R.D. Pestonji competition of the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival. Indie filmmakers blasted into the realms of space and fantasy, as well as the spiritual and, of course, political, in the range of entries, which featured such established names as Kongdej Jaturanrasmee and Wichanon Somumjarn.

Even without an elaborate spaceship, Paranoid Team's sci-fi thriller Narayana’s Arrow Spaceship: Between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter (ยานศรนารายณ์: ระหว่างวงโคจรดาวอังคารและดาวพฤหัสฯ ) demonstrated how surprisingly effective a simple set can be in relating the slow-burn madness of long-distance interplanetary travel. The crew is two, plus their fantastic dial-up-Internet-powered android assistant – a computer, ship's chaplain and, presumably, sex toy, wrapped up into one. There are two crewmen, from the top and bottom of the social strata in Thailand, and only one can live if the ship is to make it back to Earth.

A Forest is Always Full of Surprise (ในป่าเต็มไปด้วยเรื่องอัศจรรย์ ) has last year's big award winner Eakalek Maleetipawan revisiting the mysterious Endless Realm (as well as a 2011 winner A Moment in the Rainforest). The ante is upped this time around with a wolf-costume-man shadowing a bow-hunter in the sun-dappled woods, down by the babbling creek.

Myth of Modernity by Chulayarnon Siriphol blasted back up into the heavens, starting out as a documentary on how Buddhist cosmology influences Thai architecture. The scripture's Mount Meru is represented in everything from the spike on a guard's helmet to the pyramid-shaped structures atop Bangkok's skyscrapers. Eventually, these pyramids, constructed out of fluorescent light tubes, become vehicles to the next plain of enlightenment, and they go up and up and up, endlessly. But where, really? Coincidentally, the documentary's talking-head "independent scholar" and break-out star was none other than filmmaker and festival technician Nuttorn Kungwanklai, who happened to be projecting the film he was in.

Back on Earth, Wichanon Somumjarn dealt with a young woman's struggles in Somewhere Only We Know (จุฬญาณนนท์ ศิริผล), a project he put together through a crowdfunding campaign. The young lady struggles to make ends meet in an accounting office, plus she needs to support her mother. In the midst of all this, her ex-boyfriend stops by to get his "stuff". Why do they always leave "stuff" behind?

There were gales of laughter for Pairach Khumwan's Too Good To Be True (คนดี (ที่เธอไม่รัก) ), a playful satire involving a university student's clumsy attempt to woo a pretty girl on campus, but his best friend gets in the way.

Romance and travelogue mixed in the R.D. Pestonji 3 lead-off entry A Bat Has Flown (รางวัลรัตน์ เปสตันยี 3), following the life of a Thai restaurant worker in Sydney. No lost elephants here. We see the city through his eyes as he particpates on the fringes of a marathon run, and hangs out by the bridge. Later, he spends an evening with a fellow Thai, and, yeah, well, there are bats, giant fruit bats.

The Way of Lives (วิถีชีวิต ) by Hta Kwa and produced by Chiang Mai's Friend Without Borders, is a look at Karen families driven from their homes in mountain forests to a settlement in the lowlands, where they must abandon their traditions and learn new ways of farming and living, even if it doesn't mean living on the farm.

Kongdej Jaturanrasmee gives viewers an up-close and personal look at his talented twin daughters in Udon (อุด้ง ). Between footage of the girls, studying, practicing their music – one on piano and the other on a finicky violin – there are text-message intertitles. None were subtitled, but the film was well-received. Kongdej said later he made the film on a low budget and didn't account for subs. In fact, that was all explained in the text and that's why so many folks were cracking up, for that, and other things.

Crazy as it seems, there are still folks making films on film, and in the case of Endless, Nameless, Pathompon Tesprateep and producer Pathompong Manakitsomboon rounded up the troops to make a film on Super 8 stock, and then hand-process the reels. Others taking part in the cinematography were music-festival videographer Danaya Chulphuthiphong and video artist Taiki Sakpisit. The result is flickering footage of a hissing, spitting cobra, its head swaying back and forth, and back and forth, which is what my head was doing. It became a dream, and then, like Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men, I woke up.

And so it was up to the appropriately titled Endslate by Chinavorn Nongyao to ease me back into the world. The 15-minute short was divided into two, starting with a comedy bit about a director trying to shoot a scene at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok. Prominent indie-film cinematographer, wearing sunglasses, naturally, shakes his head at the ridiculousness of the proceedings. Things calm down during the shooting of a restaurant scene – a poignant end for a film-festival program that honors one of Thai cinema's pioneering auteurs.

Unfortunately, because of work conflicts, I was unable to see R.D. Pestonji 1, which included a new work by Sivaroj Kongsakul, Endlessly (ศิวโรจณ์ คงสกุล ). There was also another Auntie Maam adventure, featuring the maid of Six to Six and Hi-So in Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport (ดาวอินดี้ ), directed by Sorayos Prapapan and a follow-up to last year's Boonrerm.

World premieres set for So Be It, W at Busan

A new feature by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee and the debut of Chonlasit Upanigkit will have world premieres at the Busan International Film Festival, alongside international debuts for two other Thai films and more.

Kongdej's boyhood drama So Be It, which was backed the festival's Asian Cinema Fund for post-production, is about a pair of boys, one a seven-year-old Thai-American who wants to be a monk and an  11-year-old hill-tribe kid who was forced to spend his entire life at a provincial temple. "From radically different backgrounds, the two look to find themselves through Buddhism."

Chonlasit, a film editor on past-year Busan entries Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy and 36, makes his feature debut behind the lens with W. "University pals Neung, Ploy and Ton face their uncertain futures in this collegiate epic winding through their intertwining lives," says the synopsis. "Director Chonlasit’s graduation project taps into the anxieties of contemporary twenty something and best friends struggling with choices they didn’t always want to make."

Both So Be It and W are in the Window on Asian Cinema, alongside two other Thai entries, indie director Parm Rangsri's Fah Gam Toh (ฟ้าแก้มโต), which opens in Thai cinemas today, and Nithiwat Tharatorn's hit GTH romance The Teacher's Diary (คิดถึงวิทยา, Kid Tueng Wittaya). Parm, following up his drama Daddy's Menu, reteams with comedian Ping Lumpraplerng for a fatherhood drama about a faded veteran singer who is struggling to recapture his stardom.

More Thai films are in the Wide Angle line-up, with the coming-of-age drama That Day of the Month by Jirassaya Wongsutin making its debut in the Asian Short Film Competition.

Another world premiere will be The Singers, a new work by Nonzee Nimibutr, in the Short Film Showcase. It's about an elderly singer who decides to teach her money-grubbing grandkids a lesson. She takes off and ends up hanging out with a another singer, much-poorer, who has just been arrested for peddling old CDs without a permit.

And in the Documentary Showcase, it's Y/our Music, a U.K.-Thai production by Waraluck Every and David Reeve that surveys nine non-mainstream musicians, from "rice field to leftfield".

The 19th Busan International Film Festival runs from October 2 to 11.

(Thanks Soros!)

Five projects picked for Bangkok Produire au Sud Workshop 2014

Film projects from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have been chosen for the 2014 editon of the Bangkok Produire au Sud Workshop.

Initiated by the Produire au Sud workshop of the Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes, France and the World Film Festival of Bangkok, the Bangkok event runs around every other year.

Here's this year's selection;

  • Arnold is a Model Student, directed by Sorayos Parapapan and produced by Donsaron Kovitvanitcha (Thailand)
  • Nervious Translation, directed by Shireen Seno and produced by John Torres (Philippines)
  • Orn. directed by Thammaruja Dharmasaroja and produced by Thammasiree Dharmasaroja (Thailand)
  • The Science of Fictions, directed by Edwin Nazir and produced by Yosep Anggi Noen (Indonesia)
  • Where Does the Mango Come From?, directed by Quy Truong and produced by Ha Vu (Vietnam)

Past Produire aud Sud projects have included Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Blissfully Yours, O Nothapan's A Moment in June and Wichanon Somumjarn's upcoming Beer Girl.

The workshop runs from October 23 to 25 as part of the 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 17 to 26.