Saturday, January 17, 2015

Vanishing Point – no, not that Vanishing Point – appears in Rotterdam's Tiger competition

Each year, the International Film Festival Rotterdam provides a good look at things to come in indie Thai cinema, and this year's big highlight is the world premiere of Vanishing Point (วานิชชิ่ง พอยท์), a new feature from video artist and indie helmer Jakrawal Nilthamrong.

Containing a car – though likely not a 1970 Dodge Challenger – and twisted wreckage, Vanishing Point is not a remake of the cult-classic car-chase drama, though like the characters in that 1971 flick, the folks in 2015's Vanishing Point are also dealing with existential crises.

It's actually a partly autobiographical picture by Jakrawal, who opens it with photos and words from Thai newspaper articles from 1983, reporting on a horrific car-train wreck that left his mother severely injured and his father permanently disabled. From there, he branches out with a fictional drama, involving various characters struggling with their beliefs.

Here's the festival synopsis:

A serious film about serious, complex issues (including a dramatic car crash), presented in a light, playful way. The film follows two very different men, each of whom changes his life in his own way. This doesn’t seem to be a direct result of the choices they make. Change can be like that.

Vanishing Point is an exercise in self-examination, even if Thai director Jakrawal Nilthamrong doesn’t appear directly in the film. It opens with images of a car crash involving Nilthamrong’s parents. Disturbing original news photos are initially used, but the director quickly switches to a fictional reconstruction at the scene of a crime, deep in a wood. We don't yet know how this shocking crime is related to the car accident. Various facts and stories are cautiously presented; the pieces of the puzzle don’t fall into place straight away.

Vanishing Point follows a young reporter who attends the reconstruction without being particularly impressed. He is against injustice, but is unable to give concrete expression to this feeling. Another storyline involves motel owner Yai, a joyless voyeur with little feeling for his family. His attempts to escape his day-to-day existence don’t really help.

The film is not sombre, however. Nilthamrong makes good use of diverting elements such as karaoke videos and popular music to develop his themes with a light touch. The question of how his parents’ accident has affected his life is a serious sidelight: how all of our actions affect the rest of our lives.

For more details, check the production PDF or Facebook. There's also a trailer. Just keep scrolling.

As usual, IFFR has a passel of Thai short films as well. Here's the line-up:

  • Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport – Sorayos Prapapan's well-travelled festival entry satirizes Thailand's foreign affairs and even film festivals like Rotterdam with a story about an elderly lady who appears in Thai indie films who gets a chance to travel overseas to a film fest.
  • Deleted – Nitas Sinwattanakul directs this 2013 short, about a man who continues to post on Facebook even after he dies, and his wife is powerless to block him.
  • Endless, Nameless – Pathompon "Mont" Tesprateep's wacky experimental short was shot on Super 8 film that was hand-processed. Yes. It's a flm made on actual film. Not sure what the heck it's about, but it won the top prize at last year's Thai Short Film and Video Festival.
  • Thursday – Festival regular Anocha Suwichakornpong, who got her big break in Rotterdam with her debut feature Mundane History, collaborates with Sarajevo filmmaker Sejla Kameric on a 44-minute visual dialogue that offers wordless impressions from old Europe and changing Asia.

The International Film Festival Rotterdam runs from January 21 to February 1.

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