A new documentary by Thai film-maker Thunska Pansittivorakul, This Area Is Under Quarantine, was screened at Makhampom Studio, Bangkok, last night. (All of his previous films were shown at a retrospective in April.) Before the premiere of this new feature-length documentary, there were screenings of his recent short films Action! (which premiered at the 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, and is currently showing as part of the 4th Project 6) and Middle-Earth (which premiered at the 11th Thai Short Film & Video Festival), and his music video Blinded Spot. Most of the photographs from Thunska's recent Life Show exhibition were also displayed, though some were missing. [Guess which ones!]
Thunska has always made highly provocative films, and This Area Is Under Quarantine is no exception. Its first half resembles his earlier films Life Show and Chemistry, with two gay men being interviewed about their past relationships. (They later have sex with each other, filmed in close-up with a constantly moving camera, recalling Thunska's film Sigh.)
One of the men mentions that he is a Muslim, which unexpectedly veers the discussion towards the notorious incident at Tak Bai in 2004 when seventy-eight Muslim men suffocated while held captive by the Thai army. Video footage of the Tak Bai incident is included, and Thaksin Shinawatra, who was Thailand's Prime Minister at the time of the incident, is directly criticised in the film. (Same Sky magazine distributed a Tak Bai VCD in 2004).
More contentiously, photographs of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, who were hanged in Iran in 2005, are also included, with the suggestion that they were hanged because they had consensual sex with each other. In fact, human rights organisations have since concluded that the two Iranians were hanged for their rape of a thirteen-year-old boy, and thus that their reputation as gay martyrs is inappropriate. [Though hanging anyone for any crime is, of course, abhorrent.]
There were a few technical glitches at last night's sold-out screening. The film will be shown again at the same venue on 1st September.