Saturday, June 25, 2016

Festival, festival (and awards)! Here be dragons for The Forest; Heart Attack and Grace in NYAFF

The Forest producer David Cluck cradles the Golden Dragon.

The Forest, the new thriller from Paul Spurrier, the Bangkok-based British filmmaker who makes Thai films, is continuing to tour the festival circuit, and recently won an award at the Ferrara Film Festival in Italy.

Producer David Cluck was in Ferrara, and he picked up the Golden Dragon Award for Best Director for Spurrier. The attractive trophy now occupies a newly installed shelf in Spurrier's Friese-Greene Club in Bangkok. Perhaps more shelves for more trophies will be put up.

You can find out more about the award on the the Facebook page for The Forest.

Meanwhile, Spurrier says he's submitted the film to the Thai Culture Ministry's ratings/censorship process and awaits word of whether he'll be able to show The Forest in the country where it was made.

And now some news about one of my favorite film festivals that I've never been to – the New York Asian Film Festival. After recent years of programming not so terribly much in the way of Southeast Asian films, the NYAFF has loaded up with a decent selection from the region, including two Thai films, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit's Heart Attack (known in Thailand as Freelance .. Ham Puay Ham Phak Ham Rak More, ฟรีแลนซ์.. ห้ามป่วย ห้ามพัก ห้ามรักหมอ) and Grace, which was released in January as Awasarn Loke Suay (อวสานโลกสวย).

Heart Attack – that's Nawapol's original and preferred title – is the multi-award-winning comedy-drama about a freelance graphic artist who works too hard and comes down with a rash. He's treated by a young female internist at a public hospital. She is working through her own issues.

A sprawling piece of quirk, Heart Attack humorously comments on many, many aspects of Thai society, and is wholly a Nawapol indie joint, just with the addition of marquee-name stars and marketing muscle from the studio GTH, which broke up toward the end of last year and then reformed (minus one partner) as GDH 559. They will be back in action shortly with a new slate of films.

Grace, an indie effort that was released by Kantana Motion Pictures is a pulpy exploitation story of an Internet idol, played with gusto by Thai indie-film darling Apinya Sakuljareonsuk. She turns murderous when her status as the Thailand's Top Net Idol is threatened by young upstarts. Two versions were supposedly released in Thai cinemas, one as an 18+ that anybody could see and another with the restrictive 20- rating, which you're supposed to show an I.D. to see. I saw the 20- one and I guess it must have really freaked me out, because I never got around to writing a review.

Saipan Apinya, a fierce, hard-working young actress whose break-out role was in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy, will put in an appearance at the NYAFF, which runs until July 9, so ask her questions if you dare.

The festival trailer is embedded below.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Extra Virgin unlocks indies with Distance, Rice Trilogy and Island Funeral

Extra Virgin, the indie production and distribution shingle run by producer-director Pimpaka Towira, has a new initiative with SF cinemas in Thailand, Unlock Indies, a film series that opened last week with the multi-country co-production Distance.

Others in the series will be The Rice Trilogy by Uruphong Raksasad and Pimpaka's own latest feature, The Island Funeral
The films are being released in a very limited run. Don't blink, or you will miss them. For example, Distance was initially released at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and SFX Cinema Central Rama 9 in Bangkok, and at SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Today, it's down to just one screening a day at CentralWorld.

Next week, the program changes to what's now known as Uruphong's Rice Trilogy, with Stories from the North, Agrarian Utopia and The Songs of Rice (เพลงของข้าว, Pleng Khong Kao) taking turns on the big screen. They are among my favorites, and I hope he makes more films like these.

And on July 21, Pimpaka will release her own film, The Island Funeral (มหาสมุทรและสุสาน, Maha Samut Lae Susaan), which premiered last year in Tokyo and has been on a tear around the world, screening in places like Seattle, Aichi and Valetta and winning awards in Tokyo and Hong Kong. The Island Funeral will also be shown at the Singapore Festival of the Arts.

Meanwhile, Distance is an ambitious project headed up by Singaporean director Anthony Chen, winner of the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his 2013 debut drama Ilo Ilo. He gets help from Thai producer Aditya Assarat, who also wrote one of the segments.

With Distance, Chen and Assarat pay tribute to their Taiwanese and Chinese cinema influences and rounded up three young-buck award-winning Asian directors to do the job. They are Tan Shijie from Singapore, Xin Yukun from China and Sivaroj Kongsakul from Thailand. Each take a crack at directing Taiwanese actor Chen Bo-lin in segments that explore the notion of "distance" and what it means in our societies.

Friday, June 17, 2016

I gave FilmDoo a whirl

Finally, we can forget about DVDs. Streaming video is the future for independent films from Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, with new online platforms popping up to offer hard-to-find movies online.

Among the new companies is FilmDoo, a U.K.-based video-on-demand (VOD) startup that was launched at the Cannes Film Festival.

I recently gave FilmDoo's "bespoke" platform a try, and found it worked just great on the laptop. I imagine it would also work fine on a Smart TV, with a laptop connected, either through a cable into the HDMI port or with something like Chromecast. FilmDoo didn't work so well on my tablet, nor on the Smart TV web browser.

Anyway, the company was co-founded by a Thai, Weerada Sucharitkul and Briton William Page. Most of the company's offerings are availlable only in the U.K. and Ireland, but they recently released a few titles for worldwide consumption. They are:

  • The Last Executioner
  • The Second Life of Thieves
  • I Carried You Home
  • Ghost of Mae Nak
  • Mindfulness and Murder
  • Butterfly Man
  • Boundary
  • Vientiane in Love
  • Psiko: Pencuri Hati
  • At the Horizon

And three titles are available for streaming on FilmDoo exclusively in Thailand:

  • Patong Girl
  • Soi Cowboy
  • The Elephant King

The selection includes the bulk of the back-catalog of producer-director Tom Waller and his Bangkok-based De Warrenne Pictures, with Thai indies Boundary and I Carried You Home rounding out the Thai slate.

Further Southeast Asian offerings come from Lao New Wave Cinema with At the Horizon and Vientiane in Love, plus two from Malaysia.

There is further information about FilmDoo in an article in The Nation.