15 January 2024

January Sing-alongs!


January Sing-alongs!

Neighbourhood, the Bangkok community mall that began regular outdoor film screenings last year, will show a season of musicals this month. January Sing-alongs! includes the classics The Wizard of Oz on 21st January and The Sound of Music on 27th January.

The Sound of Music had a previous outdoor, sing-along screening as part of the 2005 Bangkok International Film Festival, at Benchasiri Park. The Wizard of Oz had an outdoor screening last year, at Benchakitti Forest Park.

The Wizard of Oz also had a theatrical rerelease last year. It was previously shown at Bangkok Screening Room in 2018, 2019, and 2020. It has also been screened at the Scala, Cinema Winehouse, Bangkok Community Theatre, and Jam Café.

05 January 2024

“Only movies with content that may affect the monarchy will remain prohibited...”


Democracy Monument

Thailand’s film censorship system is likely to be liberalised this year, after an announcement from the government’s National Soft Power Strategy Committee (คณะกรรมการยุทธศาสตร์ซอฟต์พาวเวอร์แห่งชาติ) yesterday. According to the NSPSC, more representatives from the film industry will be permitted to sit on the film censorship board, and the board’s focus will shift from censorship to classification.

The NSPSC, chaired by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, was established on 13th September last year. It assesses policy recommendations submitted by its subsidiary, the National Soft Power Development Committee (คณะกรรมการพัฒนาซอฟต์พาวเวอร์แห่งชาติ), chaired by Paetongtarn Shinawatra (the leader of Pheu Thai).

Yesterday, Paetongtarn announced that sensitive themes such as sex and religion will no longer be subject to censorship: “Only movies with content that may affect the monarchy will remain prohibited from being screened in Thailand.” (Unsurprisingly, the issue of lèse-majesté remains untouchable.)

Thai Cinema Uncensored, the first comprehensive history of Thai film censorship, documents the arbitrary nature of film regulation in Thailand, and the inconsistencies of the censorship board’s judgements. The proposals unveiled yesterday appear to address many of these problems inherent in the state censorship system, though they fall short of the self-regulation called for by the film industry.

30 December 2023

Nednary


Nednary

“WHAT’S YOUR DEMOCRACY, THOO?”
“DEMOCRACY? IT’S MY KIND OF DEMOCRACY.”

Seven boy scouts arrive at an abandoned camp. One of them is the son of a poacher who shot a rare black panther (in a reference to disgraced businessman Premchai Karnasuta). In the past, the others have all killed domestic cats for fun. Their karma catches up with them as a girl scout and a mysterious man hunt them down. In this supernatural horror film from Yuthlert Sippapak, the girl scout is a reincarnation of the dead cats and the man is the spirit of the panther.

The nicknames of the seven boy scouts are the same as those of right-wing Thai politicians—Thoo (Prayut Chan-o-cha), Thay (Mongkolkit Suksintharanon), Pom (Prawit Wongsuwan), Nooh (Anutin Charnvirakul), Tape (Suthep Thaugsuban), Nu (Wissanu Krea-ngam), and Mark (Abhisit Vejjajiva)—and the girl scout’s nickname, Booh, is the same as Yingluck Shinawatra’s. So the film is a political satire, with Yingluck getting her revenge on the coup-makers and protest leaders who brought down her government. (Thaksin Shinawatra’s nickname is Maew, the Thai word for ‘cat’, so the girl scout character perhaps represents both Yingluck and Thaksin.)

Thoo is the most aggressive of the boy scouts, knocking Booh unconscious, tying her up, and repeatedly punching her in the face when she regains consciousness. The real-life parallel is that Prayut led a coup against Yingluck’s government, and she has been legally persecuted ever since. (She was fined, impeached, and convicted of dereliction of duty.)

Nednary

The film was shot in 2019, though it was initially shelved by its studio, Phranakorn Film, due to concerns about its political content. Yuthlert has since added an over-saturated colour filter to the image (to disguise the fact that it was shot on his iPhone), and retitled the film from Seven Boy Scouts to Nednary (อวสานเนตรนารี). The new title translates as ‘girl scout’, shifting the focus onto the female protagonist, in the same way that Yuthlert retitled another long-delayed film from Fatherland (ปิตุภูมิ) to Rachida (ราชิดา).

Interviewed in Thai Cinema Uncensored, Yuthlert described Nednary as “a political satire. Finding a way to fight back in a film in the mainstream.” The director has been politically active since the 2014 coup, and Nednary is his personal response to the last decade of Thai politics. The violent plot is also somewhat cathartic, as he explained in his Thai Cinema Uncensored interview: “No one grows up, because I kill them all!”

After this year’s election, the studio finally felt comfortable to release the film. In fact, rather than minimising the political angle, it’s emphasised in the trailer and opening title sequence, with the scouts’ nicknames shown in very large letters. (The English spellings of the nicknames in the trailer are more accurate than those in the film’s subtitles: Tu, rather than Thoo, for example.)

In case viewers miss the political allusion, it’s hammered home when the boy scouts argue about who should lead them. Thoo insists it should be him—Prayut clung onto power unconstitutionally for nine years—and the others accuse him of being undemocratic. Thoo’s reply is a Thai pun that’s not translated in the subtitles: he says that his kind of democracy is “ประชาธิปตู่.” The Thai word for ‘democacy’ is ‘ประชาธิปไตย’, though he replaces the final syllable with his own nickname; the English equivalent would be ‘Thoo-ocracy’.

29 December 2023

Short 27 Awarded Film Screening


Best of Short 27
Open World Cinema

The 27th Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 27) took place from 16th December until Christmas Eve, after the preliminary online Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน). At next month’s Short 27 Awarded Film Screening, the winning films will be shown again at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya.

Phassarawin Kulsomboon’s feature-length documentary Khon Boys (เด็กโขน) will be shown on 6th January next year, for its final screening in Thailand for the foreseeable future. Another documentary feature, Supamok Silarak’s Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง), is screening on the following day, as is Sompot Chidgasornpongse’s short drama The Physical Realm (ภูมิกายา).

The Physical Realm will also be shown at a Best of Short 27 (โปรแกรมผลงานชนะรางวัลจากเทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้น ครั้งที่ 27) screening at Chiang Rai International Art Museum on 10th February. The screening is part of the Open World Cinema programme of the Thailand Biennale in Chiang Rai.

The Amazing Movie Posters of Thailand


Apocalypse Now

The Amazing Movie Posters of Thailand, by Neil Pettigrew and Philip Jablon, is—to borrow the adjective from its title—an amazing book. Featuring more than 500 posters, including many full-page reproductions, it’s the most extensive guide to Thai film posters ever published.

The Amazing Movie Posters of Thailand includes a brief history of Thai film poster production, paying particular tribute to Somboonsuk Niyomsiri (also known as Piak Poster), “[t]he father of Thailand’s style of hand painted movie posters”. The Thai poster for Apocalypse Now, painted by Tongdee Panumas, is singled out as “a contender for being the greatest film poster of all time. Not just from Thailand but from any country.”

The book also features the most comprehensive roster of Thai poster artist biographies ever compiled. The entry for Somboonsuk highlights his design for the French film Temptation (L’Île du bout du monde), which “revolutionised the look of Thai cinema posters in 1959 by using an offset printer which allowed for more richly colourful artwork.” (An exhibition of Somboonsuk’s work was held at the Thai Film Archive last year.)

The Amazing Movie Posters of Thailand / Thai Movie Posters / Bai Pid / Starpics

The Amazing Movie Posters of Thailand is published by the founder of the horror film magazine The Dark Side, thus it focuses heavily on horror and exploitation posters. The final few chapters are devoted to gory and erotic posters, including one for the Hong Kong film A Gambler’s Story (邪斗串), described as “perhaps the all-time most explicit movie poster ever produced in Thailand.” (These posters—displayed in seedier cinema lobbies, not on public view—were more graphic than the films they advertised, as discussed in Thai Cinema Uncensored.)

Co-authors Pettigrew and Jablon are both Thai poster collectors. (Jablon is also a dealer.) Pettigrew has previously written about Thai horror and sexploitation posters in The Dark Side (no. 167, 168, and 180). Jablon organised a poster exhibition at this year’s Singorama Film Festival, and wrote the excellent Thailand’s Movie Theatres.

Gilbert Brownstone’s Thai Movie Posters (Affiches de cinéma thaï/โปสเตอร์ภาพยนต์ไทย), published in 1974, was the first survey of Thai film posters. After almost fifty years, another book on the subject was long overdue, and The Amazing Movie Posters of Thailand was well worth the wait.

Starpics magazine released a special issue (no. 3) on the history of Thai film posters in 1997, which is also a great resource. There are catalogues to the Bai Pid (ใบปิด) and Thai Film Posters (ใบปิดหนังไทย) exhibitions, and other poster exhibitions include Eyegasm and Rare Thai Movie Posters (ลับแลโปสเตอร์ ภาพยนตร์ไทย). There is a short essay on Thai film posters in Thai Cinema (Le cinéma thaïlandais), and vintage posters are illustrated in Dome Sukwong’s A Century of Thai Cinema.

26 December 2023

The Exorcist Legacy:
50 Years of Fear


The Exorcist Legacy

The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear was published earlier this year, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of William Friedkin’s classic horror film The Exorcist. Author Nat Segaloff was Friedkin’s authorised biographer, and he covers the making of the film in considerable detail, with chapters on the three stages of production and the film’s release.

The book also discusses the various Exorcist sequels, which are of interest only to completists. Segaloff’s synopses of all these spinoffs are largely superfluous. Fortunately, though, the first half of the book is devoted to the original 1973 film.

Mark Kermode’s book on the film, from the BFI Film Classics series, remains the definitive study, and Segaloff interviewed him for The Exorcist Legacy. In fact, Kermode has become such an authority on The Exorcist that Segaloff dedicates his book to him alongside Friedkin and William Peter Blatty (who wrote the original novel).

24 December 2023

Damnatio Memoriae


Damnatio Memoriae

Thunska Pansittivorakul’s latest documentary, Damnatio Memoriae (ไม่พึงปรารถนา), had its world premiere at this year’s DMZ International Documentary Film Festival in South Korea. Thunska’s films often contain found footage, though with Damnatio Memoriae he has taken this a step further, producing a collage film comprised almost entirely of repurposed news and propaganda clips. (It begins with a montage of violent episodes from modern world history: the Holocaust, the Zapruder film, 9/11.)

Structurally, the film is a series of stark juxtapositions between fantasy and reality: propaganda videos (either directly or indirectly state-sanctioned), followed by atrocities committed by those states. Thus, the jolly Duck and Cover public information film is intercut with footage of Japanese A-bomb victims. Most of the examples are drawn from Asia during the Cold War era: Chinese Communist propaganda films, followed by the Tiananmen Square massacre; the Seoul Olympics opening ceremony intercut with autopsy photographs of Gwangju Uprising victims.

Thai political history is central to Thunska’s filmography, and Damnatio Memoriae is no exception. Here, clips from the historical romance Sunset at Chaophraya (คู่กรรม) are juxtaposed with footage of the 6th October 1976 massacre, with the love song Angsumalin (อังศุมาลิน), performed by heartthrob Nadech Kugimiya, on the soundtrack. (Sunset at Chaophraya is based on a novel by Thommayanti, who denounced students as Communists in the buildup to 1976. Video artist Chulayarnnon Siriphol has also appropriated footage from Sunset at Chaophraya.)

Explicit sexual content is another key component of the director’s work, used most provocatively in The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย), when a man is shown masturbating while captions describe the victims of the 1976 massacre. As Thunska explained in Thai Cinema Uncensored, this scene was a condemnation of what he views as the military’s quasi-sexual impulse to destroy its opponents: “That massacre is like masturbation... They need to feel good and happy, but it’s really cruel.”

Damnatio Memoriae features a similar sequence: a young man masturbates in the shower, while captions describe “the Red Drum killings of more than 200 civilians (unofficial accounts speak of up to 3,000) who were accused of supporting communists in Phatthalung, southern Thailand.” The graphic metaphor for military violence is an echo of The Terrorists, though there is an added layer of significance: the actor in the shower comes from Phatthalung, where the killings took place decades before he was born.

Nudity is also used for comic effect, in an irreverent comment on royally-appointed Thai prime minister and statesman Prem Tinsulanonda. Prem is shown preparing to deliver a speech at the White House, in recognition of Thai-US military cooperation during the Cold War, and just as he is about to speak, the film cuts to a close-up of an erection.

The shower sequence is an out-take from Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ), and Damnatio Memoriae also features brief clips from Avalon (แดนศักดิ์สิทธิ์). Thunska’s previous films include Danse Macabre (มรณสติ), Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา), Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), Reincarnate (จุติ), and This Area is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน).

09 December 2023

Rare Thai Movie Posters


Rare Thai Movie Posters Rare Thai Movie Posters

Today and tomorrow, vintage Thai film posters will be on display, and on sale, at the Woof Pack building in Bangkok. The Bai Pid (ใบปิด) exhibition—held at the same venue last year—featured reproductions of classic poster artwork, whereas this weekend’s fair, Rare Thai Movie Posters (ลับแลโปสเตอร์ ภาพยนตร์ไทย), focuses on original posters.

Rare Thai Movie Posters and Bai Pid are among only a handful of exhibitions devoted to Thai movie poster art. Others have included Thai Film Posters (ใบปิดหนังไทย; 1984) in Bangok, and Eyegasm (2012) in Palm Springs, California. Philip Jablon exhibited some posters from his collection at this year’s Singorama Film Festival in Songkhla.

Gilbert Brownstone’s Thai Movie Posters (Affiches de cinéma thaï/โปสเตอร์ภาพยนต์ไทย), published in 1974, was the first book on the subject. A new survey, The Amazing Movie Posters of Thailand by Jablon and Neil Pettigrew, was released earlier this year. Starpics magazine issued five special issues devoted to film posters; most focused on Hollywood posters, and no. 3 covered 100 years of Thai cinema.

08 December 2023

112 News from Heaven


112 News from Heaven

Vichart Somkaew’s short documentary 112 News from Heaven juxtaposes news that’s broadcast on all channels every day with news that goes unreported by mainstream outlets. On the soundtrack, an announcer reads a bulletin of royal news, a daily staple of Thai television and radio. This is contrasted with captions documenting news of “victims of the Thai state”. Vichart’s previous film Cremation Ceremony (ประวัติย่อของบางสิ่งที่หายไป) used a similar technique, with captions honouring victims of political injustice.

The Thai monarchy is often associated with the sky, symbolising the high reverence in which it is traditionally held, and lèse-majesté is article 112 of the criminal code, hence the title 112 News from Heaven. The film’s captions feature 112 headlines from a 112-day period, detailing the custodial sentences given to those convicted of lèse-majesté and the bail denied to those awaiting trial.

After its litany of legal persecution, the film ends with a clip from an impromptu TV interview Rama X gave during a walkabout. Asked for his message to pro-democracy protesters, the King offers words of reassurance: “We love them all the same.”

The film’s structure recalls D.H. Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers. The bulk of that book describes the misery of the protagonist’s life, though it ends on an unexpectedly uplifting note: “He would not take that direction, to the darkness, to follow her. He walked towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly.”

Can the book’s final few optimistic sentences negate the oppressive narrative of its previous 500 pages? Or does the apparently hopeful ending represent a false dawn? The same questions are raised by 112 News from Heaven, in relation to the state’s attitudes towards political dissent.

Again, there is a similarity with Cremation Ceremony. After detailing various state injustices, that film also ends on a positive note, with a final caption welcoming the news that pro-democracy parties “emerged victorious” in this year’s election. But after the film was released, it became clear that the election result was another false dawn, as the winning party was sidelined and the military remained in government.

27th Thai Short Film and Video Festival


27th Thai Short Film and Video Festival

The 27th Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 27) runs from 16th December until Christmas Eve at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya. The annual Short Film and Video Festival is Thailand’s longest-running film event, providing a unique showcase for independent filmmakers.

Over seventy films will be screened in competition, chosen from more than 600 titles submitted. Almost all of the submissions were shown online during the Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน) earlier this year.

A Love Letter to My Sister
The Physical Realm

A Love Letter to My Sister, video journalist Napasin Samkaewcham’s deeply personal account of the volatile relationship between his parents, is surely the most powerful film at this year’s event. This moving and often heart-rending documentary will be shown on 17th December.

Sompot Chidgasornpongse’s short drama The Physical Realm (ภูมิกายา) will have its Thai premiere on 16th December. The film includes a subtle tribute to the leaders of the student protest movement, when a man speculates on the name he might have given to a child his former girlfriend never had. He considers the names Anon, Panassaya, and Jathupat, which refer to Arnon Nampa, Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul, and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, respectively. (The references are slightly disguised, as the film’s subtitles spell the names phonetically.)

Other highlights include Phassarawin Kulsomboon’s Khon Boys (เด็กโขน), screening on 16th December; Supamok Silarak’s Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง), on 17th December; Kawinnate Konklong’s แค่วันที่โชคร้าย (‘unfortunately’), also on 17th December; and video artist Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s ANG48 (เอเอ็นจี48), on 23rd December. Award winners will be announced on Christmas Eve.

Khon Boys
Red Poetry

A Love Letter to My Sister and แค่วันที่โชคร้าย both had their debut screenings during the Short Film Marathon. Khon Boys premiered at Jumping Frames (跳格) in Hong Kong. The Physical Realm premiered at Film Fest Gent in Belgium on 19th October. Red Poetry has previously been shown in both Chiang Mai and Salaya. ANG48 was shown previously at ใช้แล้ว ใช้อยู่ ใช้ต่อ (‘I’ve used it, I’m using it, I’ll keep using it’), Wildtype 2023, and Shadow Dancing.

07 December 2023

Khon Boys


Khon Boys

Phassarawin Kulsomboon’s new documentary Khon Boys (เด็กโขน) will be shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 16th December, in what is expected to be its only public screening in Thailand. The film had its world premiere on 15th September at Jumping Frames (跳格), the Hong Kong International Movement-Image Festival 2023.

Khon Boys follows a group of students as they learn the Thai dramatic art of khon dancing. The film opens with an introduction to the history of khon and its associations with Thai royalty: khon was traditionally performed exclusively at royal functions, and its principal characters are gods and kings. The ten kings of Thailand’s current Chakri dynasty share their name with Rama, protagonist of the khon drama Ramakien (รามเกียรติ์), and the film highlights the parallels between khon’s warrior kings and the past 200 years of Thai history.

Captions describe the Ramakien’s plot: “Rama returns home for his coronation, and his reign is one of peace and happiness.” Cut to: Sanam Luang, “15 months after King Rama X’s coronation,” where protesters gathered in September 2020 to call for reform of the monarchy. Later, there is footage of riot police firing rubber bullets at REDEM protesters at Sanam Luang in March 2021, and an impressive drone shot of 10,000 protesters assembling at Democracy Monument in August 2020. The film describes the epic Ramakien as a “great battle between Good and Evil,” and it presents the current confrontations between demonstrators and the establishment in the same terms.

Khon Boys

Khon Boys is Phassarawin’s solo directorial debut, though he previously codirected Danse Macabre (มรณสติ) and the short film Dance of Death (แดนซ์ ออฟ เดธ) with Thunska Pansittivorakul. He also worked as cinematographer on Thunska’s Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา) and Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล). Khon Boys is similar to the latter film, as they both include interviews with high-school boys about contemporary politics.

Khon Boys perfectly captures the tension between tradition and change. Just as youthful protesters in a hierarchical society are challenging conservative elites, the young khon students are participating in a royalist art form yet simultaneously questioning the ideology it represents. The film shows a social studies class that appears to be a straightforward propaganda exercise, with a writing project titled “Missing the King in Heaven”. Meanwhile, when interviewed by the director, the students criticise the lèse-majesté law and the military. As one student puts it succinctly: “Soldiers aren’t the nation’s fence. They are the king’s shield.”

Some of their comments on lèse-majesté were self-censored by the director, with photos of CGI dinosaurs to mask the forbidden opinions. (Homogeneous, Empty Time also includes a self-censored discussion of lèse-majesté.) One student resorts to a thinly-veiled metaphor, namely a fictional location in the Japanese manga series One Piece (ワンピース): “Let me talk about the country of Wano. Lord Kaido is the country’s big boss. He thinks he has limitless power and can do anything to people like us.”

02 December 2023

It Is What It Is


It Is What It Is

Chatchawal Thongjun’s From Forest to City (อรัญนคร), one of the best Thai short films of the year, will be shown at Bangkok University’s School of Digital Media and Cinematic Arts as part of the It Is What It Is (ชีวิตก็เท่านี้) programme. The event, on 4th December, is the third screening in the Jubchaii (ถูกจับฉาย) series. Chatchawal’s film will also be shown online on 6th December in the Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน).

From Forest to City is a black-and-white drama, though it has two flashes of colour: a red folding chair (symbolising the 1976 Thammasat University massacre), and a yellow t-shirt (as worn by anti-democratic People’s Alliance for Democracy supporters). In its final act, the film features a montage of footage from Thailand’s polarised political history, set ironically to รักกันไว้เถิด (‘let’s love each other’), a Cold War propaganda song whose lyrics call for national unity.

01 December 2023

Chiang Mai Film Festival 2023 Part II


Chiang Mai Film Festival 2023

Highlights from this year’s Chiang Mai Film Festival will be shown tomorrow on the rooftop of the city’s Mantana Building. Vichart Somkaew’s Cremation Ceremony (ประวัติย่อของบางสิ่งที่หายไป), Koraphat Cheeradit’s Yesterday Is Another Day, and Weerapat Sakolvaree’s Nostalgia are all included in the Chiang Mai Film Festival 2023 Part II programme.

Cremation Ceremony was also shown recently at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok, and at Wildtype 2023. Yesterday Is Another Day has been screened at Silpakorn University. Both films were part of this year’s Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน). Nostalgia has previously been shown at Bangkok University, Future Fest 2023, Wildtype 2022, and the 26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 26).

Spotlight by BKK Critics


Spotlight by BKK Critics

This month, Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok will showcase a series of critically-acclaimed short films, all of which have won Bangkok Critics Assembly awards. The event is in two stages, with the first three titles being shown on 3rd–6th December and the final three on 7th–21st December. The Spotlight by BKK Critics season concludes with Chaweng Chaiyawan’s Please... See Us (หว่างีมอละ), followed by a Q&A with its director.

Chaweng’s film 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. This transgressive film had an outdoor screening in Chiang Mai earlier this year, and was previously shown at Wildtype 2021, Signes de Nuit (‘signs of the night’), and the 25th Thai Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 25).

25 November 2023

Doi Boy


Doi Boy

Nontawat Numbenchapol’s film Doi Boy (ดอยบอย) was released on Netflix yesterday. Nontawat’s documentaries—including Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง), By the River (สายน้ำติดเชื้อ), and Soil Without Land (ดินไร้แดน)—have highlighted sensitive political issues, and Doi Boy, his first feature film, is no exception.

Boundary and Soil Without Land both explored tensions on Thailand’s borders, and in both cases the documentaries focused on the experiences of a young soldier caught up in a larger conflict. Boundary follows Aod, a Thai soldier who returns to his hometown on the border with Cambodia. Jai, the main subject of Soil Without Land, is a stateless man living on the border between Myanmar and Thailand, who reluctantly joins the Shan State Army.

Sorn, the central protagonist of Doi Boy, is also a young man from Shan State conscripted into the military. After deserting, he crosses the border into Thailand, jumping from the frying pan into the fire. He is forced to totally transform his identity (from monk to soldier to sex worker) and, like other undocumented migrants in Thailand and elsewhere, he is exploited by almost everyone he meets, but particularly by Ji, a corrupt police officer with a guilty conscience.

Doi Boy begins with young Thai demonstrators chanting “For the people!” Clearly, this is meant to evoke the student protest movement that began in 2020, calling for reform of the monarchy, but the real-life slogans were presumably too sensitive for the film. Nontawat previously made Sound of ‘Din’ Daeng, a series of short documentaries about the demonstrators, and he recreates the atmosphere of the protests in Doi Boy.

Another slogan of the Doi Boy protesters is: “It could be you!”, a reference to the kidnapping and murdering of protest ringleaders. It soon becomes clear that the police are behind these crimes, as Ji suffocates a captured protester, Bhoom, with a bin bag. In 2021, corrupt police chief Thitisan Utthanaphon murdered drug suspect Jeerapong Thanapat in the same manner. (That case was also referenced, much less tastefully, in Poj Arnon’s comedy Oh My Ghost! 8/หอแต๋วแตกแหก โควิดปังปุริเย่.)

Doi Boy

At the end of the film, a somewhat ethereal body is shown, in a foetal position, apparently inside an oil drum. Again, this has real-life echoes: several anti-government activists, including Wanchalearm Satsaksit, are missing, presumed dead, and after Porlajee Rakchongcharoen was murdered in 2014, his remains were found in an oil drum. (Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s exhibition A Minor History/ประวัติศาสตร์กระจ้อยร่อย showed the disposal of the bodies of murdered political dissidents in the Mekong river.)

Doi Boy admirably addresses human rights abuses in a feature film, though it’s also very stylishly shot and edited. Phuttiphong Aroonpheng attempted a similar combination with Manta Ray (กระเบนราหู), though whereas Phuttiphong’s film was a case of style over substance, Doi Boy achieves exactly the right balance. This is immediately apparent from the audacious opening sequence, when Sorn performs a striptease wearing a rubber gimp suit, intercut with flashbacks to Ji’s suffocation of Bhoom.

23 November 2023

Red Poetry


Red Poetry

Supamok Silarak’s film Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง) will be shown in Salaya this weekend. The feature-length documentary is a profile of performance artist Vitthaya Klangnil, who formed the group Artn’t with fellow student Yotsunthon Ruttapradit. A shorter version—Red Poetry: Verse 1 (เราไป ไหน ได้)—was screened last year at Wildtype 2022.

The documentary, filmed in 2021, shows the intense endurance and commitment Vitthaya invests in his protest art. A durational performance—sitting near Chiang Mai’s Tha Pae Gate for nine full days—led to his collapse from exhaustion. In another action, he climbed onto Chiang Mai University’s main entrance, repeatedly slapped himself in the face, and jumped into a pond. When he reported to the police to answer charges of sedition, he vomited blue paint outside the police station.

The film ends with Vitthaya carving “112” into his chest, in protest at the lèse-majesté (article 112) charges he faced after he exhibited a modified version of the Thai flag in 2021. He was convicted of lèse-majesté earlier this year, and received a suspended sentence.

Red Poetry will be shown at Die Kommune on 25th November, at a screening organised by Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies. It has previously been screened in Chiang Mai earlier this year, and it had an online screening as part of this year’s Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน).

22 November 2023

ใช้แล้ว ใช้อยู่ ใช้ต่อ
(‘I’ve used it, I’m using it, I’ll keep using it’)



Later this week, Bangkok University will be screening a programme of short films that reappropriate found footage. The ใช้แล้ว ใช้อยู่ ใช้ต่อ (‘I’ve used it, I’m using it, I’ll keep using it’) programme includes Chulayarnnon Siriphon’s ANG48 (เอเอ็นจี48) and Kanyarat Theerakrittayakorn’s Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds (เจริญวิริญาพรมาหาทำใน 3 โลก).

ANG48 reuses scenes from the classic romance Sunset at Chaophraya (คู่กรรม), creating a new backstory for that film’s heroine. It has also been shown this year as part of the Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน) and Wildtype 2023, and at last year’s Shadow Dancing exhibition.

Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds features clips from short films by the mysterious and elusive Viriyaporn Boonprasert, and interviews with young Thai directors, one of whom may or may not be the face behind Viriyaporn’s pseudonym. It has previously been shown at Wildtype 2022.

ใช้แล้ว ใช้อยู่ ใช้ต่อ will take place at the Surat Osathanugrah Library on 24th November. Its title is a pun on “ทำแล้ว ทำอยู่ ทำต่อ” (‘I’ve done it, I’m doing it, I’ll keep doing it’), Prayut Chan-o-cha’s campaign slogan in this year’s election.

18 November 2023

Studio Ghibli Film Festival 2023


Studio Ghibli Film Festival 2023

A retrospective of Hayao Miyazaki’s most popular films is being held at selected SF Cinema branches (Central malls in Chonburi, Korat, Khon Kaen, Salaya, Surat Thani, and Phuket; the Mall Lifestore in Bangkae and Ngamwongwan; Laemtong in Bangsaen; Sermthai Complex in Maha Sarakham; MAYA in Chiang Mai; and CentralWorld, Rama IX, and MBK in Bangkok) from 25th November to 31st December. SF’s Studio Ghibli Film Festival 2023 features seven Miyazaki classics: Howl’s Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城), Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し), Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫), Porco Rosso (紅の豚), Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ), Kiki’s Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便), and My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ).

Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Away—arguably the greatest anime film ever made—will be shown on 25th November and 9th December at CentralWorld, MBK, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Phuket, and Chonburi; on 26th November at CentralWorld and MBK; on 2nd December at MBK; on 3rd December at CentralWorld, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Phuket, and Chonburi; on 10th December at MBK and CentralWorld; on 16th December at CentralWorld, Rama IX, Korat, Bangkae, Ngamwongwan, Salaya, and Surat Thani; on 17th December at MBK; on 18th December at CentralWorld and Chiang Mai; on 19th December at MBK; on 20th December at Maha Sarakham and Bansaen; on 23rd December at MBK, Rama IX, and Ngamwongwan; on Christmas Eve at CentralWorld; on 29th December at Rama IX; on 30th December at MBK, and on 31st December at CentralWorld. It has previously been screened in Bangkok at the Jam Café in 2015, at TK Park in 2018, and at the Baan Dusit Thani hotel in 2020.

14 November 2023

Small-Talk


Small-Talk

Cremation Ceremony (ประวัติย่อของบางสิ่งที่หายไป) will be shown as part of a triple bill of short films by Vichart Somkaew at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok this month. The Small-Talk programme will be screened on 16th, 19th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 26th, and 28th November; and 1st, 4th, and 12th December. Vichart will be present for a post-screening discussion on 19th November. Cremation Ceremony was previously shown at this year’s Chiang Mai Film Festival, and at Wildtype 2023.

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

Vichart sets fire to photographs of the three men, their faces distorting as the photographic paper burns. There is no dialogue, and the only sound is the crackling of the flame. This symbolic ritual is a commemoration of the deaths of Covid victims, red-shirt protesters, and political dissidents, though it’s also a metaphorical act of retribution, as the three men have faced no consequences for their actions. (Anutin recently returned to government, Abhisit was cleared of all charges by the Supreme Court in 2017, and Prayut announced his retirement this year.)

While the three portraits burn slowly, captions mourn the red-shirts shot at Wat Pathum Wanaram, political prisoners charged under article 112, and—most tragically—casualties of the coronavirus. Arnon Nampa’s speech calling for reform of the monarchy is also summarised in the captions, and the film ends on an optimistic note: a final caption explains that pro-democracy parties “emerged victorious” in this year’s election. (The film was made before the progressive election winners were denied a place in the governing coalition and replaced by the political wings of the military junta.)

09 November 2023

Pulp Fiction


Pulp Fiction

Neighbourhood, the Bangkok community mall that began regular outdoor film screenings last month, will show Pulp Fiction tomorrow. Quentin Tarantino’s classic was previously shown at House Samyan and Bangkok Screening Room in 2019, and at Cinema Winehouse in 2018 and 2015.