25 October 2021

Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds


Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds

Who is Viriyaporn Boonprasert? She has submitted quite a few films to the Thai Short Film Festival, though the organisers have no idea who she is. Her short films, with their ironic juxtapositions of found footage, satirise the elitism and nationalism of the Thai political establishment.

Viriyaporn’s Ghost of Centralworld, from her Develop Blessing Giant Dhamma in Three Worlds (เจริญพรมหาธรรมใน 3 โลก) series, was made in response to the 2010 military crackdown. It features an emotional account from the father of Kittipong Somsuk, whose death was caused by arsonists who burnt the Zen department store, followed by news footage of the store’s reopening, when tragedy and political controversy were swept away in the name of consumerism.

Viriyaporn Boonprasert is a pseudonym, and presumably she disguises her identity because her work deals with Thai politics and touches on the ultra-sensitive issue of the monarchy. One of her short films, พ่อจ๋าหนูอยากกลับบ้าน (‘daddy, I want to go home’), submitted to Filmvirus Wildtype, was too controversial even for that progressive group, and the organisers reluctantly declined to screen it. (The film features photographs of King Rama X and his youngest son living in Germany.)

The mysterious tale of the anonymous filmmaker is told in the short documentary Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds (เจริญวิริญาพรมาหาทำใน 3 โลก), which was released on YouTube yesterday. Director Kanyarat Theerakrittayakorn interviewed various film experts—including Chalida Uabumrungjit, Chulayarnnon Siriphol, Jit Phokaew, and Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa—who speculate on Viriyaporn’s real identity. They even begin to suspect each other, as Thai cinephiles are a close-knit group and she seems to be an insider. This leads to bemused denials by some contributors, and Viriyaporn remains an enigma.

22 October 2021

Danse Macabre


Danse Macabre Remember Supernatural

“Thunska who makes everything sexy.”
“But I’m talking about death in this one...”

From Eros to Thanatos: Danse Macabre (มรณสติ) begins with director Thunska Pansittivorakul explaining to a dance choreographer that his new documentary explores darker territory. Unlike his last film, the sexually frank Avalon (แดนศักดิ์สิทธิ์), Danse Macabre juxtaposes accounts of violent deaths with interpretive dance routines.

The film was codirected by Phassarawin Kulsomboon, and will have its world premiere at the Doclisboa film festival in Lisbon on 27th October. (A shorter version, Dance of Death, will be shown at the Thai Short Film and Video Festival later this year.) Thunska’s Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา) was named best film at Doclisboa in 2019.

As the proverb says, death is the great leveller. But in Thailand, one of the world’s most unequal societies, not even death can rupture the social hierarchy. Danse Macabre highlights the disparity between the deaths of royals and commoners: kings receive lavish state funerals followed by prolonged periods of national mourning, whereas murder victims become objects of public spectacle as undignified crowds of gawping onlookers gather freely at crime scenes.

The starkest contrast is that between King Rama VIII (who died from a bullet wound in 1946) and Porlajee Rakchongcharoen (a human rights activist nicknamed Billy who was murdered in 2014). The King’s corpse was placed in a golden urn atop a gilded chariot. Porlajee’s body, however, was stuffed unceremoniously into an oil drum. (Pin Sasao’s installation ถังแดง​: ความตายของบิลลี่—‘red barrel: the death of Billy’—also addresses Porlajee’s murder.)

In Thunska’s documentary Homogeneous, Empty Time, one interviewee mentions “soldiers getting beaten to death during training” and shortly after that film was completed, army cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan died during a training exercise. Danse Macabre has an equally tragic topicality: on 20th July, just a few days after the rough cut was finished, three people dropped dead on the streets of Bangkok, and their bodies were left in situ for hours. (Thunska added an epilogue highlighting these recent cases.)

Danse Macabre also deals with Thai state violence, from the massacres of October 1976—also covered in The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย)—May 1992, and May 2010, to the recent student protests. Footage of riot police firing water canon last year is cut to the beat of the Subtitle Project’s song Remember. The track’s Thai title, วน, literally translates as ‘loop’, indicating the cyclical nature of violent state oppression. (Thunska directed the music video for Remember when it was released as a single.)

Like Thunska’s Reincarnate (จุติ), Danse Macabre begins with a written prologue explaining the Thai law under which “a film may be banned as unsuitable for public exhibition” and then proceeds to deliberately flout those rules. I interviewed Thunska about this law for Thai Cinema Uncensored, and one of his early features, This Area is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), was the first film to fall foul of it. Thunska uses explicit sexual content as a political commentary in many films, and Danse Macabre is no exception: it includes photos from vintage porn magazines to show how Thailand has since become more culturally—and, by implication, politically—conservative.

Even more provocatively, the indirect allusions to the monarchy in his sci-fi dystopia Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ) are replaced by a direct account of modern Thai royal history, including a subliminal image hinting at an explanation for the death of Rama VIII. Three scapegoats were executed for the King’s murder on 17th February 1955, and coded references to that date appear in Danse Macabre, Supernatural, and the Remember music video.

18 October 2021

Keep in the Dark


Tawan Wattuya’s new exhibition Keep in the Dark features watercolour portraits of pro-democracy protesters and campaigners who have been jailed or abducted, including Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul (Rung), Arnon Nampa (Lawyer Anon), and Porlajee Rakchongcharoen (Billy), among many others. The first work in the exhibition is a portrait of Prayut Chan-o-cha, titled I ____ Too: the missing word is ‘hear’, a pun on the protest chant “ai hia Tu”. (Ai hia is a suitably strong insult, and Tu is Prayut’s nickname.) The work that gives the exhibition its title, Keep in the Dark, shows the announcement of Prayut’s 2014 coup.

The lavish exhibition catalogue comes with three postcards, and includes an essay by curator Kritsada Duchsadeevanich outlining Thailand’s recurring political crisis: “Young people take to the streets demanding political transformation. Those in power use brute force to suppress the young protesters mercilessly.” Keep in the Dark opened on 14th October at Silpakorn University Art Centre in Bangkok, and runs until 27th November. Tawan’s previous exhibitions include Amnesia, which coincided with the publication of his monograph Works 2009-2019.

16 October 2021

Uncensored


Uncensored Uncensored Uncensored

Uncensored (ศิลปะปลดปล่อย), a group exhibition curated by Headache Stencil, opened today at the Jam Factory in Bangkok. The original Uncensored was a one-day event, though this new exhibition runs until 22nd November. (There was also a smaller-scale sequel, Uncensored 2, held in Chiang Mai.)

The exhibition features a mix of new and older works, by more than thirty artists. From Uncensored 2, there’s a collage by Spanky Studio featuring the Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) newspaper. Also on show again is The Sound of Elite, from the Propaganda Children’s Day (วันเด็กชั่งชาติ) exhibition. Both of these refer to the 6th October 1976 massacre, and in another reference to that event, a folding chair is suspended from the gallery ceiling.

A drawing by director Yuthlert Sippapak is also included, which shows Suthep Thaugsuban trampling on the constitution, a comment on the anti-democratic nature of his ‘Shutdown Bangkok’ campaign. The most provocative work is Yellow!, a skateboard displayed on a small plinth: on the underside is a painting by Nawat Lertsawaengkit based on a notorious birthday video leaked in 2007.

13 October 2021

Calmer Rouge


Calmer Rouge Calmer Rouge

Calmer Rouge, a performance art event by Artn’t, is taking place until tomorrow in front of the Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai. The performance began on 6th October, and it marks the anniversaries of Thailand’s two historical October massacres: 14th October 1973 and 6th October 1976.

One of the props used throughout the event is a folding chair—in reference to a notorious Neal Ulevich photograph from 1976—splattered with symbolic blue paint. A mock guillotine was similarly painted blue at an anti-government demonstration in Bangkok on 18th July.

Errata: Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories


Errata Errata

The group exhibition Errata: Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories opened at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai on 30th July, and runs until 1st November (subsequently extended to 14th February 2022). Works relating to Thailand’s two notorious October massacres are included: Arin Rungjang’s And Then There Were None: Tomorrow We Will Become Thailand is a series of paintings based on news photographs from 14th October 1973, and Thasnai Sethaseree’s untitled collages feature partially obscured news photos of 6th October 1976.

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s video The Class is also included. It was shown previously at two group exhibitions in Bangkok—Crossover and Dialogues—and a transcript of the video appears in Araya’s book Art and Words (ศิลปะกับถ้อยความ).

The Year of the Everlasting Storm


The Year of the Everlasting Storm

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest feature film, Memoria, won the Jury Prize after its world premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film received a standing ovation, after which Apichatpong memorably declared: “Long live cinema!” With coronavirus vaccines in short supply and the registration system in disarray, he also used his Cannes acceptance speech as an opportunity to call on the Thai government to “please wake up, and work for your people, now.”

A promotional clip from Memoria attracted attention in Thailand for its political meaning: Tilda Swinton’s character performs a magic trick with a red, white, and blue handkerchief, making the blue colour disappear. Blue has a symbolic meaning on the Thai flag, and in an online Q&A with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, Apichatpong confirmed: “I chose the colours.” Last week, the film’s distributors announced that it would never be available on any video format, and instead would remain an exclusively theatrical presentation.

Apichatpong’s short film Night Colonies also premiered at Cannes, as part of the anthology film The Year of the Everlasting Storm. Night Colonies combines two of the director’s consistent themes, light and the natural world, as it features insects buzzing around neon lights. The film begins with a poem paying tribute to “distant friends, and those who had disappeared”, a reference to pro-democracy campaigners self-exiled or abducted following lèse-majesté charges.

The poem continues: “The young leaves unfold, flushed with memories in the year of the everlasting storm.” In addition to giving the portmanteau film its title, these lines are also a metaphor for the student protesters campaigning for reform of the monarchy. In fact, the film’s soundtrack includes audio recorded at protests in Bangkok on 27th July and 20th August 2020.

Apichatpong’s exhibition A Minor History (ประวัติศาสตร์กระจ้อยร่อย)—now on show at 100 Tonson in Bangkok—also addresses the murder of lèse-majesté suspects, and the title of his short film October Rumbles (เสียงฟ้าเดือนตุลา) hints at the rumblings of dissent from the student protesters. He co-directed the video installation Silence—shown at 100 Tonson last week—which refers directly to the tragic “memories” mentioned in the Night Colonies poem.

09 October 2021

Madame X: Music from the Theater Xperience


Yesterday, Madonna released a concert film and live album, edited from a dozen performances of her Madame X Tour in Portugal. Although the Madame X album was available in a range of formats, the Madame X Tour is the first Madonna tour without a physical release. Instead, the film is streaming on Paramount+ and being broadcast on MTV, and the album is available on the major music streaming platforms.

The album track listing is: God Control, Dark Ballet, Human Nature (followed by an a cappella version of Express Yourself), Vogue, I Don’t Search I Find, American Life, Batuka, Fado Pechincha, Killers Who Are Partying, Crazy, Welcome to My Fado Club (incorporating La Isla Bonita), Extreme Occident, Rescue Me (a pre-recorded spoken interlude), Medellín, Frozen, Come Alive, Future (with a new second verse), Like a Prayer, and I Rise. Two songs from the tour—Sodade and Crave—are not included.

07 October 2021

Sun Rises When Day Breaks


Sun Rises When Day Breaks Kraipit Phanvut

The Thai band View from the Bus Tour released their new single Sun Rises When Day Breaks (ลิ่วล้อ) on 5th October, an appropriate date as it was written in support of the 5 ตุลาฯ ตะวันจะมาเมื่อฟ้าสาง (‘5th Oct.: sun rises when day breaks’) campaign and uses the campaign’s slogan as its English title. The song is one of several commemorating the 45th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre.

The music video for Sun Rises When Day Breaks begins with a recreation of an iconic news photograph from the massacre - not the ubiquitous image of a man hitting a corpse with a chair, but instead a photo by Kraipit Phanvut showing a police colonel (Salang Bunnag) aiming his pistol while nonchalantly smoking a cigarette. Director Anocha Suwichakornpong restaged the same photo at the start of her film By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง), and it has also been reappropriated by artists such as Headache Stencil.

45 ปี 6 ตุลาฯ: ข้อคิดจากคนเดือนตุลา


This year, Thammasat University refused permission for an exhibition commemorating the 6th October 1976 massacre (citing the coronavirus pandemic), though it did publish a book to mark the 45th anniversary of the event. 45 ปี 6 ตุลาฯ: ข้อคิดจากคนเดือนตุลา (‘45 years of 6th Oct.: thoughts from Octobrists’), edited by Kasidit Ananthanathorn, reproduces the notorious Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) front page that sparked the massacre (on page 80). The Dao Siam page is rarely reprinted, though it did appear in the June 2012 issue of Sarakadee (สำรคดี) magazine, and in the books Prism of Photography (ปริซึมของภาพถ่าย) and Moments of Silence.

The Mystery of Picasso


Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic documentary The Mystery of Picasso (Le mystère Picasso) will be shown at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok on 8th, 9th, 13th, 14th, 18th, 20th, 21st, and 26th October. The film has been screened in Thailand a few times before, at TCDC, Smalls, Warehouse 30, and the Thai Film Archive.

06 October 2021

45 ปี 6 ตุลา


Burning Sky Lucky Leg

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre. There is no official 6th October exhibition at Thammasat University this year (apparently due to pressure from the government), though a large painting by Lucky Leg was displayed on campus today. (It depicts a monk tying a chord around a dead man’s neck, in reference to Kittivuddho Bhikku, the monk who encouraged the killing of Communists.) More of his work is currently on show at the Specter (ปีศาจ) exhibition, and there have been plenty of other artistic responses to the anniversary.

5 ตุลาฯ ตะวันจะมาเมื่อฟ้าสาง (‘5th Oct.: sun rises when day breaks’), the team behind the recent ‘museum in a box’, released a half-hour documentary at midnight this morning. The film, Dawn of a New Day (ก่อนฟ้าสาง), traces the history of the student protest movement from the 14th October 1973 uprising to the 1976 massacre. As in the short film Pirab (พิราบ), the violence of 6th October is represented in sound only, over a blank screen. It ends with footage of water cannon being used against students on 16th October 2020—showing that the mantle of pro-democracy protest has passed to a new generation—and a list of the names of the 6th October victims.

Silence, a three-channel video commemorating 6th October, opened today at 100 Tonson Foundation in Bangkok. The video—co-directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, Chatchai Suban, and Pathompong Manakitsomboon—is part of Apichatpong’s exhibition A Minor History (ประวัติศาสตร์กระจ้อยร่อย), and will be on show until 10th October. Silence includes autopsy photographs of 6th October victims, and graphic footage of the desecration of their corpses. It also shows how prejudice is inculcated, with flashcards of pejoratives such as ‘หนักแผ่นดิน’ (‘scum of the earth’) and ‘ควายแดง’ (‘red buffalo’).

Rap Against Dictatorship released a new music video today, which also refers to 6th October. The video—Burning Sky (ไฟไหม้ฟ้า), directed by Skanbombomb—features a hanging corpse shown in silhouette, and ends with a caption commemorating the massacre. The silhouette echoes Rap Against Dictatorship’s most famous video, My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี), which included a mannequin hanging from a tree.

A music video by T_047—ความฝันยามรุ่งสาง (‘dreaming at dawn’), directed by Yanna—also released today, begins with a toddler watching footage of 6th October on multiple TV screens. Another music video released today, หัวใจเสรี (‘free heart’) by TaitosmitH, has no content directly related to 6th October, though it was released in solidarity with the movement to commemorate the massacre; directed under a pseudonym (อัมรินทร์ อินทารักษ์, meaning ‘Ammarin defender’) it features footage of recent anti-government protests in Bangkok, filmed at Siam Square and Democracy Monument.

05 October 2021

Essential Desires: Contemporary Art in Thailand


Brian Curtin, one of Bangkok’s leading art critics, has written a superb guide to the Thai art scene, Essential Desires: Contemporary Art in Thailand. Decade by decade, Curtin surveys the artists and institutions at the forefront of Thai contemporary art. The book documents the emergent art spaces of the 1990s, with rare images of exhibition flyers and installation views, and extensive political context.

One of the book’s central arguments is that “questions of nation and nationalism have been unavoidable in accounting for Thai art”, and Curtin considers how artists respond to the problematic state-imposed notion of ‘Thainess’. Manit Sriwanichpoom, Vasan Sitthiket, and Sutee Kunavichayanont, for example, collaborated on group exhibitions that critiqued modern Thai history to some extent, though Curtin argues that their “avowal of problems within the national status quo did not involve a fundamental questioning of its general terms, symbols, concern with appearances or essential desire for unity.”

Noting that Manit, Vasan, and Sutee all supported the anti-democratic PDRC campaign, Curtin contrasts them with more subversive recent artists such as Pisitakun Kuantalaeng and Jakkhai Siributr, who demonstrate a “post-national sensibility characterized by the challenging of the very possibility of national allegiance.” Vasan’s Blue October (ตุลาลัย) and Jakkhai’s 78 are among the many full-page illustrations. Other works illustrated include Miti Ruangkritya’s Thai Politics III, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s The Class III and In a Blur of Desire (ในความพร่ามัวของปรารถนา), Harit Srikhao’s Chosen Boys, Withit Sembutr’s Doo Phra, and (the cover image) Michael Shaowanasi’s Portrait of a Man in Habits.

The book also examines the various galleries and other cultural institutions established over the past three decades (though not MAIIAM, surprisingly). Most notable among these is the state-funded BACC, host to a series of large-scale survey shows, including Traces of Siamese Smile (รอยยิ้มสยาม) and Thai Trends (ไทยเท), with their “strained and anxious references to local identity and tradition.” Curtin notes that these bloated ‘prestige’ exhibitions were curated by Apinan Poshyananda, a former artist who is now a senior figure at the conservative Ministry of Culture. In an especially astute observation, he laments Apinan’s “assimilation to the machinery of the state”.

Apinan wrote the last extensive monograph on Thai art, Modern Art in Thailand (copies of which are now scarce). Since then, Steven Pettifor’s Flavours and Serenella Ciclitira’s Thailand Eye have featured profiles of individual Thai artists, though Essential Desires is the first survey of the entire landscape of Thai contemporary art for almost thirty years.

04 October 2021

Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle against Censorship


Written by Cherian George and designed by Sonny Liew, Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle against Censorship is a guide to the censorship of contemporary political cartoons around the world. The focus is on recent cases, though there are some historical examples of caricature and wartime propaganda. (Victor Navasky’s book The Art of Controversy has a more historical perspective.) Red Lines features cartoons subjected to lawsuits and bans, though it also covers cartoonists who have been harassed, sacked, deplatformed, arrested on trumped-up charges, or otherwise intimidated. The scope is truly global, and the cartoons under discussion are all reproduced, making this an extremely useful survey.

In terms of recent newspaper and magazine cartoons that have faced legal challenges, Red Lines covers all of the major cases though doesn’t include any unfamiliar ones. The examples it cites have all been previously mentioned on Dateline Bangkok: Zunar, Musa Kart (twice), Zapiro, LeMan, Stephff, Mana Neyestani, and Aseem Trivedi. The most explosive issue in political cartooning this century—the depiction of Mohammed—receives extensive coverage in Red Lines, and the twelve Jyllands-Posten cartoons are reproduced alongside others created in solidarity (from Le Monde, the Philadelphia Daily News, and الحياة الجديدة).

There are more than thirty pages devoted to the terrorist attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo, and two of that newspaper’s Mohammed covers (from 2006 and 2011) are included, as is a tasteless 2013 cover mocking the Koran. My only criticism is that the events leading up to the 2015 attack are not fully explained: a timeline in the book juxtaposes the Koran cover and the attack, implying a direct connection, though they occurred more than a year apart. A more likely trigger for the attack—a 2014 cover depicting Mohammed being beheaded—is not mentioned.

03 October 2021

They Will Never Forget


Yesterday, the Thai Film Archive screened the documentary They Will Never Forget on its YouTube channel. (It was previously shown at the Archive in 2017.) The film, which documents a strike by female workers at the Hara factory in Bangkok, was originally released in 1977. Directed by Ooka Ryuuchi, it was a co-production between independent filmmakers in Thailand and Japan.

The circumstances of the film’s production were similar to those of the Thai docudrama Tongpan (ทองปาน). Both films were celebrations of workers’ rights, made during the brief spell of democracy that followed the 14th October 1973 uprising. This period of optimism ended in a violent coup on 6th October 1976, which appears as a tragic epilogue in both films.

Following the 1976 coup, state censorship increased dramatically, though postproduction of They Will Never Forget was completed in Japan, giving the filmmakers more freedom in their political commentary. The film condemns military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn, “whose hands were stained with the blood of at least seventy-six patriots,” and its assessment of the coup is equally honest and unrestrained: “The reign of violence and injustice was back.”

It also includes a surprisingly direct reference to student actors whose mock hanging led to the 6th October massacre. The film mentions media reports that an actor playing a hanging corpse “resembled the Crown Prince,” an issue that remains unspoken in Thailand even today. In contrast, the 2014 documentary Different Views, Death Sentence (ต่างความคิด ผิดถึงตาย ๖ ตุลาคม ๒๕๑๙) claimed only that students were accused of “severe ill-will to the Crown Prince”, without reference to the hanging; and the 2011 film The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย) referred only to “the hanging of an important person in effigy.”

In hindsight, They Will Never Forget’s title was somewhat idealistic, because the massacre was indeed forgotten for twenty years, as Thongchai Winichakul discusses in his book Moments of Silence. Unfortunately, the titles of Napat Treepalawisetkun’s short film We Will Forget It Again (แล้วเราจะลืมมันอีกครั้ง) and Vasan Sitthiket’s video Delete Our History, Now! (อำนาจ/การลบทิ้ง) are more accurate comments on the whitewashing of Thai history.

01 October 2021

กล่องฟ้าสาง


This year, the annual commemoration of the 6th October 1976 massacre has been cancelled by Thammasat University, citing the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the organisers have a created a ‘museum in a box’, a package containing dozens of items relating to the optimistic period from the 14th October 1973 uprising until the day before the 1976 massacre.

The กล่องฟ้าสาง (‘box of dawn’) is available in a limited edition of 150. A series of paintings by Thasnai Sethaseree also refers to the eve of the massacre. With its exact facsimiles of vintage documents and photographs, the box recalls the ephemera inserted into Doug Dorst’s novel S.

Thalugaz


Elevenfinger’s new music video Thalugaz (ทะลุเเก๊ซ) includes footage of riot police deploying water cannon against anti-government protesters at Din Daeng in Bangkok. There have been clashes at Din Daeng on an almost daily basis, with the police firing rubber bullets and protesters responding by throwing fireworks and setting fire to police vehicles.

The song is named after Thalugaz, a new and radical group formed in support of the Din Daeng protesters, many of whom are poor and disenfranchised. Nontawat Numbenchapol is currently making a crowdfunded documentary about Thalugaz, Sound of ‘Din’ Daeng, and has released two short prologues to the film online. The second prologue, subtitled Rarely Make History, opens with stunning shots of the fireworks thrown at the police by the protesters, glittering through a haze of tear gas fired by the police.

Elevenfinger’s Thalugaz video includes a live clip of him leading a crowd in the same chant that previously resulted in charges against Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonp. Two of his previous music videos—ไอเหี้ย... ฆาตกร (‘fucking... murderer’) and เผด็จกวยหัวคาน (‘get rid of the dickhead’)—are equally confrontational and were also filmed at recent protests.

28 September 2021

“Distortion that incites youths to be led astray...”


The Ministry of Education is investigating a series of eight children’s picture books published this month. A spokesperson for Deputy Minister of Education Kanlaya Sophonpanich announced yesterday that Kanlaya has set up a panel to urgently inspect the books, as she believes they stir up hated and promote “distortion that incites youths to be led astray.” She also threatened the publisher with legal action.

The books were published by Family Club, who advertised them with a knowing wink as suitable for children aged five to 112. (The lèse-majesté law is article 112 of the Thai criminal code.) Rather than spreading hatred, as Kanlaya claims, they promote the opposite: tolerance, freedom, and equality. Three of the titles refer directly to the current anti-government protest movement: The Adventures of Little Duck (เป็ดน้อย); Mom, Where Are You Going? (แม่หมิมไปไหน?); and 10 ราษฎร (‘10 people’).

One of the books, Children Have Dreams (เด็กๆ มีความฝัน), features a quote from protest leader Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul on the back cover. Another title, Hack! Hack! The Fire Dragon (แค็ก! แค็ก! มังกรไฟ), was written by protest leader Sombat Boonngamanong, though its theme is environmental rather than political: he works as a firefighter in Chiang Mai, and his story is about the dangers of forest fires. The others in the series are Who Has No Head? (ตัวไหนไม่มีหัว), The Call of the Birds (เสียงร้องของผองนก), and Chit Phumisak (จ จิตร ชีวิตอัจฉริยะไทยผู้ใฝ่เรียนรู้ จิตร ภูมิศักดิ์).

26 September 2021

Broken Heartlands: A Journey Through Labour’s Lost England


For his new book Broken Heartlands: A Journey Through Labour’s Lost England, journalist Sebastian Payne travelled throughout the ‘red wall’, the traditional Labour heartland constituencies won by the Conservatives in the 2019 election. Payne is a political correspondent for the Financial Times, and presenter of the excellent Payne’s Politics podcast.

In an interview with Payne, Prime Minister Boris Johnson emphasised his (somewhat vague) ‘levelling up’ agenda, and he also seemed to reject the Thatcherite centralisation of economic power: “The Treasury has made a catastrophic mistake in the last forty years in thinking that you can just hope that the whole of the UK is somehow going to benefit from London and the south-east.” Asked about ‘culture war’ debates around statues being removed, he dismissed the issue as “fundamentally bollocks.”

Payne analyses the reasons for the collapse of the ‘red wall’, concluding that Brexit was a major factor: “In every place, in almost every single conversation, Labour’s stance on Brexit and the unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn were top of the list of why the party lost its fourth election in a row.” Labour’s support for a second Brexit referendum and “Corbyn’s equivocation on the EU question” contrasted with Johnson’s deceptive yet effective rhetoric (“Get Brexit done”), giving the Conservatives a landslide.

Assessing the challenge for Labour in rebuilding the ‘red wall’, Payne argues that—as Bill Clinton put it—it’s the economy, stupid: “there is a clear consesus about what needs to be done for the people of the red wall. The majority of interviewees have highlighted that the issues are primarily economic, not cultural.” He proposes a reversal of “decades of underinvestment on infrastructure”, and the decentralisation of power: “The House of Lords needs to be scrapped... devolution is going to be critical to rebuilding England after the pandemic into a better society.”

25 September 2021

บทปราศรัยคัดสรรคดี 112


The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), one of the key student groups leading the current anti-government protests, has released a new booklet, บทปราศรัยคัดสรรคดี 112 (‘speeches on 112’). It features a collection of speeches delivered at past protest rallies, all in support of the UFTD’s campaign to abolish the lèse-majesté law (article 112 of the Thai criminal code). The booklet’s main title is a quote from the 1932 revolutionary manifesto by Pridi Banomyong, ประเทศนี้เป็นของราษฎร ไม่ใช่กษัตริย์ตามที่เขาหลอกลวง (‘our country belongs to the people—not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed’).

Naturally, in today’s political climate, publishing such a booklet is legally perilous. Copies were given away at Three Kings Monument Square in Chiang Mai on 21st September, and yesterday the UFTD announced online that they planned to distribute it at a rally outside BACC in Bangkok today. This announcement caught the attention of the police, who intercepted some copies that were en route to the rally today. Nevertheless, the booklet was available at the rally, and was handed out in exchange for a token donation.

This is the third booklet on the monarchy to attract unwanted attention from the police. 10,000 copies of Arnon Nampa’s สถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์กับสังคมไทย (‘the monarchy and Thai society’) were seized in March, and 50,000 copies of the UFTD’s ปรากฏการณ์สะท้านฟ้า 10 สิงหา (‘an earth-shattering event on 10th August’) were confiscated before they could be distributed at a rally in September 2020. (Arnon’s booklet was later given away at a rally at Ratchaprasong in Bangkok on 3rd September.)

Of course, by announcing their intention to distribute these booklets, the protest groups are essentially daring the police to ban them, and the censorious authorities are only too happy to oblige. Aside from their provocative contents and their brushes with the law, the three booklets also have a common colour scheme: Arnon’s has a blue cover, the first UFTD booklet is red, and the new one is white. These correspond with the colours of Thailand’s tricolour flag, symbolising the monarchy, the nation, and religion respectively.

Thai Soaps: An Analysis of Thai Television Dramas


Gerhard Jaiser begins his book Thai Soaps: An Analysis of Thai Television Dramas by distancing himself from “people who appreciate lakhons as entertainment or even as an art form”, admitting that “I myself do not.” Thai soap operas (known as lakhon or lakorn) are justifiably dismissed as nam nao (‘dirty water’), though they still deserve to be analysed, and Thai Soaps is the first book to do so.

Jaiser’s book (published in 2017) begins with a detailed examination of lakorn narrative structure, character archetypes, and other conventions of the genre. The second chapter makes nuanced comparisons between various original series and their modern remakes, helpfully guiding the reader through the sometimes confusing multiplicity of lakorn versions.

A chapter on lakorn and politics notes how censorship is determined by the political climate. For example, the Thaksin Shinawatra satire เหนือเมฆ (‘beyond comparison’) was uncontroversial in 2010 because “at that time, the Democrat Party, favorable to the Yellow Shirts (and to Channel 3), was in power”, whereas its sequel was censored in 2012, when Thaksin’s sister Yingluck was in office. Ing Kanjanavanit’s film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย) suffered a similar fate for the same reason.

Jaiser is surprisingly uncritical of the deeply problematic representation of minorities in lakorn. He does discuss the asexual nature of gay characters, the increasingly negative stereotyping of Westerners, and the almost total absence of black people, though he doesn’t call this out as homophobic or racist. He even seems reluctant to condemn the reprehensible depiction of rape in lakorn, noting that they portray it as “an act that can even increase the love of the female victim for the rapist” yet criticising this in only mild terms as “questionable”.

Thai Soaps includes a valuable appendix listing major lakorn series, with their Thai titles, plot synopses, and (in most cases) original transmission dates. It’s a good example of not judging a book by its cover—which features a fairly unappealing snapshot—because this is a first-rate study of a second-rate genre.

24 September 2021

Specter


Specter Specter Specter
Specter Specter Specter

Specter (ปีศาจ), an exhibition organised by the protest movement Thalu Fah, opened at Angoon’s Garden in Bangkok on 18th September and runs until 14th October. Since the opening, more works have been added to the exhibition, all of which relate to the 6th October 1976 massacre. (Specter marks the 45th anniversary of the massacre, in lieu of the annual commemoration at Thammasat University, which will not take place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

The additional works all incorporate elements of Neal Ulevich’s infamous photograph of a vigilante hitting a hanging corpse with a folding chair, a single image that has come to stand for the entire massacre. The photo itself is reproduced as part of a collage by Lucky Leg. (Due to the sensitivity of the exhibition, many of the artworks are credited to pseudonyms.) In a drawing by Sinsawat Yodbangtoey, the vigilante and the corpse appear in an hourglass.

Ulevich’s photo is now so iconic that even isolated elements from it are immediately recognisable. In one painting, the man wielding the chair appears in silhouette. In a painting by KKTKKKH, the corpse hangs not from a tree as in the photograph, but from an ornate lamp post with a kinnaree finial. A painting by Rattapob Sirichom shows a crowd of onlookers and a tree trunk. Finally, a painting of a folding chair with a guillotine blade presents the chair as a weapon.

23 September 2021

The Adventures of Little Duck


The Adventures of Little Duck (เป็ดน้อย) is one of a series of eight children’s picture books published this month, some of which refer directly to current Thai politics. The title character has become a symbol of the anti-government protest movement after protesters used rubber ducks to protect themselves from water cannon. Since then, yellow ducks have appeared on calendars and coupons, in a painting, and in the short films New Abnormal (ผิดปกติใหม่) and Yellow Duck Against Dictatorship. The author is credited only by the pen name สะอาด (‘pure’). The book series—perhaps inspired by Hong Kong’s similar ‘sheep village’ (羊村) books—promotes values of tolerance, equality, and democracy, and other titles include Mom, Where Are You Going? (แม่หมิมไปไหน?) and 10 ราษฎร (‘10 people’).

10 ราษฎร


10 ราษฎร (‘10 people’) is one of a series of eight children’s picture books published this month, some of which refer directly to current Thai politics. 10 ราษฎร is entirely visual, featuring portraits of ten people charged with lèse-majesté. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor of Voice of Taksin, is included alongside leaders of the recent anti-government protests such as Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul (who was arrested yesterday), Arnon Nampa, and Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan.

10 ราษฎร was illustrated by Chalermpol Junrayab, the political cartoonist who created the Amazing Thai-Land comics. The book series—perhaps influenced by Hong Kong’s similar ‘sheep village’ (羊村) books—promotes values of tolerance, equality, and democracy, and other titles include The Adventures of Little Duck (เป็ดน้อย) and Mom, Where Are You Going? (แม่หมิมไปไหน?).

Mom, Where Are You Going?


Mom, Where Are You Going? (แม่หมิมไปไหน?) is one of a series of eight children’s picture books published this month, some of which refer directly to current Thai politics. Mom, Where Are You Going? is based on a story by the actress Intira Jaroenpura, who starred in Nang Nak (นางนาก), and shows her at some of the recent anti-government rallies.

Intira not only supports the protesters, but she has also publicly acknowledged that she funded some of the protests. The book series—perhaps influenced by Hong Kong’s similar ‘sheep village’ (羊村) books—promotes values of tolerance, equality, and democracy, and other titles include The Adventures of Little Duck (เป็ดน้อย) and 10 ราษฎร (‘10 people’).

22 September 2021

Luk Thung: The Culture and Politics of Thailand’s Most Popular Music


Luk Thung: The Culture and Politics of Thailand’s Most Popular Music, by James Leonard Mitchell (published in 2015), is the first English-language study of luk thung, a genre that’s usually characterised as Thai country music. Luk thung takes its name from a 1964 television show, and this period was the genre’s golden age, mostly due to the popularity of Suraphon Sombatcharoen—“the King of Thai Country Song”, whose most famous single was สิบหกปีแห่งความหลัง (‘sixteen years past’)—and the success of the blockbuster musical film Monrak Luk Thung (มนต์รักลูกทุ่ง).

Mitchell’s revisionist history covers the genre’s origins in Isaan during the Phibun and Sarit era, when “censorship combined with better economic conditions encouraged songwriters... to abandon social commentary and move into writing commercial and sometimes nationalistic luk thung.” These included a series of stridently nationalistic songs such as เขาพระวิหารต้องเป็นของไทย (‘Preah Vihear Temple must be Thai’), protesting the 1962 judgement that the Preah Vihear Temple was part of Cambodian soil.

The book concludes with an account of the politicisation of luk thung by the red-shirts and yellow-shirts, and provides a detailed analysis of the pro and anti-Thaksin songs played at their respective protest rallies. This final chapter (expanded from Mitchell’s excellent journal paper Red and Yellow Songs) is both a fascinating study of popular culture as propaganda, and a groundbreaking recognition of luk thung’s political dimension. It also situates luk thung within the tradition of Thai ‘songs for life’ following the 14th October 1973 uprising (a tradition that continues today with protest songs in support of the anti-government movement).

19 September 2021

The Queen’s Gambit


Chess grandmaster Nona Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for defamation, and seeking $5 million in damages. Her lawsuit relates to the final episode of the Netflix miniseries The Queen’s Gambit, released last year. In the episode (titled End Game and directed by Scott Frank), a chess commentator compares the lead character, Beth Harman, to Gaprindashvili: “The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that’s not unique in Russia. There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.

The lawsuit, filed on 16th September at the Federal District Court of Los Angeles, claims that “Netflix brazenly and deliberately lied about Gaprindashvili’s achievements” and describes the reference to her never having faced men as “manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling.” The episode is set in 1968, by which time Gaprindashvili had played competitive chess against dozens of male players, though The Queen’s Gambit is a drama series, and is thus surely entitled to artistic licence.

18 September 2021

Specter


Specter Specter Specter
Specter Specter Specter
Specter Specter Specter

A new exhibition marking the 45th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre opened today at Angoon’s Garden in Bangkok. Specter (ปีศาจ), organised by the protest movement Thalu Fah, runs until 14th October. Its full title, ปีศาจแห่งกาลเวลา (‘devil of time’), comes from a novel by Seni Sawaphong. Like last year’s Unmuted Project, Specter includes some risqué artworks, and its opening was monitored by the police.

Most provocatively, a crown has been added to Gustav Corbet’s L’Origine du monde (‘the origin of the world’), turning Corbet’s painting into a pejorative (‘cuntface’). To avoid official scrutiny, the work is signed with a pseudonym, Luckyleg. The same anonymous artist also created portraits of protest leaders including Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul (who attended the opening) and Arnon Nampa.

Figures from Neal Ulevich’s iconic 6th October photograph inspired many of the artworks, including paintings of the hanging corpse, the man wielding the chair, and the laughing boy. Another 6th October press photo is exhibited on the floor, and a mannequin and folding chair are suspended from a tree. There is also a small painting of Choomporn Thummai and Vichai Kasripongsa, the two men whose extrajudicial hangings precipitated the 6th October massacre.

17 September 2021

New Abnormal

New Abnormal
New Abnormal
In a series of static shots and long takes, Sorayos Prapapan’s satirical short film New Abnormal (ผิดปกติใหม่) takes aim at Prayut Chan-o-cha and his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. In one sequence, a paramedic reveals the scale of the problem: “It’s already mid-2021, our country’s people is still only less than 10% vaccinated.” Sadly and shamefully, the statistic is accurate.

Another scene eavesdrops on a meeting between Prayut, deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, and a civil servant. When the bureaucrat asks about bailouts for businesses affected by the lockdown, an irritable Prayut barks back: “Why do you always hand me problems? It’s tiring enough acting as Prime Minister, you know!” Meanwhile, Prawit remains slumped in his chair, fast asleep (as is often the case in parliament). Prayut is played by Phayao Nimma, who also portrayed the PM in The Cave (นางนอน); in the credits, he’s described as “Stupid Prime minister who did coup” [sic].

The film ends with a recreation of an anti-government protest (on a small scale, given the low budget), which is dispersed by riot police with water cannon, tear gas, and rubber bullets (the latter heard but not seen). In the last shot, wisps of tear gas swirl slowly around a solitary rubber duck. The end-credits song is an anti-government anthem based on the Hamtaro (とっとこハム太郎) anime theme tune.

Sorayos’s equally satirical Prelude of the Moving Zoo premiered at ANIMAL KINgDOM last year, as did his documentary Yellow Duck Against Dictatorship. His parody Dossier of the Dossier (เอกสารประกอบการตัดสินใจ) was shown at the 30th Singapore International Film Festival, and his comedy Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport (ดาวอินดี้) played at the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival.

15 September 2021

Signes de Nuit

Signes de Nuit
Please... See Us
This week, Documentary Club is hosting Signes de Nuit, a festival of short films and documentaries. The event, now in its seventh year, will take place predominantly online due to the coronavirus pandemic, though some films will be shown at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok.

Doc Club and Pub is the new venue for Documentary Club, after its previous collaborations with Warehouse 30, Lido Connect, and House Samyan. Documentary Club took over the space from Bangkok Screening Room, which sadly closed in March.

Chaweng Chaiawan’s Please... See Us will be shown at Doc Club and Pub on 19th and 20th September. Chaweng’s powerful film features an extended sequence in which a pig is killed and dismembered, the helpless animal being a metaphor for the plight of ethnic minorities in Thailand.

Please... See Us was also shown as part of Wildtype 2021 earlier this month. Signes de Nuit begins online today and runs for a week. (Films at Doc Club and Pub are currently screened on a large TV in the café/bar, as cinemas in Bangkok are still subject to the coronavirus lockdown.)

11 September 2021

Orson Welles Portfolio

Orson Welles Portfolio
Vogue Paris
Orson Welles was not only one of the world’s greatest film directors, he was also a pioneer of radio drama and modern theatre, and a prolific artist. Orson Welles Portfolio: Sketches and Drawings from the Welles Estate, by Simon Braund, features full-page reproductions of drawings and paintings by Welles, sourced from his archive and the Library of Congress. The illustrations are beautifully reproduced, though there are no notes or other references.

Most of the images are previously unpublished, and those that were published before (drawings for Everybody’s Shakespeare and watercolours—including a regal self-portrait—for a guest-edited issue of Vogue Paris) had been out-of-print for decades. The book also includes an interview with the director’s daughter Beatrice who, in Wellesian terms, had final cut over the project: strangely, copyright is credited not to Braund but to “Beatrice Welles Inc.”

Welles created a portfolio of watercolours as a Christmas present for his daughter Rebecca in 1956, and a facsimile was published as Les Bravades after his death. He presented the BBC TV series Orson Welles’ Sketch Book, in 1955. The documentary The Eyes of Orson Welles also explores Welles as a visual artist. Karl French’s book Art by Film Directors includes paintings and drawings by other filmmakers, though not Welles.

Pink Man Story

Pink Man Story
Pink Man Story is a lavish and complete retrospective of Manit Sriwanichpoom’s long-running Pink Man (พิ้งค์แมน) series, photographs featuring the incongruous figure of Sompong Tawee in a bright pink suit, a symbol of consumerism and superficiality. A small exhibition of Pink Man photos was due to be held at BACC earlier this year, though it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the group exhibition History and Memory (ประวัติศาสตร์ และ ความทรงจำ), Manit created Horror in Pink (ปีศาจสีชมพู), digitally inserting Sompong into news photographs of three Thai massacres. In the exhibition catalogue, Manit explained that he was inspired by the inexplicable election of Samak Sundaravej, and his artist’s statement is reprinted in Pink Man Story: “Was this not the same Samak who back in October 1976 went on radio to urge that brute force be used against pro-democracy protesters, in the events that culminated in the most horrifying massacre in Bangkok history? I asked myself: Has everyone forgotten? Does ‘October 6’ mean nothing to us now?”

Pink Man Story includes a detailed analysis of Horror in Pink by art critic Iola Lenzi—A Man for Our Times—in which she discusses the “historical amnesia” that inspired the series. It also reprints Ing Kanjanavanit’s essay Poses from Dreamland (ท่าโพส จากแดน ช่างฝัน), which was first published in the catalogue for Manit’s Phenomena and Prophecies (ท้าและทาย) exhibition. (Ing’s essay has been somewhat over-edited in Pink Man Story: its first page is mistakenly printed twice, and half of the original text has been removed.)

04 September 2021

Wildtype 2021

Wildtype 2021
Official Trailer
Rajprasong
Prelude of the Moving Zoo
The Bangkok Bourgeois Party
Please... See Us
Wildtype 2021, a weekend of film screenings curated by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, takes place today and tomorrow on YouTube. The screenings will also be shown at Ar(t)cade, a venue at the Arcade Market in Phayao. Both days include Politix, a selection of short films commenting on Thai political events.

This evening’s Politix strand begins with Veerapong Soontornchattrawat’s Official Trailer (อนุสรณ์สถาน), which intercuts footage of the 6th October 1976 massacre with clips from Love Destiny (บุพเพสันนิวาส), a popular historical lakorn. This is followed by a film referencing another massacre: Nil Paksnavin’s Rajprasong (ราชประสงค์), which ends with a black screen and the jolting sound of eighty-seven gunshots, representing the victims of the 2010 military crackdown in downtown Bangkok. (Rajprasong was previously shown at Histoire(s) du thai cinéma, another two-day film event programmed by Wiwat.)

The highlight of the evening is a more recent film, Sorayos Prapapan’s Prelude of the Moving Zoo, which begins subversively with a cylinder recording of the royal anthem, accompanied by footage of penguins seemingly standing to attention. (It was previously shown at ANIMAL KINgDOM, also programmed by Wiwat; and it was selected for the 24th Short Film and Video Festival.)

Wildtype concludes tomorrow, and the second Politix strand includes Prap Boonpan’s The Bangkok Bourgeois Party (ความลักลั่นของงานรื่นเริง), in which a group of yellow-shirted Bangkokians murder a man merely because he disagrees with their ideology. Less than a year after it was first shown, this dystopian satire became a reality when Narongsak Krobtaisong was beaten to death by PAD guards in 2008.

Chaweng Chaiawan’s Please... See Us, which highlights the displacement of ethnic minorities, will also be shown tomorrow. This new film includes an extended sequence in which a pig is killed and dismembered, the helpless animal being a metaphor for the plight of ethnic minorities in Thailand. It will also be shown later this month as part of Signes de Nuit, hosted by Documentary Club.

I Alone Can Fix It

I Alone Can Fix It
Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker’s I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year is billed as “the definitive behind-the-scenes story of Trump’s final year in office.” With much-anticipated Trump books from Bob Woodward (Peril) and Maggie Haberman around the corner, it’s too early to judge I Alone Can Fix It as definitive, but it is a chilling and authoritative account of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the 6th January storming of the Capitol.

Just in case readers were in any doubt as to the authors’ position on Trump, the prologue itemises his flaws: “He displayed his ignorance, his rash temper, his pettiness and pique, his malice and cruelty, his utter absence of empathy, his narcissism, his transgressive personality, his disloyalty, his sense of victimhood, his addiction to television, his suspicion and silencing of experts, and his deception and lies.” (To which I would add: his undermining of institutions.)

Surprisingly, though, there are moments early in the COVID-19 crisis when Trump said and did the right things. In a 7th February 2020 call to President Xi, he pressed for US access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (“All you have to do is issue the visas and they’ll be there”); and in an 11th March 2020 meeting, he recognised the need for a ban on travel from Europe (“We can’t get these lives back. We can make the money back. We’ve got to shut it down”). (These events were also covered, in less detail, in Woodward’s Rage, though according to Woodward, the Xi call took place a day earlier.)

Like Leonnig and Rucker’s previous book, A Very Stable Genius, I Alone Can Fix It’s ironic title is taken from a typically braggadocious Trump quote. Trump declined an interview request for that earlier book and, as the authors explain, he “attacked us personally and branded our reporting a work of fiction.” Consistently inconsistent, Trump then readily agreed to an interview for the second book, wining and dining the authors at Mar-a-Lago. (“For some sick reason, I enjoyed it”, he tells them after the interview, which appears in the book’s epilogue.)

Most of the other sources are quoted anonymously, though it’s clear that Trump campaign manager Chris Christie and former Attorney General William Barr were among the major sources. A self-serving Christie portrays himself as the voice of reason, as he did in A Very Stable Genius, here contrasting his advice to Trump with Rudy Giuliani’s wild conspiracy theories.

The most extraordinary quotes are those attributed to Mark Milley, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who apparently “saw parallels between Trump’s rhetoric of election fraud and Adolf Hitler’s insistence to his followers at the Nuremberg rallies that he was both a victim and their savior.” Astonishingly, Milley describes Trump’s undermining of the election as “The gospel of the Führer.”

Aside from A Very Stable Genius and Rage, I Alone Can Fix It is one of a dozen Trump books reviewed here during and after his presidency. The others are: Fear, Fire and Fury, Inside Trump’s White House, The United States of Trump, Trump’s Enemies, The Trump White House, Too Much and Never Enough, The Room Where It Happened, Team of Five, American Carnage, and The Cost.

03 September 2021

La Télé d’ici Vacances

A television presenter in Ivory Coast has received a one-year suspended jail sentence for promoting sexual assault. Yves de M’Bella, the host of La Télé d’ici Vacances (‘TV here on holiday’), was also fined $3,600 after he invited a man to demonstrate with a mannequin how he had previously assaulted women. The guest, Kader Traoré, was jailed for two years and fined $900. The programme was broadcast on 30th August by NCI.

02 September 2021

A Minor History

A Minor History
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s new exhibition A Minor History (ประวัติศาสตร์กระจ้อยร่อย) opened yesterday at 100 Tonson Foundation in Bangkok. The work is a video triptych, filmed at a derelict cinema in Kalasin and other locations along the Mekong river. Apichatpong has previously written of his attachment to stand-alone cinemas in an essay for Unknown Forces (สัตว์วิกาล), reprinted with an English translation in Once Upon a Celluloid Planet (สวรรค์ 35 มม). The Mekong directly inspired his films Mekong Hotel (แม่โขงโฮเต็ล) and Cactus River (โขงแล้งนำ), though he has also filmed numerous other projects in the region.

A Minor History also includes a short story in text form, which describes a dream featuring Patiwat Saraiyaem (using his nickname, Bank). Patiwat is an actor and mor lam singer who was jailed for his performance in the play เจ้าสาวหมาป่า (‘the wolf bride’) and was subjected to further lèse-majesté charges after he took part in an anti-government protest on 19th September last year. He previously appeared in Apichatpong’s segment of the portmanteau film Ten Years Thailand, and Wittawat Tongkeaw recently painted his portrait, titled The Unforgiven Blues (หมอลำแบงค์).

A Minor History was originally scheduled to open on 19th August, though it was delayed due to the coronavirus lockdown. Attendance is currently by appointment only, again due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the exhibition will close on 14th November. A second phase opens on 25th November, and runs until 27th February next year. 100 Tonson, previously a commercial gallery, became a non-profit foundation last year.

01 September 2021

Germaine Greer:
Essays on a Feminist Figure

Germaine Greer: Essays on a Feminist Figure
The chapters in Germaine Greer: Essays on a Feminist Figure first appeared in the journal Australian Feminist Studies in 2016, and were published as a book in 2020. Germaine Greer sold her archive to the University of Melbourne in 2013, and the archive’s curator notes in her essay how Greer not only preserved almost 500 boxes of documents, but also personally catalogued them.

In the book’s most interesting article, Resurrecting Germaine’s Theory of Cuntpower, Megan Le Masurier reassesses two essays Greer wrote for the underground press in the early 1970s: Lady Love Your Cunt (in Suck), and The Politics of Female Sexuality (in Greer’s guest-edited ‘female energy’ issue of Oz, ‘female energy’ being a euphemism for cuntpower). Le Masurier argues that “cuntpower had an afterlife, in attitude if not in name.”

Snap

Snap
Snap
In Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s Snap, released in 2015, a high school reunion rekindles an old romance, and the film trades heavily on Millennial nostalgia, though—as in Kongdej’s other films—there is also a political undercurrent in the background. News of the 2014 coup is mediated through newspapers (a man reading the Bangkok Post, with a headline about martial law) and television (the female lead doing her ironing while the coup announcement is broadcast). Likewise, Kongdej’s Sayew (สยิว) begins with a radio news report on the ‘Black May’ massacre, and his Tang Wong (ตั้งวง) is punctuated by TV news updates on the red-shirt protests, making him one of the few mainstream genre directors whose films address Thailand’s political crises.

31 August 2021

“We should not have
published the article...”

The Sun
In an out-of-court settlement, The Sun has paid damages to cricketer Ben Stokes and his mother, Deborah, after they sued for invasion of privacy. The lawsuit was in response to a Sun story published on 17th September 2019, which dredged up a “secret family tragedy” that took place in 1988.

The newspaper initially defended the article, written by Nick Parker, as it was based on public records of the incident from New Zealand newspaper archives. In a cursory apology published yesterday, The Sun said: “The article caused great distress to the Stokes family, and especially to Deborah Stokes. We should not have published the article. We apologise to Deborah and Ben Stokes.”

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