Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Checkers jumps into place as Thailand's Oscars contender

The independent coming-of-age drama How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), a.k.a. P'Chai My Hero (พี่ชาย My Hero) has been chosen to represent Thailand in the 88th Academy Awards.

As announced today in a press release by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, Checkers was picked by an eight-member committee that considered films released in Thai cinemas from October 1, 2014 to September 30 of this year.

Aside from Checkers, other titles that were pondered were the current hit romantic comedy Freelance, the just-released literary-classic adaptation Mae Bia (แม่เบี้ย, a.k.a. The Snake), the gay psychological thriller The Blue Hour (Onthakan, อนธการ), the time-travel comedy 2538 Alter Ma Jive (2538 อัลเทอร์มาจีบ) and the Catholic schoolteacher biographical drama F. Hilaire (ฟ.ฮีแลร์).

However, after much debate and analysis by the committee, it was decided that Checkers "transcended" the other choices, said Weerasak Kowsurat, the committee chairman.

The debut feature by Korean-American director Josh Kim, How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) is adapted from Sightseeing, the short story collection of noted Thai-American author Rattawut Lapcharoensap. The comedy-drama, set against the backdrop of class conflict in Thai society, centers on 11-year-old Oat, a poor orphan raised by his openly gay older brother Ek and their superstitious aunt. With Ek facing the upcoming military draft lottery, Oat takes a big risk to ensure his brother will not be conscripted.

Checkers premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and has made the rounds on the circuit. It was given the Thai title of P'Chai My Hero (literally My Brother, My Hero) for local release in July. It was produced by an international consortium of filmmakers from Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and the US, including Thai director-producer Anocha Suwichakornpong.

The film federation's selection has a notable omission from this year's festival circuit, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery of Splendour, which has garnered much acclaim since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, and more recently in Toronto. However, it has not yet been released in Thailand. Apichatpong's previous feature, the 2010 Cannes Palme d'Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, was submitted for the 83rd Academy Awards.

Checkers is the 22nd Thai entry in the Oscars race for Best Foreign Language Film, which Thailand has taken part in since 1984. None have made the short-list of nominees.

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