Sunday, May 31, 2015

Teacher's Diary leads Tukkata Tong nominations

The Tukkata Tong Awards are still a thing.

At one time, these movie awards put on by the Thai Entertainment Reporters Association were Thailand's top movie honor.

But over the decades, the Golden Dolls, as they are also known, became mired in corruption, lost credibility and were eventually supplanted by the Subhanahongsa Awards, organized by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand.

The Tukkata Tong Awards (รางวัลพระสุรัสวดี)  were revived some years back, but haven't been extensively covered in Thailand's English-language press, which is why I never noticed they were happening in the first place. Thank social-media like Facebook for cluing me in.

The reasons for the lack of media coverage are murky and very Thai, but are probably at least in part due to the prize's checkered history, which according to a Nation story last year, involved "a series of corrupt and unfair judgements, which in some cases saw the awards going to unfinished and unreleased films."

Anyway, while the Subhanahongsa Awards are now considered to be the "Thai Oscars", being put on by the leading film-industry organization, the Tukkata Tongs are probably closer in lineage and relevance to the Golden Globe Awards put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Film-industry folk appreciate any sort of positive recognition and think the Tukkata Tongs are still swell. So they will be turning up in their red-carpet finery for the awards ceremony on Tuesday at the Thailand Cultural Center.

The leading nominees are The Teachers' Diary (คิดถึงวิทยา, Kid Tueng Wittaya) with 15 nods, Chiang Khan Story (Tukkae Rak Pang Mak, ตุ๊กแกรักแป้งมาก) and Concrete Clouds (ภวังค์รัก, Phawang Rak) with 11, Timeline Jodmai Khwam Songjam (Timeline จดหมาย-ความทรงจำ) with seven and, The Last Executioner (เพชฌฆาต, Petchakat), which was snubbed completely by the Subhanahongsas, with six.

Other multiple nominees are The Swimmers (ฝากไว้..ในกายเธอ, Fak Wai Nai Kai Ther) with five, The Couple (รัก ลวง หลอน, Rak Luang Lon) with four, Tai Hong Tai Hian (ตายโหงตายเฮี้ยน), Plae Kao (แผลเก่า, a.k.a. The Scar), Phoobao Thai Baan E-San Indy (ผู้บ่าวไทบ้าน อีสานอินดี้, PBTB) and I Fine ... Thank You ... Love You (ไอฟาย..แต๊งกิ้ว..เลิฟยู้) with three. The documentary Somboon, indie rural ode Village of Hope (วังพิกุล, Wangphikul) and the wax-figure thriller Hong Hoon have two nods each.

Single nods went to 1448 Rak Rao Khong Khrai (1448 รักเราของใคร , a.k.a. Love Among Us), The Master, Mother, W., Sming and By the River (สายน้ำติดเชื้อ, Sai Nam Tid Shoer).

The complete list of nominees can be found (in Thai) at

Friday, May 22, 2015

Apichatpong-a-rama: Ovation for Cemetery of Splendour


That's the word being tossed around, and not lightly, to describe Apichatpong Weerasethakul's latest feature, Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น, Rak Ti Khon Kaen), which had its world premiere on Monday at the Cannes Film Festival, and was warmly received with a 10-minute standing ovation.

Following the film's screening in the Un Certain Regard competition, pundits at Cannes are calling Cemetery of Splendour one of the best films in the fest, and some wonder why it wasn't included in the main Palme d'Or competition, especially since Apichatpong is a past Palme d'Or and Jury Prize winner. Adding to the feeling of irk is the fact that Splendour wasn't included in the fest's original line-up announcement – it wasn't added until about a week later.

A number-crunching critics rating ranks Splendour with a strong score of 8.45, making it second overall to Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien's main competition title The Assassin, and ahead of Todd Haynes' much-buzzed-about Carol.

In an article in The Nation today, Apichatpong downplayed concerns about the Un Certain Regard slot. Here's the quote:

Cemetery of Splendour is another step forward for me, but I understand why the film was chosen for Un Certain Regard. As I said on the stage, Un Certain Regard is the section for real discovery and excitement, and I am happy that the film is being shown with other titles from new directors who will be the future of cinema.”

Further coverage of the premiere was included earlier in the week in The Nation's Soopsip gossip column, where World Film Festival of Bangkok chief Kriengsak "Victor" Silakong was quoted:

"It is a truly Thai film and uses the Isaan dialect throughout," Victor observes. "It's an unbelievable mix of belief, the spiritual world and fact. Yet the film is simple and thought-provoking. Joe still has it, and I salute him!"

There were loud cheers as the credits rolled in Cannes. "The applause went on for a long time, like 10 minutes" Victor says. "It was fantastic!"

Anyway, to recap, Cemetery of Splendour is about a lonely middle-aged woman (Apichatpong's frequent actress Jejira Pongpas) who is caring for soldiers in a rural clinic who have been stricken with a mysterious sleeping sickness. She forms a bond with a patient named Itt (Banlop Lomnoi from Tropical Malady) while also forming a friendship with a spirit medium (Jarinpattra Rueangram), who says the slumbering malady was caused by a disturbance to "an ancient cemetery of kings".

A frequently used still image has Apichatpong's trademark fluorescent lights. Here, they are used in the treatment of the snoozing soldiers, and add a surreal science-fiction element to spiritual tale.

So let's get to those reviews. First up, Jessica Kiang from IndieWire's The Playlist:

"It is also because the mood 'Cemetery' evokes, a sense of alien wonder that seems not to sink in from the outside but to spring from the bass-deep pit of your own stomach, came to me as perhaps the purest expression of cinema as it was meant to be seen: in a theater, in the dark, in the quiet, inspiring and requiring a quality of distraction-free attention that is simply disappearing as a mode of interaction with art."

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian:

"This is another of his unique imagist cine-poems: an essay in psychogeography and a meditation on death, the presence of the spirit world in nature and the unquiet ghosts of guilt and pain in the Thai nation, as symbolised by the military - a recurrent trope in his work."

Justin Chang at Variety:

"While his tale of a hospital volunteer who bonds with an infected soldier emerges from the same mythic worlds explored in Tropical Malady (2004) and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), the surreal visitations here occur at a more subdued, almost subterranean level; this is an eerily becalmed work in which spiritual possessions and mysterious deities come to seem virtually indistinguishable from ordinary reality.

Screen Daily's Allan Hunter:

Working through a largely linear narrative creates a more approachable piece than many of his previous films, suggesting the potential to broaden his core arthouse audience. “ Slow cinema” lovers and devoted followers of the director should also find enough to mull over in this mysterious, melancholic feature to feel that none of his distinctive vision has been compromised for the sake of accessibility.

And Jordan Mintzer in The Hollywood Reporter:

"Past lives and ancient ancestors are evoked through conversations that are both cryptic and oddly matter-of-fact, in a work that has the realistic vibe of a documentary but the unearthly qualities of a sustained reverie. This is nothing new for Weerasethakul, who in previous films has transformed men into tigers and ignored narrative conventions as much as possible, though there are moments here that seem more drawn out than before. A few surprises are nonetheless in store, especially when Itt wakes up and begins a sort-of mother-son relationship with Jen, even if his moments of consciousness are short lived."

The social media has more than its share of reviews. Here's one that recommends Cemetery of Splendour as a balm to those who overindulged:

There are also lots of interviews with the director. Among the most-cited I've come across is one he did with The Isaan Record, an online journalism effort that's headquartered in the film's location (and Apichatpong's native hometown), Khon Kaen. He reflects a lot on the northeastern Thailand city:

"I feel sorry to say that Khon Kaen is becoming very similar to other cities around the country that have no identity anymore. The best that city planners can come up with is placing dinosaurs around the city. We also feature that in the film. I think the film looks at the city with the eyes of sadness."

Other Q-and-A articles are at The Hollywood Reporter and Huffington Post.

IndieWire drew an unlikely connection between Cemetery of Splendour and Pixar's newest animated feature Inside Out.

And, there's good news for viewers in North America, who can relax in knowing that Cemetery of Splendour will get there thanks to Strand Releasing. Variety had that scoop. Strand had previously handled Apichatpong's 2010 Palme d'Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

As for a Thai release, The Nation article today by indie film producer and freelance film-festival correspondent Donsaron Kovitvanitcha ends with a bummer, saying "it seems unlikely that it will be seen in Thailand".

Of course that could be a bit of reverse psychology to make cinema-goers in Thailand suddenly want something they've been told they can't have.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Checkers, Blue Hour to make Thai debut at Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

Two much-anticipated Thai independent titles from the festival circuit, How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) and The Blue Hour, will have their local premiere in a brand new event, the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which will run from June 5 to 14 at the Esplanade Ratchada.

The fest, which seems overdue for Bangkok, is being organized by the Thai edition of Attitude magazine. Details are still coming together, but a crowd-pleasing film line-up was recently revealed by the festival's programmer, John Badalu, a Bangkok-based film pro who is a delegate to the Shanghai International Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival. He also founded Indonesia's long-running Q! Film Festival.

So it seems natural that the two gay-themed Thai dramas that both world premiered at Berlinale would bookend this new festival in Bangkok.

The opener will be How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), a drama directed by Josh Kim, with a multi-national team of producers that includes Anocha Suwichakornpong. Adapted from the short-story collection Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, the tale centers on 11-year-old Oat, an orphan boy who is raised by his aunt and his openly gay older brother Ek, and also deals with Ek's concerns about the annual military draft lottery and whether he'll have to join army. There's a review at Variety if you must know more.

Bringing the curtain down on the festival will be The Blue Hour (อนธการ, Onthakan) by Anucha Boonyawatana. It deals with Tam, a loner, bullied gay boy who arranges to meet a stranger for a hookup at an abandoned swimming pool. Friendship follows, but it leads to very dark places. The Hollywood Reporter has a review, but I kind wish I hadn't read it.

Aside from the two Thai entries, the program favors Southeast Asian films, among them The Sun, the Moon, and the Hurricane, the debut feature by Jakarta-based Andri Cung, which tracks three periods in the life of a young man, and is set in Jakarta and Bangkok.

Also of regional interest is Finding Phong, a documentary and drama about the struggles of a young Vietnamese transgender person. It's directed by Swann Dubus and Phuong Thao Tran, the same pair that did With or Without Me, the documentary about drug-addicted HIV-positive men.

The Philippines has a trio, among them a 2014 Berlinale entry, Quick Change by Eduardo Roy Jr. It's been described as "documentary-like" drama about Manila's transgender community and the risks they take to stay beautiful. Also from the Philippines is The Commitment (Kasal) by Joselito Altarejos and I Love You. Thank You by Charliebebs Gohetia.

And a very intriguing title is another Berlinale entry from this year, the very trippy looking Eisenstein in Guanajuato by Peter Greenaway, covering that weird time when Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein ended up making a movie in Mexico following an abortive attempt to get into Hollywood.

Here's the line-up:

  • How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) by Josh Kim
  • The Blue Hour by Anucha Boonyawatana
  • 54: Director's Cut by Mark Christopher
  • Eisenstein in Guanajuato by Peter Greenaway
  • Nude Area by Urszula Antoniak
  • Summer by Colette Bothof
  • Quick Change by Eduardo Roy Jr
  • The Sun, the Moon and the Hurricane by Andri Cung
  • The Commitment by Joselito Altarejos
  • Soft Lad by Leon Lopez
  • I Love You. Thank You by Charliebebs Gohetia
  • The Night by Zhou Hao
  • Finding Phong by Swann Dubus and Phuong Thao Tran
  • My Fair Wedding by Jang Hee Sun
  • Futuro Beach by Karim Ainouz

As I said up top, there are still details to hash out – the schedule, how to book seats, etc. Don't freak out. For now you can check in at a Facebook events page and hopefully be updated when new information emerges.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Apichatpong-a-rama: Trailer and clips for Cemetery of Splendour

After a week of movie-going that has included the full-on adrenaline blasts of zombies in Phi Ha Ayodhaya and Mad Max: Thunder Road, I needed a cinematic chill-pill, and there's none better than those concocted by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Dreamy, otherworldly, fantastic, and serenely calm, Cemetery of Splendour bears all the calling cards of an Apichatpong film. It makes its debut today in the Un Certain Regard selection of the Cannes Film Festival. Here's the trailer. Just try not to be lulled by those dulcet classical guitar strums.

Starring the director's frequent collaborator and muse, Jenjira Pongpas (hurry and read more about her in an article by Kong Rithdee in the Bangkok Post) and Banlop Lomnoi (from 2004 Cannes Jury Prize winner Tropical Malady), it's about a lonely woman who cares for a soldier with sleeping sickness, at an old rural schoolhouse that's been converted into a sick ward.

There are also a pair of clips, courtesy of Unifrance, one of a family member fretting by the soldier's bedside, and another of Jenjira and her husband making offerings at a shrine. (Note: The clips now appear to be offline).

As the hour of the film's premiere approaches, Apichatpong's social-media machinery has shifted up another notch, with a Cemetery of SplendourTwitter account . Here's a sample:

Of course, the film is also on Facebook, which is where the image at the top comes from.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: Phi Ha Ayodhaya (The Black Death)

  • Directed by MR Chalermchatri Yukol
  • Starring Phongsakon Mettarikanon, Sonya Singha, Gandhi Wasuvitchayagit, Arpa Bhivalai, Tonpon Mahaton, Wiri Ladaphan, Chalad Na Songkhla
  • Released in Thai cinemas on May 14, 2015; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Where do zombies come from? Director MR Chalermchatri "Adam" Yukol offers one possible scenario with Phi Ha Ayodhaya (ผีห่าอโยธยา, a.k.a. The Black Death), which mixes zombie-horror gore with the stately pageantry of the Suriyothai and Naresuan historical epics.

The origin dates to 1565, during the reign of Maha Chakkraphat (husband of courageous elephant-battling Queen Suriyothai), when there was a plague in the old royal capital. The tropical malady was blamed on seafaring Portuguese and Persian traders, who sailed with the sickness upriver to the old capital. As far as public-health crises go, it was much worse, and way weirder, than is reported in the history books.

The phenomenon is first encountered on the battlefield, where the clanging of swords place Phi Ha Ayodhaya comfortably within the realm of Thai historical epics like Bang Rajan and the recently completed six-part saga The Legend of King Naresuan.

But then the piles of bodies of the recently slain begin squirming. They crawl to the merely injured and start chowing down. Flesh and sinew are torn apart, and one weary soldier, furtively witnesses it all. Wisely, he gets the heck out of Dodge.

Meanwhile there's more of the traditional set-up for a zombie/slasher/horror flick, with an amorous young couple, their traditional wrap-around garb unwrapped, ambushed during a make-out session along a babbling brook.

In swift order, the main characters are introduced. There's a young star-crossed couple - a nobleman's wilful daughter (played by Sonya Singha) and a bare-chested servant boy (teenybopper magnet Phongsakon "Toei" Mettarikanon). There's also a brothel owner (regular sneering baddie Chalad Na Songkhla), who is in conflict with a fiery hammer-wielding lady blacksmith (Wiri Ladaphan). He also pimps out a mute prostitute (wide-eyed starlet Arpa Bhivalai) who is favoured by a golden-hearted opium addict (Tonpon Mahaton), the husky-framed best pal of the hero.

Folks start stumbling upon chewed-up dead bodies in the jungle and aren't sure what to make of them. Maybe it's a tiger attack. But the temple's abbot suggests it's the plague and villagers start fleeing.

The zombie rules start out a bit vague. How long do the dead stay dead? But eventually the mouldering and munched-upon do wake back up with blank grey eyes and an everlasting hunger for living human flesh. It's a fact of undeath.

With the city overrun by zedheads, it's up to a disparate band of the still-living to hold on and hopefully survive the night. Barricading themselves in the brothel, the core characters are joined by that weary bearded soldier who knows exactly what he's up against. Portrayed by Gandhi Wasuvitchayagit, he's a swift swordsman who doesn't hesitate to lop off zombie heads. It's the only way to kill them. Today we all know that, but this was 450 years ago and nobody had a clue. This warrior was on the cutting edge.

Filmed in Kanchanaburi, on the massive period sets where Adam assisted his father, director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, on the Naresuan epics, Phi Ha Ayothaya has the feel of a low-budget B-movie, with multi-hyphenate Adam taking credits for the bulk of the chores behind the lens. Though, as noted in the credits, it was still a big deal, creating some 3,000 jobs for extras, film crew, caterers, transport, etc.

The action is a bit off-kilter and comic-book like. For example, the lady blacksmith decides to ditch her swords and use heavy hammers, one in each hand, and bust zombie skulls. She earlier speared a tree with a molten-hot sword.

Meanwhile, the brothel owner has a muscle-bound, bare-chested bodyguard. He trades action-movie banter about duty and honour with the grizzled battlefield veteran, and somehow grabs up a huge cannon, which probably weighs a ton, and actually fires the thing and remains standing. Later he uses it like a baseball bat to swat zombie flies.

There are plenty of zombie-gore effects, but they are mostly confined to tightly framed segments. So there's a close-up of a head being split here and a zombie's forehead bisected there. The better parts are when zombies fill the frame and surround their victims, like ants swarming over a sugar cube.

The sound design contributes greatly to the feeling of dread. There's an aural sense of rubbery skin being stretched and bones snapped, but the overall audio cue is the zombies' terrifying roar, which sounds like a mix of a tiger and the dragons from Game of Thrones.

Adam probably deserves credit for making the first honest-to-goodness Thai zombie movie. Thai cinema has always been about Thai ghosts, of which there are many. Zombies, which are cinematically traced to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968), are a relatively new genre. They've staggered in a couple times before, in Taweewat Wantha's ridiculously fun SARS Wars from 2004 and 2011's Gancore Gud by rapper Joey Boy. But while those films had various forms of shuffling dead-eye ghouls, I'm not sure they actually said they were zombies.

Adam's film does use the Z-word. It crops up in the subtitles whenever someone says phi ha.

Anyway, the plot is definitely inspired by Living Dead, which had bickering characters trapped in a farmhouse. Romero's follow-up, "Dawn of the Dead", was set in a shopping mall, and Edgar Wright's comedy tribute Shaun of the Dead had its heroes hanging out in a pub. Phi Ha Ayodhaya manages to channel those films, and for a moment I thought I heard a Queen song playing on the soundtrack.

The Thai spin on the zombie tale adds a bit of Buddhist spirituality, in which only those who survive let go of their sentimental, mortal attachments to friends, family and other loved ones. For those who linger in the embrace of the dearly departed for too long are surely doomed to be bitten themselves. It's best to chop off those heads before they turn.

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Related posts:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Zombies to the rescue in Phi Ha Ayodhaya

Might as well admit it: I'm bored by Thai films.

Apart from indie art-house efforts off the festival circuit, short films, documentaries, and the increasingly rare Thai action movie, Thai cinema offers fewer and fewer of the types of compelling genre films that got me interested in Thai films in the first place. Instead, it's been one sentimental romantic melodrama after another, and there's only so much of that I can stomach.

Thankfully, there are still a few directors around who will take risks, and director MR Chalermchatri "Adam" Yukol aims to shake things up with zombies in Phi Ha Ayodhaya (ผีห่าอโยธยา , a.k.a. The Black Death). Distributed by Sahamongkol, it comes out in local cinemas this week, and is being promoted against a big Hollywood tentpole, Mad Max: Fury Road. Hell, I'm going to see them both.

Adam's sophomore feature effort following his 2013 contemporary crime drama The Cop, Phi Ha Ayodhaya was made as his father was wrapping up his Legend of King Naresuan saga. The sixth and final entry in MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's historical-action franchise is still screening in a few cinemas. And yes, this sixth part really is the last, which brings the eight-year-long Naresuan story to a logical conclusion and offers everyone a much-needed sense of closure.

Piggybacking on Naresuan by using that film's massive period sets in Kanchanaburi, Adam's zombie flick is also set hundreds of years ago in the old Siamese realm. It's a weird time, with villagers mysteriously dying off but then coming back to life with a hunger for the living. Monks and black magic, which usually work against traditional Thai ghosts, are of no use.

Fortunately, the ancient zombie fighters have swords at the ready.

Thai horror cinema has generally favored ghosts, but zombies have periodically popped up over the years. Taweewat Wantha's absolutely insane SARS Wars and rapper Joey Boy's Gancore Gud (ก้านคอกัด, a.k.a. Dead Bite) are a couple of worthwhile examples.

Adam, who has a keen eye for classic genre cinema, has said he was inspired by George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, which spawned sequels, remakes and countless imitators.

Hopefully local cinema-goers will give Phi Ha Ayodhaya a chance, and crack the door back open for Thai genre films and break the mainstream industry out of its current cycle of mind-numbingly dull romance flicks. The trailer was enough to get me interested in Thai films again, for the time being.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Apichatpong-a-rama: A splendiferous poster for Cemetery of Splendour

Feast your eyes upon the poster for Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น, Rak Ti Khon Kaen), which is premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, in the Un Certain Regard competition.

It features Jenjira of the Jungle, that is Jenjira Pongpas, the director's longtime leading lady and collaborator, in what looks to be a tour-de-force for the unassumingly domineering actress.

Not only does the poster sum up everything that is Apichatpong about the film, Jenjira's jungle frock makes it appear as she is wearing camouflage. It fits with the story of Cemetery of Splendour, which is about a lonely middle-aged woman caring for a soldier with sleeping sickness.

Anyway, in the run-up to the Cannes premiere, Apichatpong has kicked his machinery into high gear, releasing the poster on Facebook and noting the premiere dates on Twitter:

He'll be there in Cannes, along with three teams of producers and directors (including Wisit Sasanatieng) taking part in Thai Pitch 2015.

Four short films pay tribute to His Majesty's songs

Films made in tribute of His Majesty the King are a time-honored tradition in the Thai film industry, with directors inspired to do their best work in showing their devotion to the monarch.

The latest is an initiative called Keeta Maha Raja Niphon (คีตราชนิพนธ์), which commemorates the 50th anniversary of His Majesty the King's honorary induction into the Vienna Institute of Music and Arts. Sponsored by Singha Corporation, the project rounded up four directors, who chose songs composed by His Majesty as the basis for short films.

Taking part are Thai New Wave stalwart Nonzee Nimibutr, young TV-advert director Wallop Prasopphol, Shutter and Alone co-director Parkpoom Wongpoom and another veteran helmer, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon.

Nonzee chose the song "H.M. Blues" for his short The Singers, which stars veteran actress Wassana Chalakorn as an ageing mother who runs away from her bickering grown-up kids. She encounters a formerly famous singer (Neeranuch Patamasut) and tries to coax her back to the public eye.

Wallop directs Yim Soo, based on the song of the same name. His tale is of an expressionless schoolboy who is likely in the autism spectrum, and is bullied because of it. He tries to force himself out of his shell and impress a girl by acting in the school play.

Parkpoom, meanwhile, picked the song "Sai Fon" ("Falling Rain") for his biographical short about the late conservationist Seub Nakhasathien, whose death in 1990 brought to light his struggles to protect endangered species and natural areas. Sueb is portrayed by Nopachai “Peter” Jayanama, an estimable talent who appears to embody the determined forest ranger.

Yongyoot directs the closing entry, Dao, which is inspired by the patriotic song “Kwam Fun Un Sung Sud” (“The Impossible Dream”). It's the portrait of a Boy Scout who wants to be chosen to raise the flag at school, a job that's reserved for only the best-behaved students.

Top talents from the music industry were also drafted to take part, with singer-actress Neeranuch contributing a version of "H.M. Blues" with rock vocalist and TV-talent judge Thanida “Da Endorphine” Thamawimol cutting an alternative take. Prakarn Raiwa from the band Getsunova sings “Yim Soo” while veteran pop singer Anchalee Chongkadekij covers “Sai Fon”. Singer-actor Saharat “Kong Nuvo” Sangkhapreecha performs “Khwam Fan Un Sung Sud”.

The films will be shown for free at various Major Cineplex branches, including Paragon, from this Thursday to Sunday, May 7 to 10. Seats have already filled up for several screenings and reservations are a must. To reserve your seat, check this special website, perhaps with the assistance of a Thai friend.

You can find out more about the project from an article in The Nation today. There's also a Facebook page and a YouTube channel, which includes music videos and a trailer that's embedded below.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cannes 2015: Wisit's Suriya back in the ring at Thai Pitch

Wisit Sasanatieng's long-in-development Suriya is among a trio of projects vying for backers at the second edition of the relaunched Thai Pitch, which takes place on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival.

Others taking part in Thai Pitch 2015 will be veteran helmer Sananjit Bangsapan with Uncle Ho and indie talent Wasunan Hutawet with Sydney.

Suriya is a biographical drama about an infamous Muay Thai fighter whose ingeniousness in the ring was contrasted by personal struggles outside. It could potentially be a Thai boxing version of Raging Bull, and would be Wisit's first feature since 2010's Red Eagle. It also marks a return to Cannes for the Thai New Wave veteran. Wisit's directorial debut, 2000's Tears of the Black Tiger, was the first Thai film to be officially selected for Cannes; it competed in the Un Certain Regard line-up. Athimes Arunroj-angkul (Phobia 2, Karaoke Girl) is producing Suriya, which has been pitched at other project markets over the years.

Sananjit, meanwhile, is seeking to make his return in the film industry. He previously did the gritty gunman tale Hit Man File in 2005 and the women-in-prison drama Butterfly in Grey in 2002. His Uncle Ho follows the exploits of a young Ho Chi Minh, who briefly lived in the northeastern city of Nakhon Phanom in the 1920s. While doing some organizing for the Communist Party in Thailand, the young Ho is targeted by a French assassin. Supong Javanasundara (Hit Man File) and Nakorn Veerapavati are producing.

And with Sydney, Wasunan, an alumnae of the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2012, seeks to make her feature directorial debut. It's the story of a young woman from the countryside who moves to Bangkok full of hope but soon falls into despair. Soros Sokhum (Wonderful Town, So Be It) and Parinee Buthrasri are the producers.

The Thai Pitch was relaunched in 2013 after a five-year absence from the Croisette.  It is coordinated by producer Raymond Phathanavirangoon (Headshot, Tokyo Sonata) and will be held at the Thai Pavilion.

The three film projects will bolster a growing Thai presence at this year's Cannes Film Festival, which is headlined by the return of the 2010 Palme d'Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul with his new feature Cemetery of Splendour. It is in the official selection for the Un Certain Regard program. It will be Apichatpong's fourth time in competition in Cannes, where he won the Un Certain Regard in 2002 with Blissfully Yours, the jury prize in 2004 with Tropical Malady and the Golden Palm in 2010 with Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

And actress-model "Chompoo" Araya A. Hargate returns for her third consecutive year as camera fodder for the red carpet. Among the many products she pitches, Chompoo is a spokesmodel for cosmetics brand L'Oreal, which has sponsored her trips and handled her designer wardrobe for appearances at Cannes since 2013.

More coverage of this year's Thai Pitch can be found at The Hollywood Reporter, Screen Daily and Film Business Asia.

Vanishing Point appears in Taipei competition

Vanishing Point (วานิชชิ่ง พอยท์), the new award-winning drama by indie Thai filmmaker Jakrawal Nilthamrong, is among the International New Talent Competition at the Taipei Film Festival.

A winner of the Tiger Award at this year's International Film Festival Rotterdam, Vanishing Point is making its way around the circuit, having also recently screened at the Singapore Art Museum's annual Southeast Asian film fest and in the Young Cinema Competition at the 39th Hong Kong International Film Festival.

The Hong Kong fest also featured two other locally anticipated Thai entries from the circuit, Josh Kim's How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), which also recently screened at the Los Angeles Asian-Pacific Film Festival, and Anucha Boonyawatana's The Blue Hour (อนธการ, Onthakan), which both made their bow in Berlin earlier this year.

Jakrawal's Vanishing Point stems from a tragic car crash that involved the director's own parents and affected their lives forever, and then follows two very different men – a disillusioned crime-scene reporter and a voyeuristic motel owner – whose lives take various fateful directions.

In Taipei, Vanishing Point is among 12 entries in the International New Talent Competition, with other titles hailing from Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Palestine, Brazil, the U.K. and the U.S. They include Chiang Hsiu-chiung's Japan-set drama The Furthest End Awaits and The Inseminator, an experimental surreal fantasy by Vietnam's Bui Kim Quy that hasn't been cleared by censors at home.

Film Business Asia has more. The Taipei Film Festival runs from June 26 to July 18.

FFFest returns for fifth edition in Chiang Mai

The Fly beyond the Barbwire Fence Festival, a semi-annual arts event put on by the Friends Without Borders NGO in Chiang Mai, returns for a fifth edition this weekend.

With a focus on ethnic minorities, migrant workers and marginalized communities, FFFest runs from next Friday until May 12 at Chiang Mai University Art Centre. It'll have dozens of features and shorts on Thailand’s ethnic peoples, and most are actually made by budding ethnic filmmakers.

Subjects cover the length of Thailand, from North to South. Among the special programmes will be entries in Melayu and Arabic languages, including the musical documentary Baby Arabia, about a Bangkok-based Muslim folk-rock band.

There will be also be talks with directors, seminars and cultural performances. For more details, see, where there are detailed listings of all the programs.

If you're in Chiang Mai, please do drop by, have a look and support the fest.