Monday, December 7, 2015

Festival festival (and awards)! Ferris Wheel spins in Singapore, Checkers goes Golden, Keetarajanipon applauded in Hawaii

Ferris Wheel (ชิงช้าสวรรค์, Ching Chaa Sawan), a short film by up-and-coming indie filmmaker Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, won a special mention at the Singapore International Film Festival, which wrapped up yesterday.

An entry in the Singapore fest's Silver Screen Awards Southeast Asian Short Film Competition, Ferris Wheel follows a migrant woman from Myanmar and her young son as they navigate the border areas. There is an altercation in a gas station's convenience store, depicting the unfriendly attitudes of some Thais toward the migrants, and the mum and boy are separated. The kid is attracted to a nearby carnival by a man in a monkey costume, leading to panic by the mother.

Ferris Wheel premiered at the Busan International Film Festival as part of the Color of Asia – Newcomers program. Apichatpong Weerasethakul was a mentoring counterpart in the Color of Asia – Masters line-up with his own short, Vapour.

The Color of Asia project was initiated by China's Youku video-sharing website and Heyi Pictures, which on the strength of Ferris Wheel picked Phuttiphong to make a feature film. He'll be doing Departure Day, a project that previously won support from the Busan fest's Asian Cinema Fund.

Ferris Wheel will next head to France, where it's been selected for February's Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, which is the biggest and most prestigious short-film fest in the world.

I've actually seen Ferris Wheel, and it's powerful stuff, especially the haunting close-ups of the faces of Myanmar migrants spinning into frame as they ride a Ferris wheel. It was screened as a special treat for movie-goers who braved sleazy confines of the decrepit Laem Thong Theatre for the Bangkok premiere of Jakrawal Nilthamrong's Vanishing Point.

Other Thai shorts in the rebooted Singapore fest's line-up this year were Night Watch by Danaya Chulputhipong, which previously won an award in Rio de Janeiro and Sivaroj Kongsakul's Our,from the 19th Thai Short Film and Video Fest.

Thai features in the Singapore fest were Apichatpong's Cemetery of Splendour (which had an accompanying video-art installation) and the Thai Oscar entry How to Win at Checkers (Every Time).

And that leads me to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Awards, which have put How to Win at Checkers on its list of possible nominees for Best Foreign Language Film. This is the first I've heard of the Globes' foreign-film submissions being made public before the final shortlist of five actual nominees are announced, which leads to questions. Have any Thai films been submitted to the HFPA in past years? Also, who submits the foreign films?

Finally, here's one more item for this edition of "Festival festival!" Keetarajanipon, the short-film omnibus that is inspired by musical compositions of His Majesty the King, won an audience award at the recent Hawaii International Film Festival. That's according to IndieWire and Film Business Asia. News of the award came as the film was on a revival run in Thai cinemas, screening over the weekend as part of celebrations for His Majesty the King's 88th birthday and Thai Fathers' Day. Keetarajanipon has well made, highly polished devotional segments by Nonzee Nimibutr, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, Parkpoom Wongpoom and Wallop Prasopphol. More festival appearances are scheduled, including next year's East Winds Film Festival.

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