11 October 2022

Nostalgia


Nostalgia

In Weerapat Sakolvaree’s new short film Nostalgia, a young man discovers that, whenever he fires a shooting-star toy into the sky, he becomes receptive to sounds that regress progressively further into Bangkok’s violent past. Like Chris Marker’s La jetée (‘the jetty’), the ironically-titled Nostalgia is comprised of a series of still photographs, though it also includes archive newsreel footage of the 6th October 1976 massacre.

Standing at the roadside in Din Daeng, the protagonist hears “fireworks and a lot of motorcycles.” These are sounds of the clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police that took place there last August. (Police fired rubber bullets at protesters on 10th, 11th, 13th, and 15th August 2021.) At Siam Square, he hears the sound of riot police deploying water cannon against protesters on 16th October 2020. At Lumpini Park, the sound of the 19th May 2010 military crackdown fills his ears, followed by the ‘Black May’ 1992 massacre at Democracy Monument, and the 6th October 1976 massacre at Thammasat University.

These locations are, to use the Dutch artist Armando’s term, ‘guilty landscapes’: silent witnesses to past traumas. Like the origami bird in Panya Zhu’s White Bird (นกตัวนั้นยังสบายดีไหม), the toy in Nostalgia is a conduit for sonic echoes of historical violence, which form an audio collage in Weerapat’s film. Nostalgia is also similar to Chai Chaiyachit and Chisanucha Kongwailap’s Re-presentation (ผีมะขาม ไพร่ฟ้า ประชาธิปไตย ในคืนที่ลมพัดหวน), which likewise revisits Bangkok’s ‘guilty landscapes’. Nostalgia and Re-presentation both end with shots of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, hinting at the established hierarchies underlying Thai politics. In Nostalgia, the Throne Hall is seen from behind iron railings, a reminder that the building was closed to the public by royal decree.

Nostalgia was one of the standout films from this month’s Wildtype 2022 screening programme, shown as part of the Angry Young Citizen strand. It was screened at four venues on 1st October: Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok, Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration, Lorem Ipsum in Hat Yai, and the Khon Kaen branch of TCDC. It was also shown at Bookhemian in Phuket on 8th October.