28 August 2008

This Area Is Under Quarantine

This Area Is Under Quarantine

A new documentary by Thai filmmaker Thunska Pansittivorakul, This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), was screened at Makhampom Studio, Bangkok, last night. (All of his previous films were shown at a retrospective in April.) Before the premiere of this new feature-length documentary, there were screenings of his recent short films Action! (which premiered at the 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, and is currently showing as part of the 4th Project 6) and Middle-Earth (มัชฌิมโลก; which premiered at the 11th Thai Short Film and Video Festival), and his music video Blinded Spot. Most of the photographs from Thunska’s recent Life Show exhibition were also displayed, though the more explicit ones were missing.

Thunska has always made highly provocative films, and This Area Is Under Quarantine is no exception. Its first half resembles his short films Life Show (เปลือยชีวิต) and Chemistry (ปฏิกิริยา), with two gay men being interviewed about their past relationships. (They later have sex with each other, filmed in close-up with a constantly moving camera, recalling Thunska’s short film Sigh/เมืองร้าง.)

One of the men mentions that he is Muslim, which unexpectedly veers the discussion towards the notorious incident at Tak Bai in 2004 when seventy-eight Muslim men suffocated while held captive by the Thai army. Video footage of the Tak Bai incident is included, and Thaksin Shinawatra, who was Thailand’s Prime Minister at the time, is directly criticised in the film (albeit four years after the event).

More contentiously, photographs of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, who were hanged in Iran in 2005, are also included, with the suggestion that they were executed because they had consensual sex with each other. In fact, human rights organisations have since concluded that they raped a thirteen-year-old boy, and thus their reputation as gay martyrs is inappropriate.

There were a few technical glitches at last night’s sold-out screening. The film will be shown again at the same venue on 1st September.

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