15 April 2024

My Teacher Eats Biscuits


Dog God Ministry of Culture

Ing Kanjanavanit’s film My Teacher Eats Biscuits will finally be shown in Thailand, more than twenty-five years after it was banned. Ing re-edited the film in 2020, and this director’s cut—ten minutes shorter than the original version—was approved by the film censorship board last October. It will be screened at House Samyan in Bangkok next month. Although its Thai title (คนกราบหมา) remains the same, its English title has been changed to the less ambiguous Dog God.

My Teacher Eats Biscuits was banned from the inaugural Bangkok Film Festival in 1998, along with the Singaporean drama Bugis Street (妖街皇后). On the opening night of the Alternative Love Film Festival later that year, Ing showed a video of her meeting with the film censors, and screened Bugis Street in defiance of the ban. Police raided the Saeng-Arun Arts Centre during the screening of Bugis Street, though they left the auditorium once they realised that My Teacher Eats Biscuits was not being shown.

The film was banned on the grounds that it satirised religion. As the director explained in an interview for Thai Cinema Uncensored: “This is like banning John Waters’ Pink Flamingos for bad taste!” In other words, the religious satire was the whole point of the film. (In that interview, Ing alleged that one member of the censorship board, a Chulalongkorn University professor, dominated the board and led the decision to ban the film. Another possible reason for the ban was that the censors misinterpreted a character as an impersonation of Princess Galyani.)

Like Pink Flamingos, My Teacher Eats Biscuits is a low-budget, independent movie shot on 16mm. (Coincidentally, Pink Flamingos was also passed by the Thai censors last year.) A plot synopsis—a cult worships an evil dog, and a monk advocates necrophilia—gives the false impression that My Teacher Eats Biscuits is offensive or blasphemous. In fact, the film has a camp sensibility (which it shares with Pink Flamingos), and its tone is clearly parodic.

Dog God

After the ban, My Teacher Eats Biscuits was rarely seen, either in Thailand or elsewhere. As critic Graiwoot Chulpongsathorn wrote in 2009, it is “a film so controversial that it has been ‘disappeared’ from history.” It was shown at the Goethe-Institut in Bangkok in 1998, and it had two European screenings in 2017: at the Close-Up Film Centre in London, and at the Cinéma du réel (‘cinema of the real’) festival in Paris.

When Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย) was banned in 2012, Ing had the dubious distinction of being the only Thai director with two films banned simultaneously. Now both films have been passed by the censors—the Shakespeare Must Die ban was lifted in February—and they will both return to Thai cinemas this year.

1974:
The Best Year of the Movies


1974

Next month, Bangkok’s Doc Club and Pub will begin a season of classics from 1974, which it describes as the best year of the movies. Of course, it’s debatable whether 1974 (now fifty years ago) was the greatest year in cinema history, but there’s no denying that the season includes some outstanding films. The Godfather II, Chinatown, and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf) will all be shown as part of 1974: The Best Year of the Movies.

Ali was previously screened at Doc Club and Pub in 2022, and at the Thai Film Archive earlier that year. The Godfather II was shown at the Scala cinema in 2018. Chinatown was shown at Smalls in 2018.

14 April 2024

Nitade Movie Club
Salò


Salo

Even almost fifty years after it was released, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma) remains one of the most controversial films ever made. (When it was screened at London’s Compton Cinema Club in 1977, the venue was raided by the police, and even a censored print was seized by the vice squad two years later.) Salò will be shown at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Communication Arts on 17th April, as part of the Nitade Movie Club weekly screening programme.

07 April 2024

Nitade Experimental Shorts:
The Other Cinema


Nitade Experimental Shorts

Weerapat Sakolvaree’s short film Nostalgia will be shown at Chulalongkorn University on 10th April at a screening organised by Nitade Movie Club. The event, Nitade Experimental Shorts: The Other Cinema, features two sessions—Deconstructing Emotions and Decolonized by Time—each lasting exactly 100 minutes. Nostalgia will open the second session. It has previously been shown at the Chiang Mai Film Festival (twice), Bangkok University, Future Fest 2023, Wildtype 2022, and the 26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 26).

06 April 2024

Movie Night at Prince Theatre


Movie Night at Prince Theatre

Bangkok’s Prince Theatre continues its daily film screenings, Movie Night at Prince Theatre. Highlights this month include The Celebration (Festen), the first Dogme 95 production, on 19th April; and the Orson Welles masterpiece Citizen Kane on 25th April.

The Prince Theatre was established as a cinema in 1917, and was converted into a film-themed hotel a year after its centenary. Citizen Kane was previously shown at Bangkok Screening Room in 2017 and at Cinema Winehouse in 2018.

05 April 2024

FIAF Congress 2024


FIAF Congress 2024

Apiachtpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) will be screened in 35mm at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 21st April, as part of the FIAF Congress 2024. The event is organised by the International Federation of Film Archives, and the screening is in recognition of the director’s status as the first Thai recipient of an FIAF Award.

Syndromes and a Century was shown most recently at the Archive during the 23rd Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 23), and it was also screened there earlier in 2019. The film’s censorship in Thailand sparked a campaign to reform Thai film regulation, as discussed in Thai Cinema Uncensored.

02 April 2024

Outstanding!
The Relief from Rodin to Picasso


Outstanding!
Outstanding!

Outstanding! The Relief from Rodin to Picasso, held last year in Frankfurt, was the first exhibition since 1980 to survey the modern history of relief sculptures. Its scholarly catalogue (edited by Alexander Eiling, Eva Mongi-Vollmer, and Karin Schick) is only the second English-language book on the subject, and the first—Relief Sculpture by L.R. Rogers—was published fifty years ago.

Outstanding! begins with an explanation of the three traditional categories of relief (bas-relief, haut-relief, and relief en creux), though the exhibition defined the relief more broadly: the impressive collection of works on display included examples of mixed-media assemblage and trompe-l’œil paintings. The catalogue was originally published in German as Herausragend! Das Relief von Rodin bis Picasso.

31 March 2024

Show Me the Movies!
Recommended by Martin Scorsese


Recommended by Martin Scorsese

Doc Club and Pub will show a short season of Martin Scorsese’s favourite films (as part of their Show Me the Movies! strand), including Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, starting later this month. 2001 will be shown on 25th and 28th April, and 4th May. It has previously been shown at Arcadia in 2022, at the Scala in 2017, and at the Thai Film Archive in 2013.

30 March 2024

The Celebration Tour in Rio


The Celebration Tour in Rio

Madonna will end her Celebration Tour, which began last year, with a concert on the beach at Copacabana in Rio on 4th May. The event will be broadcast live by the Brazilian TV channel Globo. (The Celebration Tour in Rio will be the first live TV transmission of a Madonna concert since HBO broadcast the Drowned World Tour in 2001.)

One of the highlights of the Celebration Tour came when Kylie Minogue joined Madonna on stage earlier this month to sing Can’t Get You Out of My Head. The set list was modified slightly at some venues: Madonna performed an a cappella version of Express Yourself on the American leg of the tour, she sang Sodade in Lisbon, and I Love New York in New York. On selected dates, she sang Frozen, Take a Bow, and a cover version of This Little Light of Mine. In Chicago, she performed This Used to Be My Playground live for the first time in her career.

27 March 2024

Analogue:
A Field Guide


Analogue Polaroid SX-70

“It’s only now the analogue world is effectively over that we can grasp its extraordinarily rich legacy,” writes Deyan Sudjic in the introduction to his new book Analogue: A Field Guide (published in the US as The World of Analog: A Visual Guide). Sudjic features 250 of “the most ingenious consumer artefacts ever produced,” gadgets made possible by the vacuum tube and the transistor, and rendered obsolete by the smartphone. (He cites the release of the iPhone as “a kind of mass extinction event for a vast range of analogue products”.)

Analogue includes numerous industrial design classics: the Polaroid SX-70 instant camera, the Sony TR-610 handheld radio, and the JVC RC-M90 boombox. There are devices made from Bakelite (the Ericsson DBH 1001 telephone) and plastic (the Panasonic Panapet portable radio), and once-familiar product ranges from former consumer technology giants like Sony (Walkman, Watchman, and Handycam) and Kodak (Brownie and Instamatic). Each product is beautifully photographed against a white background, and the images are so clear that the buttons and dials are all legible.

Some of the featured objects also appear in the Phaidon Design Classics series, and in design histories by Charlotte and Peter Fiell (Design of the 20th Century, A–Z of Design and Designers, Plastic Dreams, and Industrial Design A–Z). A History of Industrial Design (by Edward Lucie-Smith) features a chapter on consumer technology, and Extinct (which includes an essay by Sudjic) and Essential Retro (by James B. Grahame) also cover vintage devices, though Analogue is the first book to feature such an extensive guide to analogue design and technology.

Doc Club Festival Selections 04


Festival Selections 04

Doc Club and Pub will show further highlights from this year’s Doc Club Festival, as part of the Selections series. Selections 04, on 31st March, includes Napasin Samkaewcham’s short film A Love Letter to My Sister, a deeply moving documentary about the volatile relationship between his parents. A Love Letter to My Sister was previously shown in the Short Film Marathon 27 (หนังสั้นมาราธอน 27), and at the 27th Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 27).

26 March 2024

Kubrick:
An Odyssey


Kubrick

Two rival biographies of Stanley Kubrick were published almost simultaneously in 1997. John Baxter and Vincent LoBrutto’s books were both unauthorised accounts, though LoBrutto’s was considerably more accurate than Baxter’s. They are now joined by a third major Kubrick biography, Nathan Abrams and Robert P. Kolker’s Kubrick: An Odyssey, which was released earlier this year.

The previous biographies were published before the release of Eyes Wide Shut—the subject of another Abrams and Kolker book—making Kubrick the first biography to cover the director’s entire career. Kubrick has the same strengths and weaknesses as their Eyes Wide Shut book: impressive research, some questionable opinions, and imprecise referencing.

Kubrick is particularly significant as the first biography based on material from the Kubrick Archive, making it more reliable than its predecessors. When Kolker and Abrams occasionally veer into speculation, though, they are on shakier ground, and their regular references to the significance of Kubrick’s Jewish identity (a thesis developed by Abrams) feel extraneous.

Kolker and Abrams are the first Kubrick biographers to receive cooperation from the director’s family, including his widow, Christiane, who gives plenty of insight into his personality. The book benefits substantially from this level of access, but it’s also a double-edged sword: Christiane’s brother, Jan Harlan, who acted as a liason, sometimes attempted to steer the authors in directions that contradicted their own research.

The biography does include a bibliography, but there are no footnotes. This makes it needlessly difficult to identify the sources of quotations, beyond those that are familiar from other publications. (Kubrick joins more than sixty other Kubrick books on the Dateline Bangkok bookshelves.)

High Voltage x Speech Odd


High Voltage / Speech Odd
Watching You

Speech Odd’s second album is out now on cassette and CD (limited to fifty copies of each format), with an LP release to follow later this year (limited to 100 copies). The album is a collaboration with High Voltage, and each band has contributed four songs.

Advertisement, the standout track from Speech Odd, is about state propaganda: “lying to gain power... you must be punished by people!” High Voltage’s lyrics are even more political: their tracks criticise an unnamed leader who falsely compares himself to a Buddhist deity. Seek the Power is written from his perspective: “i seek the power (power to rule)” [sic], and No Perfect Man accuses him of “pretending to be god”.

Speech Odd’s debut album was Oddworld, and they have also released the EP Promo 2022 and the single Control. Their merchandise includes a Die mo cracy t-shirt released earlier this year, a reference to the massacre of pro-democracy protesters in 2010.

High Voltage released their EP Watching You on CD in 2019. Its title track is a satirical cover of Every Breath You Take, with the lyrics adapted to comment on state surveillance: “Be careful of what you do / Thai junta is watching you”. The music video for Vicious Circle, another track on the EP, includes newsreel footage of the 6th October 1976 massacre.

19 March 2024

“You don’t find it offensive that Donald Trump has been found liable for rape?”


This Week

Donald Trump has filed a defamation lawsuit against ABC News and George Stephanopoulos, after Stephanopoulos asked Republican politician Nancy Mace why she had endorsed Trump as a presidential candidate despite Trump having been “found liable for rape.” Stephanopoulos interviewed Mace on The Week, in a segment broadcast on 10th March.

Stephanopoulos began the interview with a reference to a civil prosecution in which Trump was found guilty of sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll: “You’ve endorsed Donald Trump for president. Donald Trump has been found liable for rape by a jury. Donald Trump has been found liable for defaming the victim of that rape. It’s been affirmed by a judge.”

Mace, who is herself a rape victim, stated that she found the premise of the interview “disgusting.” Stephanopoulos again asked her to justify her endorsement of Trump: “I’m asking a question about why you endorsed someone who’s been found liable for rape.” Mace accused Stephanopoulos of victim-shaming her, and Stephanopoulos attempted to clarify: “I’m questioning your political choices, because you’re supporting someone who’s been found liable for rape.”

Stephanopoulos then pressed Mace again to answer his initial question: “why are you supporting someone who’s been found liable for rape?” She replied that the question was offensive, to which Stephanopoulos responded: “You don’t find it offensive that Donald Trump has been found liable for rape?”

Mace’s answers, and Trump’s libel claim, hinge on the fact that Trump was convicted of sexually assaulting Carroll, rather than raping her. Trump’s lawsuit quotes Stephanopoulos on previous broadcasts referring to sexual assault, in an attempt to prove that Stephanopoulos was aware of the distinction and had used the word ‘rape’ in the Mace interview either recklessly or maliciously.

Trump also sued Carroll for the same reason, after she accused him of rape despite the sexual assault conviction. That lawsuit was dismissed, however, as the judge in the sexual assault case issued a written clarification: “that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was “raped” within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump “raped” her as many people commonly understand the word “rape.” Indeed... the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.”

Unlike the recent interview with Mace, the previous references by Stephanopoulos to sexual assault were all made prior to 19th July 2023, when the judge’s clarification was published. Stephanopoulos was thus using the term ‘rape’ “as many people commonly understand the word”, meaning that yesterday’s lawsuit against Stephanopoulos and ABC will almost certainly be dismissed.

18 March 2024

Skyline Film
Singin’ in the Rain


Skyline Film

The classic Hollywood musical Singin’ in the Rain will be shown on 6th April, on the rooftop of River City Bangkok, as part of a regular programme of monthly outdoor screenings organised by Skyline Film. Singin’ in the Rain—one of Dateline Bangkok’s fifty essential films—was previously screened at Thammasat University in 2015, at the Scala cinema in 2018, and at Bangkok Screening Room in 2020.

17 March 2024

2475
Dawn of Revolution


2475 Dawn of Revolution

Thailand’s Political History, by B.J. Terwiel, is an authoritative history of Thai politics that challenges Thailand’s royalist-nationalist historical narrative. Terwiel argues, for example, that Rama VII is traditionally portrayed as “the king who wanted to present his people with a true democracy but was forestalled by the coup d’état of 1932.” As he demonstrates, this is a false characterisation, though it remains persistent: it can be seen most recently in the new feature-length animation 2475 Dawn of Revolution (๒๔๗๕ รุ่งอรุณแห่งการปฏิวัติ). The film (directed by Wivat Jirotgul) dramatises the 1932 coup launched by Khana Ratsadon, which introduced nascent democracy to Thailand, though the story is told from a distorted royalist-nationalist perspective.

2475 begins by summarising Rama VII’s attitudes prior to the 1932 coup: “King Rama VII believed in the ideas of the parliament system and the constitution.” This is in direct contrast to Terwiel’s book, which points out that “the king ruled out a parliamentary form of government”. The film credits Rama VII as an instigator of democratic reform, intent on “giving the constitution to the people of Siam.” This interpretation—in which democracy is bestowed as a generous royal gift—is again at odds with Terwiel, who makes clear that Rama VII “indicated that he himself was firmly of the opinion that Siam was not ready for a representative form of government.”

The film’s framing device features three modern-day students, one of whom livestreams an anti-government protest, who go to the library to research a history project on the 1932 coup. The message—that today’s students should read more about Thai history—is both condescending and inaccurate, as history books by Nattapoll Chaiching, amongst others, are bestsellers. The film’s ending is particularly dismissive of the student characters: they visit Democracy Monument, and observe that democracy “dies over and over again, it gets torn apart with coup d’état so many times.” At which point, they burst into giggles, as though—despite their research and their previous political activism—they have no interest in the subject whatsoever.

2475’s credits include a list of individual donors, some of whom gave as little as ฿100 each. The bulk of the budget was provided anonymously, though Prachatai reported earlier this week that the film’s production company, Nakraphiwat, was paid almost ฿4m by the army between 2020 and 2022. While this doesn’t prove that the film was funded by the military, it does raise questions about their involvement in this production that discredits Khana Ratsadon, especially given that public commemorations of the 1932 revolution have recently been removed by the military regime.

13 March 2024

“The Election Commission... has decided unanimously to ask the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Move Forward party.”


Democracy Monument

The Election Commission of Thailand has petitioned the Constitutional Court, calling for the dissolution of Move Forward, the progressive party that won last year’s election but was excluded from government. If, as expected, the court rules against Move Forward, the party’s fourteen million voters will be further disenfranchised, and the governing coalition will have no meaningful opposition in parliament.

The ECT’s decision was a response to a Constitutional Court ruling in January that Move Forward’s manifesto pledge to amend the lèse-majesté law violated article 49 of the constitution, according to which it is forbidden “to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.” Citing the court’s ruling, the ECT announced yesterday: “There is evidence that Move Forward undermines the democratic system with the king as the head of state”.

Yesterday’s petition to the court was inevitable, as article 92 of the Organic Act on Political Parties (2017) states that the ECT, “when having believable evidence that any political party performed any of the following actions, shall file a petition to the Constitutional Court to dissolve such political party.” The first of those actions is: “To overthrow the democratic form of government with the King as head of state”, of which Move Forward was found guilty by the Constitutional Court in January.

In its statement released yesterday, the ECT said: “The Election Commission has considered and analysed the Constitutional Court verdict and has decided unanimously to ask the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Move Forward party.” The court will deliberate for several months, though a verdict of dissolution is highly likely, as other anti-establishment parties—Thai Rak Thai, People Power, Thai Raksa Chart, and Move Forward’s predecessor Future Forward—have all met the same fate.

Today, the ECT also announced that it would begin an investigation into Bhumjaithai, a member of the current coalition government, after a former Bhumjaithai MP was found guilty of asset concealment by the Constitutional Court. On 17th January, the court ruled that Saksayam Chidchob, while serving as transport minister in Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, had awarded twenty-three state infrastructure contracts to Burijarearn, a construction firm he owned. (Saksayam is the brother of Newin Chidchob, known as the godfather of Buriram.)

12 March 2024

Wim Wenders Retrospective


Wim Wenders Retrospective

Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok will show a dozen films by German director Wim Wenders this year, in a season organised by the Goethe-Institut. The Wim Wenders Retrospective begins with Wings of Desire (Der Himmel Über Berlin), on 16th, 18th, 21st, 26th, and 28th March; and 3rd and 17th April. Kings of the Road (Im Lauf der Zeit) will be shown on 1st April.

This is the second Wenders retrospective in Thailand: in 2016, the Goethe-Institut organised a season of nine Wenders films at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya. Kings of the Road was also screened at Doc CLub and Pub last year. Alongside Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Werner Herzog, Wenders was one of the leading figures of the German new wave (das neue Kino) in the 1970s.

Phatthalung Micro Cinema 2.5
Four Short Films by Chaweng Chaiyawan


Four Short Films by Chaweng Chaiyawan
Please... See Us

Four Short Films by Chaweng Chaiyawan will be shown as part of Phatthalung Micro Cinema this week. The programme includes Chaweng’s powerful and transgressive film Please... See Us (หว่างีมอละ), which ends with an extended sequence in which a pig is killed and dismembered, the helpless animal being a tragic metaphor for the plight of ethnic minorities in Thailand.

Phatthalung Micro Cinema 2.5 will be held at the Home Baking Cafe in Phatthalung on 17th March. Please... See Us had an outdoor screening in Chiang Mai last year. It has been screened twice at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok, in 2021 and 2023. It was shown in Phayao as part of Wildtype 2021, and in Salaya at the 25th Thai Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 25).

10 March 2024

Eros Reinterpretation


Eros Reinterpretation

Eros Reinterpretation was the inaugural exhibition at Ming Artspace, a new Bangkok gallery founded by Vichai Imsuksom. The group exhibition featured photography, installations, and video art from thirteen Thai artists, linked by their exploration of erotic imagery.

The show’s most daring artwork was produced by Vichai himself, with Kittisak Tongprasert. Their video installation Eros: The Secret Room consists of three videos of themselves (each around five minutes long) that blur the line between art and pornography. The only comparable works in Thai art are perhaps Thunska Pansittivorakul and Harit Srikhao’s documentary Avalon (แดนศักดิ์สิทธิ์), and Ohm Phanphiroj’s short film The Meaning of It All.

Eros Reinterpretation opened on 12th January and closed on 3rd March, though its lavish exhibition catalogue, limited to 1,000 copies, also serves as a survey of Thai contemporary erotic art. Some (explicit) sections of the book are sealed with perforations, which is reminiscent of Uthis Haemamool’s novel Silhouette of Desire (ร่างของปรารถนา) and the sealed sections in magazines such as Bizarre.

Shotbyly Vintage Magazine

The catalogue is beautifully printed, with a debossed (and somewhat suggestive) cover design, foldouts, selected translucent pages, two notebooks, and several items of ephemera (postcards, stamps, and a flyer) laid in. Alongside other recently published works, such as Ark Saroj’s Lust and Love and Shotbyly’s Vintage Magazine series, Eros Reinterpretation signals a new frankness in Thai art publishing.

In fact, the new issue of Shotbyly’s Vintage Magazine (vol. 2) was printed by the same company as the Eros Reinterpretation catalogue, after the printer of the first issue refused to handle the more explicit imagery in the second one. The second issue of Vintage Magazine, limited to fifty copies, is a portfolio of photographs of model Theeraphat Khajornsuwan. Unlike the first issue, the second includes frontal nudity and other graphic content.

06 March 2024

The 400 Blows


The 400 Blows

The Thai Film Archive at Salaya will show François Truffaut’s classic The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) on 19th April. One of the greatest films ever made, it’s a cornerstone of the French New Wave, a movement in which Truffaut played a foundational role.

The 400 Blows was previously screened at the Archive in 2018. It has also been shown several times in Bangkok: at the Prince Theatre, at Bangkok Screening Room (to launch their BKKSR Cinémathèque programme), and at the Alliance Française (introduced by its leading actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud).

05 March 2024

Doc Club Festival Selections 02


Festival Selections 02

Doc Club and Pub will show highlights from last month’s Doc Club Festival on 10th March. Selections 02 includes Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s ชวนอ่านภาพ 6 ตุลา (‘invitation to read images of 6th Oct.’), Sumeth Suwanneth’s Lost, and Life Goes On (เลือนแต่ไม่ลืม), and Vichart Somkaew’s 112 News from Heaven.

In Chulayarnnon’s film, Octobrists and current students respond to photographs of the 6th October 1976 massacre. Lost, and Life Goes On features interviews with relatives of the victims of the 1992 ‘Black May’ massacre. On 112 News from Heaven’s soundtrack, an announcer reads a bulletin of royal news, which is juxtaposed with 112 captions documenting the convictions of activists charged with lèse-majesté (article 112 of the criminal code) over a 112-day period.

112 News from Heaven premiered in Phatthalung earlier this year. Lost, and Life Goes On was shown at the 26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 26).

01 March 2024

Tak Bai 2004: 20th Anniversary


Living Memories
Indelible Memory

This year is the 20th anniversary of the tragedy that took place at Tak Bai on 25th October 2004. More than 1,000 people protested outside Tak Bai’s Provincial Police Station, and police responded with water cannon, tear gas, and ultimately live ammunition, killing five people. The surviving demonstrators were crammed into trucks and taken to Ingkhayuttha Borihan Fort military camp, though seventy-eight died of suffocation during the five-hour journey.

The security forces have never been held accountable for the deaths, and the Thaksin Shinawatra government prohibited the broadcasting of video footage of the incident. In defiance of the ban, the journal Same Sky (ฟ้าเดียวกัน) distributed a Tak Bai VCD—ความจริงที่ตากใบ (‘the truth at Tak Bai’)—with its October–December 2004 issue (vol. 2, no. 4). The footage is also included in Thunska Pansittivorakul’s documentary This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), which led to the film being banned. (Thai Cinema Uncensored discusses the censorship of Tak Bai video footage.)

Last year, Patani Artspace held the รำลึก 19 ปี ตากใบ (‘remembering 19 years of Tak Bai’) exhibition, and the Heard the Unheard (สดับเสียงเงียบ) exhibition took place at Silpakorn and Thammasat universities. Heard the Unheard featured the personal possessions of seventeen people who died at Tak Bai—including a ฿100 banknote retrieved from the body of a sixteen-year-old boy, Imron—displayed alongside recollections from the victims’ relatives. These items are also photographed in Tak Bai (ลิ้มรสความทรงจำ), edited by Kusra Kamawan Mukdawijitra.

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary, Heard the Unheard is being restaged. The seventeen artefacts will be split between two exhibitions: Living Memories: 20 Years of Tak Bai Incident [sic] (20 ปี ตากใบ ความทรงจำที่ยังเหลืออยู่) at SEA Junction (Bangkok Art and Culture Centre) from tomorrow until 10th March, and Indelible Memory: 20 Years Tak Bai (ลบไม่เลือน 20 ปี ตากใบ) at the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre in Bangkok between 4th March and 31st July.

Tak Bai photographs were also shown at the Deep South (ลึกลงไป ใต้ชายแดน) exhibition in Bangkok. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Photophobia series incorporates photographs of the incident, as does the interactive installation Black Air by Pimpaka Towira, Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, Koichi Shimizu, and Jakrawal Nilthamrong.

Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh’s Violence in Tak Bai (ความรุนแรงที่ตากใบ) features white tombstones marking the graves of each victim, and his book The Patani Art of Struggle (سني ڤتاني چاراو او سها) shows three versions of the installation. It was first installed, a few days after the massacre, at Prince of Songkla University in Pattani, and the grave markers were accompanied by rifles wrapped in white cloth. In 2017, it was recreated at Patani Artspace and then mounted on a plinth containing Pattani soil at the Patani Semasa (ปาตานี ร่วมสมัย) exhibition in Chiang Mai.

Two further installations—Jakkhai Siributr’s 78 and Zakariya Amataya’s Report from a Partitioned Village (รายงานจากหมู่บ้านที่ถูกปิดล้อม)—both include lists of the Tak Bai victims’ names. Photophobia, 78, and Violence in Tak Bai were all included in the Patani Semasa exhibition. (The exhibition catalogue gives Violence in Tak Bai a milder alternative title, Remember at Tak Bai.)

26 February 2024

Phatthalung Micro Cinema 1.5


Phatthalung Micro Cinema

Phatthalung Micro Cinema continues its screening programme on 3rd March with an evening of short films with a political theme. The event includes two of the best recent Thai shorts—Chatchawal Thongjun’s From Forest to City (อรัญนคร) and Vichart Somkaew’s Cremation Ceremony (ประวัติย่อของบางสิ่งที่หายไป)—and We Need to Talk About อานนท์ ชายผู้นำพาให้คนเท่ากัน (‘we need to talk about Arnon: the man who made everyone equal’), a new ten-minute online documentary from Thai Rath (ไทยรัฐ) on protest leader Arnon Nampa.

Phatthalung Micro Cinema held its first few screenings at the Swiftlet Book Shop in Phatthalung—and Supamok Silarak’s film Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง) was also shown there this month—though on 12th February a group of police officers warned the shop’s owners that they were forbidden from holding public events there in future. Next month’s triple bill will therefore take place at the town’s Home Baking Cafe instead.

From Forest to City is a drama in three parts, narrated by a survivor of the 1976 Thammasat University massacre. Part one begins with an epigraph by Kittivuddho Bhikku, an influential Buddhist monk: “Killing a communist is not a sin.” This infamous quote gave nationalist paramilitary groups a licence to kill, and they invaded Thammasat’s campus and lynched dozens of students. In part two, comparing 1976 to the present day, the narrator regrets that Thailand hasn’t changed: society remains irreconcilably divided, between student protesters and the conservative establishment.

From Forest to City Re-presentation

Although From Forest to City is a black-and-white film, it has two flashes of colour: a red folding chair, and a yellow t-shirt. Due to an infamous photograph by Neal Ulevich, this single item of furniture has come to symbolise the entire Thammasat massacre. The yellow t-shirt in an otherwise black-and-white frame recalls Chai Chaiyachit and Chisanucha Kongwailap’s short film Re-presentation (ผีมะขาม ไพร่ฟ้า ประชาธิปไตย ในคืนที่ลมพัดหวน), in which the yellow t-shirts worn by monarchists are the only objects shown in colour.

In part three, From Forest to City switches gear with a documentary montage of dramatic episodes from modern Thai history: the Thammasat massacre, armoured personnel carriers demolishing red-shirt protest camps, and riot police firing water cannon at students in Siam Square. This montage of news footage is set ironically to รักกันไว้เถิด (‘let’s love each other’), a Cold War propaganda song whose lyrics call for national unity.

Cremation Ceremony

Cremation Ceremony, which resembles a video installation, begins with the faces of three politicians staring impassively at the viewer. The three men—Anutin Charnvirakul, former health minister; and former prime ministers Abhisit Vejjajiva and Prayut Chan-o-cha—are each responsible for gross injustices. Anutin oversaw the initially sluggish response to the coronavirus pandemic. Abhisit authorised the shooting of protesters in 2010. Prayut led a coup, and his junta revived lèse-majesté prosecutions.

Vichart sets fire to photographs of the men, their faces distort as the photographic paper burns, and the only sound is the crackling of the flame. This symbolic ritual is a commemoration of the deaths of coronavirus victims, red-shirt protesters, and political dissidents, though it’s also a metaphorical act of retribution, as the politicians have faced no consequences for their actions.

Cremation Ceremony ends on an optimistic note: an epilogue explains that pro-democracy parties “emerged victorious” in last year’s election. (The film was made before the progressive election winners were denied a place in the governing coalition.)

From Forest to City was shown last year at Bangkok University, and in the online Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน). Cremation Ceremony was shown at the Chiang Mai Film Festival (and in the festival’s highlights programme), at Doc Club and Pub, and at Wildtype 2023. Vichart is a co-founder of Phatthalung Micro Cinema, and his film 112 News from Heaven had its premiere at the group’s inaugural event last month.

24 February 2024

Star Wars IV:
A New Hope


Star Wars IV

Star Wars IV: A New Hope will be shown at Prince Mahidol Hall in Salaya on 30th and 31st March, accompanied by the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra performing the classic score by John Williams. The film has been shown several times before in Bangkok: in 2014 and 2016 at Bangkok Open Air Cinema Club, in 2015 at Cinema Winehouse, and in 2019 at Bangkok Screening Room.

23 February 2024

Fear and Desire (4k blu-ray)


Fear and Desire

Stanley Kubrick’s debut feature film, Fear and Desire, will be released by Kino Lorber on UHD and blu-ray next week in its original version, which is nine minutes longer than the theatrical cut. Kino Lorber previously issued the theatrical version of Fear and Desire—and one of Kubrick’s short films, The Seafarers—on blu-ray and DVD in 2012. The same transfer was issued on blu-ray and DVD by Eureka! in 2013. (The Eureka! discs included not only Fear and Desire and The Seafarers, but also Kubrick’s other shorts, Day of the Fight and Flying Padre.)

Fear and Desire was originally titled Shape of Fear, and had a running time of seventy minutes. In his book Stanley Kubrick Produces, James Fenwick reported that Shape of Fear was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1952. Film historian Gian Piero Brunetta subsequently discovered correspondence between Kubrick and the festival’s director confirming that the film was shown out-of-competition at Venice.

For its US theatrical release, Kubrick cut nine minutes of footage to increase the film’s pace, and it was retitled Fear and Desire to target the sexploitation market. (Arguably the same mistake was made in 1999, when Eyes Wide Shut was marketed as an erotic thriller.) Kubrick made Fear and Desire independently, and controlled the rights to its distribution after its initial theatrical run. Apparently embarrassed by the film, he sought to prevent it from being shown again, though there were occasional unauthorised screenings in the 1990s.

Fear and Desire Fear and Desire

Kubrick’s decision to cut Fear and Desire was not unusual for the director. He also removed two minutes of footage from Paths of Glory before its theatrical release, and may have deleted a scene from Killer’s Kiss at actress Irene Kane’s request. He cut nineteen minutes from 2001: A Space Odyssey after its premiere, and removed the climactic custard pie fight from Dr Strangelove. (The custard pie footage is held in the archive of the British Film Institute, though the Kubrick estate does not allow access to it.) Thirteen minutes were deleted from Spartacus after its premiere. Most famously, Kubrick deleted an epilogue from The Shining and released the film outside the US in a version twenty-five minutes shorter than the American cut.

Until the 2012 blu-ray and DVD releases, the only version of Fear and Desire available on video was a bootleg VHS sold via eBay. This transfer had been duplicated so many times that the image was barely watchable. The difference between the VHS edition and the new Kino Lorber 4k restoration is like night and day, and the company’s forthcoming UHD and blu-ray set will also include 4k restorations of all three of Kubrick’s short films, making it the definitive presentation of the director’s early work.

22 February 2024

Mokelung Rimnam


Mokelung Rimnam Mokelung Rimnam

Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, co-founder of the Mokelung Rimnam activist group campaigning for human rights and equality, has been charged with defamation after he distributed flyers resembling ‘wanted’ posters calling for the arrest of numerous senators. (Sopon is currently serving a jail sentence for lèse-majesté.)

On 1st August 2023, Sopon handed out flyers at the Seri Market in Bangkok, alleging that senators including Seree Suwanpanont were acting undemocratically. (The protest came shortly after the vast majority of senators refused to endorse Pita Limjaroenrat as prime minister.) Seree sued for libel, claiming that the allegations damaged his reputation.

20 February 2024

Shakespeare Must Die


Shakespeare Must Die

The ban on Ing Kanjanavanit’s film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย) has finally been lifted by the Supreme Court. The court also ruled today that the Ministry of Culture, which banned the film in 2012, must pay 500,000 baht in damages to the filmmaker after her twelve-year crusade to reverse the ban (a campaign documented in her film Censor Must Die/เซ็นเซอร์ต้องตาย). The ban was upheld by the Administrative Court in 2017, though times have since changed, and Shakespeare Must Die appears to be an early beneficiary of a liberalised censorship policy announced by the National Soft Power Strategy Committee (คณะกรรมการยุทธศาสตร์ซอฟต์พาวเวอร์แห่งชาติ) last month.

Shakespeare Must Die is a Thai adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with Pisarn Pattanapeeradej in the lead role. The play is presented in two parallel versions: a production in period costume, and a contemporary political interpretation. The period version is faithful to Shakespeare’s original, though it also breaks the fourth wall, with cutaways to the audience and an interval outside the theatre (featuring a cameo by the director).

In the contemporary sequences, Macbeth is reimagined as Mekhdeth, a prime minister facing a crisis. Street protesters shout “ok pbai!” (‘get out!’), and the protests are infiltrated by assassins listed in the credits as ‘men in black’. Ing has downplayed any direct link to Thai politics, though “Thaksin ok pbai!” was the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s rallying cry against Thaksin Shinawatra, and ‘men in black’ were blamed for instigating violence in 2010. Another satirical line in the script—“Dear Leader brings happy-ocracy!”—predicts Prayut Chan-o-cha’s propaganda song Returning Happiness to the Thai Kingdom (คืนความสุขให้ประเทศไทย).

The parallels between Mekhdeth and Thaksin highlight the politically-motivated nature of the ban imposed on the film. Ironically, the project was initially funded by the Ministry of Culture, during Abhisit Vejjajiva’s premiership. (It received a grant from the ไทยเข้มแข็ง/‘strong Thailand’ stimulus package.) The Abhisit government was only too happy to greenlight a script criticising Thaksin, though by the time the film was finished, Thaksin’s sister Yingluck was in power, and her administration was somewhat less disposed to this anti-Thaksin satire, hence the ban.

Although the film was made twelve years ago, its message is arguably more timely than ever, as Thaksin’s influence over Thai politics continues. He returned to Thailand last year, and his Pheu Thai party is now leading a coalition with the political wing of the military junta. Not uncoincidentally, his prison sentence for corruption was commuted, and he was released on parole last weekend.

The film’s climax, a recreation of the 6th October 1976 massacre, is its most controversial sequence. A photograph by Neal Ulevich, taken during the massacre, shows a vigilante preparing to hit a corpse with a chair, and Shakespeare Must Die restages the incident. A hanging body (symbolising Shakespeare himself) is repeatedly hit with a chair, though rather than dwelling on the violence, Ing cuts to reaction shots of the crowd, which (as in 1976) resembles a baying mob.

The director was interviewed in Thai Cinema Uncensored, and the book details the full story behind the ban. (It also includes an insider’s account from a member of the appeals committee, who was obliged to vote to uphold the ban.) Ing doesn’t mince her words in the interview, describing the censors as “a bunch of trembling morons with the power of life and death over our films.”

19 February 2024

“He looked critically ill...”


Thaksin Shinawatra

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was released on parole early yesterday morning, and today he appeared at the Office of the Attorney General to answer charges of lèse-majesté that were first filed in 2016. He was released on 500,000 baht bail, and the Attorney General will announce on 10th April whether he will be indicted.

The lèse-majesté case stems from an interview Thaksin gave on 21st May 2015 to The Chosun Daily (조선일보), a South Korean newspaper, during which he accused members of the Privy Council of orchestrating the 2006 and 2014 coups. (He had made similar claims in earlier interviews: on 20th April 2009, he told the Financial Times newspaper that the Privy Council “started the whole process” of the 2006 coup, a comment he repeated in Tom Plate’s book Conversations with Thaksin.)

The Chosun Daily video was not the first newspaper interview that led to lèse-majesté charges against Thaksin. In a 9th November 2009 interview with The Times, when King Rama IX was still on the throne, he agreed with the interviewer that the reign of Rama IX’s successor “will be a “shining” age”. As a result, lèse-majesté charges were filed against both Thaksin and Times journalist Richard Lloyd Parry.

When Thaksin was driven home from the police hospital after his parole, he was photographed wearing a neck brace, and with his right arm in a sling. After meeting him at the OAG this morning, Preecha Sudsanguan described the former PM’s health condition: “He came to see us in a wheelchair,” the director general of the criminal litigation department said. “His voice was barely audible when I talked to him and he looked critically ill to me.”

Suspicions were raised about Thaksin’s health when he was transferred to a police hospital on the very first night of his prison sentence, despite being well enough to fly back to Thailand that same morning. He remained in hospital for the entire duration of his sentence, yet after being paroled, he was sent home, apparently no longer needing to be hospitalised. Yet according to the OAG, his condition now appears even worse, despite his six-month hospital stay.

13 February 2024

Arcadia Rooftop Cinema
Blade Runner


Blade Runner

Bangkok’s Arcadia bar celebrates its second anniversary on 17th February with a rooftop screening of its signature film, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. (Arcadia’s logo uses the same typeface as the Blade Runner poster, and some of the bar’s décor, designed by owner Todd Ruiz, was also inspired by the film.)

Arcadia first screened Blade Runner in February last year. It was also shown at House Samyan last year, at the Jam Café in 2019, and at Bangkok Screening Room in 2017.