Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thai Short 19: Winners, R.D. Pestonji and Payut Ngaokrachang reviews

Deeply personal relationships were a common thread running through many of the prize-winning entries in the 19th Thai Short Film and Video Festival, which wrapped up on Sunday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

The festival’s top prize for general filmmakers, the R.D. Pestonji Award, went to After Image by Patana Chirawong. Full of warmth and humour, After Image was about an elderly gay man contacting his university crush, a straight guy who years ago had promised to take him on a date if he reached the age of 70. They meet in the forest, at an archaeology dig for dinosaur fossils. The promise of youth has faded away, and these old fellows are in touch with a past that is older than either can remember. A shadowy figure of a brontosaurus ambles by. Pretty nifty.

Runner-up winners were Neither Here Nor There by Skan Aryurapong, which was a succinct portrait of a wheelchair-bound man and his caretaker/lover, while the meta-heavy Motherland dealt with a young pregnant woman seeking advice from a co-worker at a factory.

And a special mention went to Hta Kwa’s Our Footprints, another prize-winning entry from the Chiang Mai NGO Friends Without Borders, which looks at the continuing struggles of Thailand’s indigenous people to continue their traditional ways of life in the forest. The disappearance of Karen activist Pholachi Billy Rakchongcharoen looms in the backdrop.

A scene from After Image, winner of the R.D. Pestonji Award.

Another major award winner was Dreamscape by Wattanapume Laisuwanchai. An entry in the Duke Award documentary competition, it won the Popular Vote from audience polling as well as the BACC Award.

Other notable finalists in the Pestonji competition included Our, a tender portrait of a young just-married couple taking their honeymoon by the beach. It's directed by Sivaroj Kongsakul of Eternity/Tee Rak fame, who has developed ninja skills in tugging heartstrings with his highly emotional shorts.

I also liked Spaghetti by Sittisak Kum-ai, which had a guy struggling to keep up a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, who he hopes will return to him before the expiration date on a package of pasta he's tucked away in a cabinet.

There were chuckles for some other entries, such as Jakkrapan Srivichai's Horror Radio, in which a security guard who listens to spooky radio serials calls into the station one night with his own story. Symmetry by Ukrit Malai had an older fellow reflecting on a different, parallel life of a brother (or was it his son?), which sees living-room recliners and a Playstation (also a ping-pong table) transported magically from a house to an open field. And there was good fun to be had in Director and Actor, directed by and starring Weera Rukbankeru, which had him struggling to direct himself in various scenes.

And the festival wouldn't be complete without at least one mysterious jungle thriller. Perennial festival entrant Pramote Sangsorn headed into the woods for Sudd Song Nor, which had a reporter camping out with a big-game hunter in search of the last rhino. Homoerotic tendencies surface in a discussion about taking the rhino's horn, but leaving the unseen beast alive. Later on, both men cover themselves from head to toe with mud.

Prince Johnny, winner of the Payut Ngaokrachang Award.

I really connected with the block of animated entries in the Payut Ngaokrachang Award competition, which is named for Thailand's pioneering maker of animated shorts and features. The audience was sparse for the Sunday morning show, but included a cool farang dad who brought his two small children. Still, I heard gasping from the kids when the cartoons took dark turns, which were frequent.

The top prize Winner Prince Johnny by Patradol Kitcharoen was wonderfully morbid with its story of a fairy-tale prince trying to revive the corpse of a long-dead princess locked in a tower. Bleaker still was a runner-up winner Sound of the Silence by Akapop Khansorn, which deals with an imprisoned woman.

There was conflict aplenty in Stained White by Thanchanok Phruetkittiwong, Vichuda Surattichaikul and Supisara Songpirote, in which Red City kids and Green City kids just want to play together but instead have to fight. There was also the special mention winner Black-White by Jaturon Jetwiriyanon, which had Germanic-looking chess pieces in an endless war – no worries about Nazi imagery here, it's used to show the horror of war and isn't glorified as it has been in cases that crop up from time to time in news about Thailand.

Simply entertaining entries included the special mention winners Breaking Zoo by Prakasit Nuansri (about an escaped overheated gorilla); Lamp by Narueporn Winiyakul (about a fishing cat making friends with cute anglerfish) and the fun football-themed Kickoff by Twatpong Tangsajjapoj.

Luukmaai, a finalist entry in the Payut Ngaokrachang competition.

I'm surprised Luukmaai by Rachaneekorn Uthaithammarat didn't win a prize. The story of a forest-dwelling man who befriends a tree spirit, the character design really reminded me of Payut's work in The Adventure of Sudsakorn, which to me is remarkable, because not many Thai animators actually seem to be influenced by Payut, who had his own style, but could be compared to Tex Avery or maybe Disney.

These days, most Thai animation takes Japanese anime as its cue, not that there's anything wrong with that. The anime style was especially evident in the crazily sick Gokicha Love Story by Chidchanok Saengkawin, which had a cockroach who thinks she's a princess trying to woo a guy, but the guy is horrified because he only sees her as an insect. Festival Rush by Chawanat Rattanaprakarn also looked like anime, but told a distinctively Thai story, with a boy at a temple fair chasing down masked criminals who stole the doll he won for his sweetheart.

And 3D computer graphic animation continues to progress. Aside from the award-winners like Black-White and Breaking Zoo, memorable entries included the heist comedy The Sneaker by Chattida Ajjimakul, and the nature-themed To the Light by Jane Horsakul.

Worth noting is this year's festival title, a "bumper" that is created new each year by various notable filmmakers. This year, it was the turn of Chulayarnon Siriphol, a perennial award-winner in past years, whose entries are thought-provoking, satiric and, most importantly to me, entertaining. Chualyarnon actually did two titles. One had images of soldier statues and people offering prayers to a shrine, and an auditorium with an empty movie screen. I won't comment further on what I think it means. Chulayarnon also did a stop-motion thing involving birthday candles with nails stuck in them so they resembled insects, crawling over someone's skin. Of course, both festival titles had images of eggs, which is part of the iconography of the Thai Short Film and Video Festival.

New to the festival this year is an additional cash prize, free equipment rental and use of a production crew to the top-prize winner of the R.D. Pestonji Award from VS Service, a company that has long been involved with providing services to foreign movie productions. Established in 1985 with a single generator to hire out, among VS Service’s early clients was Santa Film, a production services firm run by a son of Pestonji, who is regarded as Thailand’s first auteur filmmaker. The award is especially symbolic for the head of VS Service, cinematographer Pithai "Pete" Smithsuth, who has now taken over the company his father started.
Symmetry, a finalist entry in the R.D. Pestonji competition.

Anyway, here are the winners in the 19th Thai Short Film and Video Festival:

Popular Vote

  • Dreamscape by Wattanapume Laisuwanchai

International Competition

  • Best Short Film: Rene R Letters by Lisa Reboulleau (France)
  • Special Mention: Fallen Leaves by Masha Kondakova (Ukraine) and Moving in Circles by Maxim Dashkin (Russia)

R.D. Pestonji Award

  • Winner: After Image by Patana Chirawong
  • Runner-up: Motherland by Varinda Naronggrittikun; Neither Here Nor There by Skan Aryurapong
  • Special Mention: Our Footprints by Hta Kwa

White Elephant Award (undergraduate students)

  • Winner: Rose Moon and the Missing Sun by Tulyawat Sajjatheerakul
  • Runner-up: The Country Boys by Krailas Phondongnok; Temperature of Roomtone by Pamornporn Tandiew
  • Special Mention: Glowstick by Pahphawee Jinnasith; Once Upon a Time by Jantraya Suriyong and Siripassorn Umnuaysombat; Oun Kwa Nhee Kor Phee Leaw by Yanisa Pornawalai

Special White Elephant (youth films)

  • Winner: Last Summer by Dapho Moradokpana
  • Runner-up: What a Wonderful World by Jirapat Thaweechuen, Thanawat Noomcharoen and Pu-ton Thongtan
  • Special mention: Untitled by Rachapol Sangsri and Tanyawat Sajjateerakul

Payut Ngaokrachang Award (animation)

  • Winner: Prince Johnny by Patradol Kitcharoen
  • Runner-Up: Fragile by Pennapa Chanwerawong; Stained White by Thanchanok Phruetkittiwong, Vichuda Surattichaikul and Supisara Songpirote; Sound of the Silence by Akapop Khansorn
  • Special Mention: Breaking Zoo by Prakasit Nuansri; Lamp by Narueporn Winiyakul; Black-White by Jaturon Jetwiriyanon and Kickoff by Twatpong Tangsajjapoj

Duke Award (documentary)

  • Winner: Sinmalin by Chaweng Chaiyawan
  • Runner-up: Michael’s by Kunnawut Boonreak; The Spirit of the Age by Wichanon Somumjarn
  • Special Mention: Chumchon Khon Khaya by Thitipat Rotchanakorn and Pawee Melanon; Pak Bara by Apichon Rattanapayon and Watcharee Rattanakree

Cinetoys Best Cinematography Award

  • Last Scene by Rajchapruek Tiyajamorn

Vichitmatra Award

  • My Grandfather’s Photobook by Nutthapon Rakkhatham and Phatthana Paiboon
  • Fon by Aekaphong Saranset
  • If You’re a Bird, I’ll Be Your Sky by Visuta Matanom
  • Yhahok by Nathan Homsup

BACC Award

  • Once Upon a Time by Jantraya Suriyong and Siripassorn Umnuaysombat
  • Dreamscape by Wattanapume Laisuwanchai

Pirabkhao Award

  • Sinmalin by Chaweng Chaiyawan

Best Actor

  • Arachaporn Pokinpakorn from Glowstick

(Adapted from an article in The Nation)


  1. There is also 'special mention' in Special White Elephant (youth category) : Untitled (Rachapol Sangsri, Tanyawat Sajjateerakul)


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