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.

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