Thursday, February 26, 2015

Open Secrets revealed in Chulalongkorn documentary exhibition

If you don't mind trying to watch films in the not-always-ideal setting of an art gallery, then perhaps you'll want to check out documentaries by noted Thai filmmakers and visual artists in the exhibition Open Secrets from tomorrow night until April 10 at Chulalongkorn University's Art Center in Bangkok.

Among the directors is Jakrawal Nilthamrong, a visual artist and experimental filmmaker. He just premiered his debut feature Vanishing Point to award-winning acclaim at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. While we patiently wait for that show up in local cinemas, the Chula show will feature three of his other works from the past few years, including the mid-length effort Unreal Forest, which he made in Zambia as part of an African initiative by the Rotterdam film fest. Others are Hangman and Orchestra.

Other directors are the trio of Kaweenipon Ketprasit, Kong Rithdee and Panu Aree, who make documentaries that focus on their Islamic faith and the unsung lives of moderate Muslims. Among their works will be the electrifying Baby Arabia, a feature about a Bangkok-based Muslim rock band that performs songs in Arabic and Malay. They will also screen Gadhafi, about a Thai dude with an unusual name.

In all, the exhibition will screen 11 films. Others taking part are Pisut Srimhok, Santiphap Inkong-ngam and Sutthirat Supaparinya.

Friday night's opening will feature a talk by the filmmakers, “Documentary Films: Mirrors of Society”, at 5pm. The venue is The Art Center on the seventh floor of the Center for Academic Resources (the library) at Chulalongkorn University's campus off Phayathai Road.

Lav Diaz, The Raid 2 among Asian Film Awards nominees

Demonstrating that it helps if you kick ass, Filipino auteur Lav Diaz and the Indonesian martial-arts film The Raid 2: Berandal will represent Southeast Asia at the ninth Asian Film Awards, which have once again not included any Thai films among its nominees.

Indie-cult helmer Diaz is among the best director nominees for his latest opus, From What Is Before (Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon), which examines the profound social tattering of a village under martial law during the Marcos regime. The four-hour drama premiered in competition at last year's Locarno fest, where it won the top-prize Golden Leopard.

And the impressionist action film The Raid 2: Berandal is nominated twice, best cinematography for Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono and best editing for Gareth Evans (who also directed and made it snow in Jakarta). One-upping 2011's The Raid at every turn, in terms of scope, fight scenes, stunts and characters, The Raid 2 follows a young butt-kicking police officer (no-nonsense leading man Iko Uwais) as he takes an undercover assignment as a prison inmate. His job is to infiltrate an underworld mob that has tentacles reaching all the way to the top of the police force.

Announced yesterday, the leading nominee for the ninth Asian Film Awards is Hong Kong director Ann Hui's The Golden Era, including best director and best actress for Tang Wei.

Other best director nominees are China's Lou Ye for Blind Massage, Japan's Shinya Tsukamoto for Fires on the Plain, India's Vishal Bhardwaj for Haider and South Korea's Hong Sang-soo for Hill of Freedom.

And the Best Film nominees are China's Black Coal, Thin Ice and Blind Massage, South Korea's Hill of Freedom and Ode to My Father, Japan's The Light Shine Only There and India's Haider. Variety and Film Business Asia break it down.

As with past editions of the Asian Film Awards, most of the nominees hail from China, followed by Hong Kong/Mainland co-productions, then South Korea, Japan and India.

Thailand has been shut out of the past couple editions of the Asian Film Awards, last appearing in 2012, when the Rashomon remake U Mong Pa Mueang and Pen-ek Ratanaruang's hitman drama Headshot were up for prizes. Thai composer Chatchai Pongpraphan came away a winner for his work on the Donnie Yen martial-arts drama Wu Xia.

Another good year was 2010, when Lee Chatametikool won best editing on the Malaysian indie Karaoke, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cannes-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives was named Best Film in 2011.

But looking at the nominees this year, I can start to see a pattern of sorts. Thailand had some well-regarded commercial hits last year, such as the GTH romances The Teacher's Diary and the blockbuster I Fine ... Thank You ... Love You or Yuthlert Sippapak's Tukkae Rak Pang Mak, but I can't quite see those going into a dark Macau alley with Lav Diaz or the boys from The Raid 2, or even the Chinese entries Black Coal, Thin Ice or Blind Massage. They'd get clobbered.

Best chance for Thailand at the Asian Film Awards might have been with past-winner Lee's feature directorial debut Concrete Clouds, which had many strong points, especially its cast. The scrappy indie student film W. might have fit in there somewhere as well, especially for editing. Another possibility might have been Uruphong Raksasad's award-winning documentary The Songs of Rice, which could have been a contender in the editing and cinematography categories. But, being a documentary, it's off the radar for the awards. Perhaps it's time to add a documentary category, hmm?

The Asian Film Awards are set for March 25 in Macau.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Last Executioner pops up in Bangkok

If you missed seeing The Last Executioner (เพชฌฆาต, Petchakat) last year (and lots did, given how it whirled in and out of cinemas) then here's a chance sighting in an unusual location, Bangkok's stately Neilson Hays Library.

Starring Shanghai film fest award-winner Vithaya Pansringarm as Thai prison death-row rifleman Chavoret Jaruboon, it's a biopic and psychological study about a man conflicted by his faith and his lethal profession.

The screening is set for this Thursday, February 26 at 7pm. Tickets are 400 baht (300bt for members/students).  Book here.

On hand afterward will be director Tom Waller, screenwriter Don Linder and star "Phu" Vithaya. A signed copy of the screenplay will be a raffled off.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Memory! fest has sweet treat for Bangkok

Sugar Is Not Sweet (น้ำตาลไม่หวาน, Namtan Mai Wan), a hyper-colorful romantic comedy by Thai cinema's pioneering auteur, R.D. Pestonji, is among a selection of classic films set to screen in the Memory! International Film Heritage Festival from February 26 to March 6 in Bangkok.

From 1965, Sugar Is Not Sweet was the final feature from Pestonji, and is one of his more-personal efforts with its reflection on his own Indian heritage. Starring Sombat Metanee in one of his early leading roles, the story is about the slacker son of a Chinese-Thai businessman who has promised his boy's hand in marriage to the orphaned daughter of his late Indian business partner. But the guy doesn't want to marry a "roti" (a racist colloquialism). He's rather stay with his vain gold-digging Thai girlfriend.

Alternating venues between the Alliance Francaise in Bangkok and the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, the Memory! festival will screen 11 films in all.

The selection includes three by the masters of the silent era, The Circus by Charles Chaplin, Safety Last by Harold Lloyd, and, in a fitting tie-in with the Film Archive's own steam locomotive, Buster Keaton's The General.

Under the theme of "Laughter!" the fest also has a tribute to French comedy kings Jacques Tati and Pierre Etaix with Tati's Playtime and Etaix' Happy Anniversary and The Great Love.

Another entry is 1955's The Ladykillers, the classic Ealing Studio comedy directed by Alexander Mackendrick and starring Alec Guinness in a positively sinister turn as the leader of a gang of thieves.

And from Asia, there's Good Morning by Yasujiro Ozu and Before Rising Up the Rank, a 1965 black-and-white comedy from Mongolia's Mongol Kino studio.

Originating in Phnom Penh in 2013, the Memory! fest is supported by the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage with an aim of promoting and preserving the world's film heritage. So it's only natural that it would come to Bangkok and help bolster the Thai Film Archive's similar efforts.

Admission is free, though online reservations are recommended. For the schedule and more details, please see a recent article in The Nation or check the festival's Facebook page.

Academy for Southeast Asian Filmmakers workshops set for Bangkok, Jakarta

Mofilm, an outfit that puts on short-film contests around the world and acts as a social-network for indie filmmakers, will launch the Academy for Southeast Asian Filmmakers with workshops in Bangkok and Jakarta in May.

Here's a bit more about it from an e-mail:

Chevrolet and Mofilm have partnered to celebrate, foster and nurture filmmakers from across Southeast Asia, through the Academy for Southeast Asian Filmmakers (ASAF). The Academy workshops will be a free three-day course that will develop filmmaking expertise. The course, created and delivered by experts from the local filmmaking industry, will cover several aspects of filmmaker theory and practice, with a focus on developing the storytelling skills. Spaces on the Academy workshops – held in Jakarta from May 11 to 13 and Bangkok from May 15 to 18 – are limited and subject to application. The creative brief by Chevrolet will be a key part of the seminars, but is also open to creatives who didn’t attend the workshops. More details about the programme or to apply please visit

Spaces are limited. The application deadline is on March 31.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Y/Our Music sets North American premiere at SXSW

Y/Our Music, the unusual documentary about unusual Thai musicians, has found probably its perfect platform – the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.

Directed by David Reeve and "Art" Waraluck Hiransrettawat Every, Y/Our Music makes its North American premiere in SXSW's 24 Beats Per Second section alongside other documentaries on world music and rock 'n' roll, such as Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove and Made in Japan, about Japanese female country music star Tomi Fujiyama.

Here's the festival synopsis:

Y/Our Music immerses itself in the world of Thai music, from traditional music to labor songs and classical pop to urban indie music, spanning different locales and generations. As nine musicians each display their music, the rural or urban environments that influenced their sound are explored. The hands that play traditional instruments amid the red dust clouds, the labor songs being hummed in front of grains awaiting harvest, and the indie music born out of concrete basements create a melodious ecosystem. While they inhabit different musical worlds the musicians are connected by the same passion to bring their artistic aspirations to the fore and survive in the outskirts of the mainstream.

Best as I can recollect, Y/Our Music will be the first Thai film at SXSW since Ong-Bak 2 made a midnight bow in 2009.

A survey of unsung musicians, mostly performing traditional Thai folk and country (mor lam and luk thung), Y/Our Music premiered at last year's Busan International Film Festival, and later had a one-off Bangkok screening. Hopefully, more screenings will follow.

SXSW runs from March 13 to 22.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: Ror Dor Khao Chon Phee Thee Khao Chon Kai

  • Directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit
  • Starring Somchai Kemklad
  • Released in Thai cinemas on January 22, 2015; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

The commercialization of former indie rebel Tanwarin Sukkapisit continues apace with the throw-away horror-comedy Ror Dor Khao Chon Phee Thee Khao Chon Kai (รด.เขาชนผีที่เขาชนไก่).

Produced by that infamous purveyor of cross-dressing schlock, Poj Arnon, and released by Phranakorn Film, audiences can be excused for believing they are seeing yet another movie directed by the prolific Poj. It looks very similar to Poj's recent Mor 6/5 horror comedies, which involve a dozen or so schoolboys in various states of shrieking and shirtlessness.

But no, it's directed by Tanwarin, who co-wrote the script. The story, best as I can make out, has schoolboys in Kanchanaburi's Khao Chon Kai military boot-camp, taking part in Thailand's version of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). It's a scheme that gets young men out of having to participate in the drawing for the military draft, but here they have to contend with something far more frightening (to them anyway) – a pair of ghosts.

One of the pale-skinned spirits is portrayed with his usual frightening intensity by veteran leading man Somchai Kemklad. I'm not sure he needed much makeup. He's a terrifying drill instructor who has become even more menacing ever since his run-in a year before with a landmine. The other ghost is a kid, a cadet, who was apparently killed by the dead drill instructor. He always turns up and greets the frightened boys with a quick twitch of his eyebrow.

As with these horror comedies, most of the time is eaten up by the usual headache-inducing running around and screaming, even though the ghosts aren't very scary. The scares, such as they are, are interspersed with a bath-time dance sequence, with the boys doing a K-pop number while wearing just their underwear briefs.

With nearly a dozen schoolboy characters, it's near impossible to pick one as outstanding. All look the same in (and out) of uniform, with the same buzzcut hairstyle. And they act in the same stupid manner with little to distinguish them apart. There's a mean guy, and another guy has a dumb smile. Yet another guy always freezes in place when he encounters a ghost, which actually isn't a bad tactic. There's an interesting trio of comic-relief ladyboy characters, all with the requisite amount of sass, but with a cast already filled with clowns, they aren't really needed and are quickly forgotten.

There are probably serious issues this overwhelmingly homoerotic film could have dealt with, such as how gay guys and transgenders cope with the boot-camp setting. But with all the nonsensical running around and screaming, it's hard to take anything seriously.

Behind-the-scenes photos from the set indicate that Tanwarin likely had a blast playing general to her troupe of young actors in army uniforms. I think they had more fun making the movie than anyone did watching it.

For Tanwarin, Ror Dor represents yet another move deeper into commercial territory after years of making edgy short films. Well respected within the industry, the transgender filmmaker took hard knocks when her highly personal and sexually explicit indie drama Insects in the Backyard was banned from screening in Thailand. She then set out on a purely commercial direction, helming the Issan-dialect country comedy Hak Na Sarakham (produced by Prachya Pinkaew at Sahamongkol) and then turning back to transgender issues and addressing them in a mainstream way with the award-winning drama It Gets Better. Last year, she did two decent features, the cute horror comedy Threesome and the Japanese-Thai romance Fin Sugoi. Tanwarin hooked up with Poj on the producer-director's Die a Violent Death omnibus horrors, directing the better segments, acting in front of the lens and helping with various other aspects of the productions.

Here's hoping Tanwarin is banking the cash earned from these jobs, with an eye toward making another award-winner. That would distinguish her from Poj, who just seems to keep making bad movies and then using the cash from those to make more bad movies.

See also:

Vanishing Point takes top prize at Rotterdam

Jakrawal Nilthramrong, left, with fellow Tiger Award winners Carlos M. Quintela and Juan Daniel F. Molero and International Film Festival Rotterdam director Rutger Wolfson.

Vanishing Point (วานิชชิ่ง พอยท์), the debut full-length feature from director Jakrawal Nilthamrong, was among the winners of the Hivos Tiger Award at the 44th International Film Festival Rotterdam, which wrapped up on Sunday.

The film, which is in no way related to the cult-classic 1971 car-chase movie of the same name, is a partly autobiographical experimental drama, which touches on a horrific car crash Jakrawal's parents were involved in. It then branches out with a pair of stories, one about a young reporter who attends crime-scene reconstructions, and the other about the owner of a sleazy hotel who watches guests on hidden-camera monitors.

Here is the statement from the IFFR press release:

The Hivos Tiger Awards Competition jury was comprised of writer, director and producer Rolf de Heer, producer Ichiyama Shozo, director Maja Miloš, art photographer and director of Spanish Film Archive Jose Maria Prado Garcia and actress Johanna ter Steege. On making their decision they commented "In dealing with both living and broken dreams, La Obra Del Siglo (Carlos M. Quintela) confronts themes both intimate and epic. With its wonderful performances, with its humour and poignancy and boldness of execution, the film resonates with history. Vanishing Point (Jakrawal Nilthamrong) combines and juxtaposes image and sound to create a powerful style. It grapples with ideas and story-telling in a provoking and different way, making it a visceral cinematic experience. Juan Daniel F. Molero’s Videophilia and other Viral Syndromes) explores the relationship between the young and the rapidly changing world with unflinching truth. Its anarchy and visual flair reflect its subject matter. The film dives deep into disturbing, necessary waters."

This is the fourth Thai film to be honored with Rotterdam's top prize, which usually goes to debut features. Others have been Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town in 2008, Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History in 2010 and Sivaroj Kongsakul with Eternity (Tee Rak) in 2011.

Jakrawal has been a long-time attendee at Rotterdam, where his graduation project from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Patterns of Transcendence was screened. He was later selected to take part the IFFR's Forget Africa project, which paired Asian film talents with African directors. That resulted in the mid-length experimental effort Unreal Forest.

There's more about Jakrawal's big win in The Nation today.

Teacher's Diary is top Subhanahongsa nominee

Nominees for the 24th Subhanahongsa Awards have filtered out.

The top nominee is The Teacher’s Diary (คิดถึงวิทยา, Kid Tueng Wittaya), the hit GTH romantic drama. With 13 nods in all, it's up for Best Picture and screenplay, as well as actor and actress.

Other Best Picture nominees are GTH's blockbuster comedy I Fine Thank You Love You, Lee Chatametikool's indie romance Concrete Clouds (ภวังค์รัก, Phawang Rak), Yuthlert Sippapak's comeback Chiang Khan Story (Tukkae Rak Pang Mak, ตุ๊กแกรักแป้งมาก) and Plae Kao, a new adaptation of a Thai literary classic.

Reflecting the indie Thai trend in documentaries, a new category has been added. It has three nominees, Somboon by Krisada Tipchaimeta, By the River (สายน้ำติดเชื้อ, Sai Nam Tid Shoer) by Nontawat Numbenchapol and The Master by Nawapol Thamrongratanarit.

Voting for the winners is under a new complicated new process instituted last year. The Nation has more on that.


  • Kid Tueng Wittaya (The Teacher’s Diary)
  • I Fine Thank You Love You
  • Phawang Rak (Concrete Clouds)
  • Plae Kao (The Scar)
  • Tukkae Rak Pang Mak (Chiang Khan Story).


  • Yuthlert Sippapak, Chiang Khan Story
  • ML Bandevanop Devakula, The Scar
  • Lee Chatametikool, Concrete Clouds
  • Mez Tharatorn, I Fine Thank You Love You


  • Nithiwat Tharatorn, Thosaphol Thiptinnakorn, Suppalerk Ningsanon, Sophana Chaowiwatkool, The Teacher’s Diary
  • Yuthlert Sippapak, Chiang Khan Love Story
  • Lee Chatametikool, Concrete Clouds
  • Boongsong Nakphoo, Wangphikul (Village of Hope)
  • Mez Tharatorn, Chaiyaphruek Chalermpornpanich, Benjamaporn Sa-bua, I Fine Thank You Love You


  • Sukrit Wisetkaew, The Teacher’s Diary
  • Jirayu La-ongmanee, Chiang Khan Story
  • Sunny Suwanmethanon, I Fine Thank You Love You
  • Chaiyapol Julien Poupart, Plae Kao
  • Ananda Everingham, Concrete Clouds


  • Preechaya Pongthananikorn, I Fine Thank You Love You
  • Davika Hoorne, Plae Kao
  • Jarinporn Joonkiat, Jodmai Khwam Songjum (Timeline)
  • Chermarn Boonyasak, The Teacher’s Diary
  • Janesuda Parnto, Concrete Clouds


  • Nopachai Jayanama, Timeline
  • Natpat Nimjirawat, Chiang Khan Story
  • Pongpat Wachirabanjong, Plae Kao
  • Prawith Hansten, Concrete Clouds
  • Popetorn Sunthornyanakij, I Fine Thank You Love You


  • Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Concrete Clouds
  • Piyathida Worramusik, Timeline
  • Chanikarn Tangabodi, Chiang Khan Story
  • Sinjai Plengpanich, Plae Kao
  • Marsha Wattanapanich, Rak Mod Kaew (Love on the Rock)


  • Narupon Chokkanapitak, The Teacher’s Diary
  • Somkid Phukpong, Chiang Khan Story
  • Panom Promchat, Plae Kao
  • Jarin Pengpanich, Concrete Clouds
  • Pramate Charnkrasae, Hong Hoon


  • Thammarat Sumethsupachok, Pongsakorn Chanchalermchai, The Teacher’s Diary
  • Chonlasit Upanigkit, W
  • Thawat Siripong, Chiang Khan Story
  • Lee Chatametikool, Kamontorn Ekwatanakij, Concrete Clouds
  • Thammarat Sumethsupachok,  Thanasak Yanajan, I Fine Thank You Love You


  • Mai Tang Kan by 25 Hours, The Teacher’s Diary
  • Yak Hak by Koo Kaen Band, Phoobao Thai Baan: E-San Indy
  • Jaikhwam Samkhan by Musketeer, Love on the Rock
  • Golden Shower Bloom by Karen musicians of Klity village, By the River
  • Walk You Home from I Fine Thank You Love You


  • Kantana Sound Studio, The Teacher’s Diary
  • Richard Hocks, Rak Luang Lorn (The Couple)
  • Kantana Sound Lab, Timeline
  • Kantana Sound Studio, Plae Kao
  • Kantana Sound Studio, The Swimmers


  • Chatchai Pongprapapan, Timeline
  • Hualampong Riddim, The Teacher’s Diary
  • Origin Company, Chiang Khan Story
  • Piti Kayoonpahn, The Scar
  • Hualampong Riddim, I Fine Thank You Love You


  • Akradej Kaewkote, The Teacher’s Diary
  • Patrick Meesaiyati, Plae Kao
  • Khacha Ruanthong, Chiang Khan Love Story
  • Ekkarat Homla-or, Concrete Clouds
  • Siranat Ratchusanti, Hong Hoon


  • Suthee Muanwaja, The Teacher’s DIary 
  • Siriwan Karnchoochor, Chiang Khan Love Story
  • Suthee Muanwaja, I Fine Thank You Love You
  • Athit Thriakittiwat, Plae Kao
  • Cattleya Paosrijaroen, Concrete Clouds


  • Pichet Wongjansom, The Swimmers
  • Panparit Suvanaprakorn, Kyu Kittichon Kunratchol (QFX Work Shop), The Eyes Diary
  • Montri Watlaiad, Plae Kao
  • Sirirat Jamfa, Hong Hoon


  • Exhabition, The Swimmers
  • The Post Bangkok, Sming
  • The Renegade V Effect, Hong Hoon
  • Oriental Post,  The Teacher’s Diary
  • Nonzee Nimibutr, Timeline


  • The Master
  • Somboon
  • By the River

The awards ceremony is set for March 1 at the Thailand Cultural Center, where veteran action star Sombat Metanee will be honored with the Lifetime Achievment Award.