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.

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, the Heard the Unheard (สดับเสียงเงียบ) exhibition took place at Silpakorn and Thammasat universities, and Manit Sriwanichpoom’s Tak Bai paintings were shown at the Landscape of Unity the Indivisible (ทิวทัศน์แห่งความเป็นหนึ่งอันมิอาจแบ่งแยก) exhibition. 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.

12 February 2024

The Sarawak Report:
The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé



British journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown has been sentenced in absentia to two years in jail by a Malaysian court. She was sued for defamation by Nur Zahirah, Sultanah of the Malaysian state of Terengganu, on 21st November 2018, a few months after the publication of her book The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé.

Rewcastle Brown’s investigative reporting exposed the 1MDB scandal that led to the imprisonment of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on corruption charges. Less than a week before Rewcastle Brown’s conviction on 7th February, Razak’s twelve-year sentence was reduced by half.

The Sultanah—wife of Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin—had originally sought 100m ringgit in libel damages, though the High Court ruled in Rewcastle Brown’s favour, dismissing the case. The Court of Appeal overturned that decision on 12th December last year, and awarded damages of 300,000 ringgit.

The case stems from a single sentence in The Sarawak Report implying that the Sultanah was instrumental in the establishment of 1MDB, referring to “the wife of the sultan, whose acquiescence was needed to set up the fund” (p. 3). After the initial lawsuit, Rewcastle Brown clarified that she should have named the Sultan’s sister rather than his wife, and the text was changed in later editions. She also explained that the ambiguous pronoun “whose” referred to Sultan Mizan himself.

10 February 2024

100 Greatest Films Ever


Weekend The Godfather

Daily Mail film critic Brian Viner has compiled a list of the 100 greatest films ever made, in a cover story for today’s issue of the newspaper’s Weekend magazine supplement. The list skews towards mainstream titles, as Viner readily acknowledges: “I’ve deliberately left out some of the mighty early silents, and there aren’t too many foreign-language films because this has to be an accessible collection.” Another stipulation is that all titles are available on streaming platforms, thus disqualifying some esoteric arthouse films. (The Mail published a previous list of Viner’s 100 favourite films in 2020.)

The 100 Greatest Films Ever are as follows:

100. Oliver!
99. Thelma and Louise
98. Raiders of the Lost Ark
97. Goldfinger
96. In the Heat of the Night
95. This Is Spinal Tap
94. To Kill a Mockingbird
93. The Sting
92. The Vanishing
91. When We Were Kings
90. Twelve Angry Men
89. It Happened One Night
88. Chariots of Fire
87. Shane
86. Kes
85. The Exorcist
84. High Noon
83. All the President’s Men
82. Parasite
81. Star Wars IV: A New Hope
80. Rear Window
79. The Night of the Hunter
78. Get Out
77. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
76. The Best Years of Our Lives
75. Gone with the Wind
74. City Lights
73. Sunset Boulevard
72. Zulu
71. Chinatown
70. The Shining
69. Henry V
68. His Girl Friday
67. Shakespeare in Love
66. The Third Man
65. West Side Story
64. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
63. The Lives of Others
62. Toy Story
61. Spartacus
60. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
59. Apollo 11
58. Deliverance
57. The Elephant Man
56. Tokyo Story
55. Monty Python’s Life of Brian
54. No Country for Old Men
53. The Producers
52. Schindler’s List
51. Boyhood
50. Dr Strangelove
49. The Conversation
48. The Searchers
47. Duck Soup
46. Rome, Open City
45. Nashville
44. On the Waterfront
43. Bicycle Thieves
42. Top Hat
41. All About Eve
40. Vertigo
39. Seven Samurai
38. 2001: A Space Odyssey
37. The Deer Hunter
36. Taxi Driver
35. There Will Be Blood
34. The Bridge on the River Kwai
33. The General
32. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
31. It’s a Wonderful Life
30. Pulp Fiction
29. Raging Bull
28. Annie Hall
27. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
26. Alien
25. The French Connection
24. The Maltese Falcon
23. The Silence of the Lambs
22. Kind Hearts and Coronets
21. The Sound of Music
20. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
19. The Banshees of Inisherin
18. Double Indemnity
17. Brief Encounter
16. Modern Times
15. Shoah
14. The Apartment
13. Singin’ in the Rain
12. Apocalypse Now
11. Bonnie and Clyde
10. Citizen Kane
9. The Graduate
8. Lawrence of Arabia
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
6. Casablanca
5. Some Like It Hot
4. Jaws
3. Psycho
2. The Wizard of Oz
1. The Godfather

(Note that Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comic masterpiece, not the unrelated 1939 comedy. The Maltese Falcon is the John Huston remake, rather than the 1931 original version.)

06 February 2024

Office of the Attorney General:
“The police notified Thaksin about the allegation...”


Chosun Media

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is expected to be paroled later this month, though in another twist to his legal drama, he also faces lèse-majesté charges that could extend his custodial sentence. Thaksin returned from self-imposed exile in August last year, and the Supreme Court sentenced him to an eight-year prison term for corruption and abuse of power.

However, on his first day in jail, Thaksin was transferred to a police hospital for unspecified medical reasons, and has remained there ever since. After he applied for a royal pardon, his eight-year sentence was reduced to one year, and the Department of Corrections confirmed last month that, given his age (seventy-four), he was eligible for parole. (These events were presumably not unrelated to Pheu Thai’s cooperation with the military’s political wing.)

This apparent leniency may have reached its limit, as the Office of the Attorney General announced today that an investigation will be opened into lèse-majesté charges first filed against Thaksin in 2016. Prayuth Pecharakun, spokesman for the OAG, said that “senior officials from the Office of the Attorney General and the police notified Thaksin about the allegation” on 17th January, and the charges relate to an interview he gave to South Korean media in 2015, when he accused members of the Privy Council of orchestrating the 2006 and 2014 coups.

05 February 2024

Red Poetry
ยังมีจิตใจจะใฝ่ฝัน
(‘still having a mind that will dream’)


Red Poetry
Red Poetry

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

The documentary shows the intense endurance and commitment Vitthaya invests in his protest art. A durational performance—sitting in front of 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 fell 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’s most extreme action: 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 last year, and received a suspended sentence.

Red Poetry will be shown at the Swiftlet Book Shop on 10th February, at an event titled Red Poetry ยังมีจิตใจจะใฝ่ฝัน (‘Red Poetry: still having a mind that will dream’). Swiftlet was also the venue for the inaugural Phatthalung Micro Cinema screening last month.)

Supamok’s film was screened three times as part of the 27th Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 27): in the online Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน), at the main festival itself, and in the Short 27 Awarded Film Screening programme. It has previously been shown in Chiang Mai, Salaya, and Phatthalung.

04 February 2024

2475
นักเขียนผีแห่งสยาม
(‘1932:
the ghost writer of Siam’)


2475 Graphic Novel Rama VII

In the years following the 2014 coup, the military government set about removing public reminders of the 1932 revolution, when Thailand transitioned from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy. In the catalogue for his exhibition The L/Royal Monument (นิ/ราษฎร์), Wittawat Tongkeaw describes the disappearance of “physical components—names, plaques, monuments” commemorating the revolution. Similarly, in his chapter in Rama X (edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun), Chatri Prakitnonthakan discusses “the destruction of significant buildings and monuments related to the memory of the People’s Party”.

Most notoriously, a plaque in Bangkok’s Royal Plaza was covertly replaced in 2017 with a new plaque honouring the monarchy. Leaders of the recent student protest movement created a new plaque with a democratic inscription, and installed it at Sanam Luang on 20th September 2020, though it was removed by the authorities almost immediately. Reproductions of the new plaque have been shown at various exhibitions, including Wittawat’s 841.594, and it appears prominently in Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s film 100 Times Reproduction of Democracy (การผลิตซ้ำประชาธิปไตยให้กลายเป็นของแท้).

The new plaque is an indication of a political awakening among young Thais—known as ta sawang—and a renewed interest in the 1932 revolution specifically. One of the groups organising the recent protests is called Khana Ratsadon, in tribute to the political party of the same name that led the 1932 revolution. A new library of pro-democracy books is called 1932 People Space Library, its name referring to the year the revolution took place. Souvenir items from 1932 were displayed at the Revolutionary Things (ของ [คณะ] ราษฎร) exhibition in 2018. Charinthorn Rachuratchata’s exhibition Museum 2032 (พิพิธภัณฑ์ ๒๕๗๕) looked forward to the revolution’s centenary.

This revival of interest in the events of 1932 is a relatively recent phenomenon. In 2010, vox pop interviews for Abichon Rattanabhayon’s short film The Six Principles (สัญญาของผู้มาก่อนกาล) demonstrated the public’s apathy towards the revolution. But a few years later, in 2013, the change in attitudes was apparent when Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s documentary Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป'ไทย) achieved unexpected box-office success. (Paradoxocracy features an extended discussion of the revolution, and begins by reproducing the text of a 1932 manifesto railing against King Prajadhipok.)

The 1932 revolution is central to the plot of a new book, 2475 นักเขียนผีแห่งสยาม (‘1932: the ghost writer of Siam’), by Tanis Werasakwong (known as Sa-ard) and Podcharakrit To-im. The book tells the full story of the revolution in the form of a graphic novel, featuring prominent politicians of the period—and even King Prajadhipok—among its main characters. The project’s website describes the revolution as “an event in Thai history that has been erased from collective memory”, a point also made in Prabda Yoon’s short film Transmissions of Unwanted Pasts (วงโคจรของความทรงจำ).

01 February 2024

‘Jack the giant slayer’


Democracy Monument

Two petitions have been filed with the Election Commission of Thailand today, calling for the dissolution of the Move Forward Party, following the Constitutional Court’s unanimous verdict yesterday that Move Forward’s proposal to amend the lèse-majesté law was tantamount to treason. (The court ruled that the party 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.”)

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 yesterday.

Political activist Ruangkrai Leekitwattana petitioned the ECT this morning, citing article 92 of the Organic Act. Ruangkrai is known as ‘Jack the giant slayer’, as his complaint against Samak Sundaravej resulted in the former prime minister being dismissed from office. (He had accused Samak of receiving private income from a TV cookery show, ชิมไปบ่นไป/‘tasting while grumbling’.) Theerayut Suwankesorn, who filed the petition that led to yesterday’s court verdict, has also petitioned the ECT this morning, citing the same article as Ruangkrai.

The ECT is now obliged to refer the case to the Constitutional Court, which will rule on whether Move Forward should be dissolved. If the court’s previous judgements are any guide, dissolution seems inevitable, 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.

Despite winning last year’s election, Move Forward’s prime ministerial nominee was blocked by the Senate. With the junta-appointed senators’ terms of office expiring in May, thus increasing Move Forward’s chances of gaining power at the next election, today’s petitions can be seen as a preemptive measure: an alternative mechanism to prevent the party from exercising its mandate.

31 January 2024

“The law is not a fax paper sent from God...”


Democracy Monument

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the Move Forward Party’s 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.” The court has ordered Move Forward and its former leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, to cease all activities and campaigns related to lèse-majesté reform.

The court’s investigation into Move Forward began in July last year, when a petition was filed by Theerayut Suwankesorn, lawyer for the disgraced former monk Suwit Thongprasert. (Last week, in an unrelated case, the court ruled that Pita’s ownership of shares in a defunct media company was not unconstitutional.)

Theerayut’s petition did not call for Move Forward’s dissolution, though now that the court has deemed the party’s agenda tantamount to treason, others may take the opportunity to do so. Since the election, there has been a concerted effort to muzzle Move Forward, and the Constitutional Court has a long history of dissolving anti-establishment parties, namely Thai Rak Thai, People Power, Thai Raksa Chart, and Move Forward’s predecessor Future Forward.

Move Forward is not a republican party, and had not sought to abolish the lèse-majesté law, only to reduce the fifteen-year maximum sentence for offenders, and to restrict those who can press charges. This was a key policy in Move Forward’s election-winning manifesto, though today’s verdict will significantly restrict the party’s progressive agenda.

At a press conference today, before the verdict was announced, former Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said: “The law is not a fax paper sent from God. It’s written by human hands, therefore people can amend it”. (Thanathorn was disqualified as an MP by the Constitutional Court in 2019.)

The Showman:
Inside the Invasion That Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky


Time / The Showman

Simon Shuster’s superb new book The Showman: Inside the Invasion That Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky, published last week, is a unique profile of Ukraine’s President, from a writer who has spent more time with Zelensky and his inner circle than any other journalist. Shuster has reported on Zelensky for Time magazine since 2019, and his dispatches throughout the Russia-Ukraine war have been essential reading. He was embedded in the presidential compound for months on end, yet his reporting on Zelensky has remained scrupulously objective.

Zelensky cooperated with Shuster to such an extent that the President’s staff raised objections to it, as the author explains in his prologue: “Some of Zelensky’s aides, in particular the ones responsible for his security, did not always appreciate the access the president gave me, especially on the days when he invited me to travel with him to the front. He never explained his reasons for doing that. His staff only said that he trusted me to write an honest account.” When Shuster initially proposed the book—under the working title The Fight Is Here: Volodymyr Zelensky and the War in Ukraine—the President, with a degree of modesty, “felt he had not lived or achieved enough to be the focus of a biography.”

Shuster praises Zelensky’s bravery as a wartime leader, and admires the President’s genuine and selfless concern for his people. But although this is an authorised biography, it’s certainly not a hagiography. Shuster makes clear, for example, that Zelensky was at fault for Ukraine’s lack of preparedness when the war began: “He had spent weeks playing down the risk of a full-scale invasion and assuring his people that all would be fine. He had refused the advice of his military commanders to call up all available reserves and use them to fortify the border. Apart from the calamity of the invasion itself, the president would need to face his own failure to foresee it.”

Rather than the exaggerated Churchillian comparisons made by some other journalists, Shuster’s assessment of Zelensky is surprisingly ambivalent. He even admits to being “worried” about the President’s potential commitment to democracy in a post-war Ukraine, once restrictions on the media are eventually lifted: “I don’t know how Zelensky will handle that fraught transition, whether he will have the wisdom and restraint to part with the extraordinary powers granted to him under martial law, or whether he will, like so many leaders throughout history, find that power too addictive.”

30 January 2024

Metropolis


Metropolis

Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Metropolis will be shown at the Three Layer cafe in Bangkok on 3rd February, accompanied by live music performed by Kachisak Sa-artsri. The film will be introduced by Phassarawin Kulsomboon, director of Khon Boys (เด็กโขน).

Metropolis was previously shown at Bangkok Screening Room in 2019, and at Cinema Winehouse in 2018. It has been shown twice at the World Film Festival of Bangkok, in 2003 (with a live orchestra) and in 2014.

27 January 2024

E. Jean Carroll:
“Donald Trump assaulted me, and... he said it never happened.”



Donald Trump has been ordered to pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages, after Carroll sued the former US president for libel. Carroll had accused Trump of sexually assaulting her, and that claim was vindicated last year when Trump was found guilty in a civil trial. Despite the guilty verdict, Trump continued to deny ever having met Carroll, compounding his defamation of her.

The damages awarded yesterday, determined by a jury in New York, include $65 million in punitive retribution, as a punishment for Trump’s repeated denials that the assault took place. Giving evidence in court, Carroll said: “I’m here because Donald Trump assaulted me, and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened.” (Trump is also counter-suing Carroll, over an interview she gave to CNN last year.)

Thailand Biennale


Cinema for All
The Open World

As part of the Thailand Biennale in Chiang Rai, the Thai Film Archive’s mobile cinema truck will be screening classic Thai films in the grounds of the province’s historic City Hall. The Cine Mobile event begins today, with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ), and runs until 7th February.

A virtual reality version of Apichatpong’s installation A Conversation with the Sun (บทสนทนากับดวงอาทิตย์) is also part of the Biennale, on show at the Kotchasan building from 25th to 29th January. The director will take part in a Q&A at the venue today.

Apichatpong’s short film Emerald (มรกต) will be screened daily from 16th January until 9th February, in the What Lies Beneath: Notes from the Underground programme, part of an ongoing Cinema for All (ซีเนม่า ฟอร์ ออล) season at Ban Mae Ma school. (Apichatpong took part in a Q&A with Tilda Swinton at Ban Mae Ma on 5th January.)

The Biennale opened on 9th December last year and ends on 30th April. The theme is The Open World (เปิดโลก).

24 January 2024

Pita Limjaroenrat ‘not guilty’


Democracy Monument

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled that former Move Forward party leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s ownership of shares in iTV did not violate the constitution. The verdict allows Pita to resume his position as an MP, though it’s a Pyrrhic victory as his suspension from parliament last year prevented him from being renominated for the position of prime minister.

Article 98 of the constitution forbids MPs from holding shares in media companies, and Pita inherited a small stake in iTV from his father. His ownership of the shares was not in question: the dispute centred instead on the legal status of iTV itself. The TV station lost its broadcasting licence in 2007, and Pita argued that it should not, therefore, be deemed a media company in its current form. Today, eight of the nine Constitutinal Court judges agreed with him.

As leader of the party that won last year’s election, Pita was nominated as PM, though on the eve of the vote, in a decision timed to cause maximum impact, the Election Commission of Thailand referred the iTV case to the Constitutional Court. Then, on the morning of the second prime ministerial vote, the Constitutional Court suspended Pita from parliament pending its investigation. Again, the timing was hardly coincidental, and it prevented Pita from being renominated as PM.

Move Forward is a reincarnation of Future Forward, whose leader was also accused of illegally owning media shares. In that case, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was found guilty of owning a stake in V-Luck Media. Future Forward was ultimately dissolved by the Constitutional Court, and Move Forward may yet face the same fate: the court will decide on 31st January whether Move Forward’s manifesto pledge to reform the lèse-majesté law was itself unconstitutional.

22 January 2024

Memes of Dissent:
Thai Social Media During the 2020–2021 Student Uprising


Memes of Dissent Memes of Dissent

An exhibition of satirical memes and online political cartoons opens this week at All Rise (the offices of iLaw) in Bangkok. Memes of Dissent: Thai Social Media During the 2020–2021 Student Uprising (โซเชียลเน็ตเวิร์คในท่ามกลางการประท้วงของนักศึกษาไทยระหว่างปี 2020–2021) features anti-government GIFs and other digital artwork shared via social media in support of the student protest movement that began in 2020.

The exhibition was previously held at Artcade in Phayao, where it was on show for almost two months (from 3rd August to 1st October 2023), though it will only be open for three days in Bangkok, from 26th to 28th January. Organised by the University of Phayao’s School of Architecture and Fine Art in association with the Museum of Popular History, the Bangkok exhibition will also include memes created after last year’s election (when the winning party was sidelined and the military remained in government).

Copies of คนกลมคนเหลี่ยม Live in Memes of Dissent (‘round people and square people live in memes of dissent’) will be given away at the exhibition. The booklet—limited to fifty copies—reprints a dozen cartoons from the คนกลมคนเหลี่ยม (‘round people and square people’) Facebook page, in solidarity with the cartoonist, who is facing lèse-majesté charges in relation to four cartoons he posted on the page in 2022. (Another Facebook cartoonist, BackArt, has also been charged with lèse-majesté, in relation to two cartoons he posted in 2021.)

นิทรรศการรำลึกการต่อสู้คนเสื้อแดง
(‘exhibition commemorating the red-shirts’ struggle’)



An exhibition documenting the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship protest movement opens today at Thammasat University. Organised by the students’ union, it will be held at the Thammasat Museum of Anthropology, on the university’s Rangsit campus in Pathum Thani.

นิทรรศการรำลึกการต่อสู้คนเสื้อแดง (‘exhibition commemorating the red-shirts’ struggle’) runs until 2nd February. It features t-shirts, magazines, newspapers, VCDs, banners, and other red-shirt media and ephemera. A smaller display of similar items, titled 10 April and Beyond, will be on show at Arai Arai in Bangkok from 29th March to 7th April.

A similar exhibition was mounted at Pheu Thai HQ on 23rd April 2010, organised to present the events of 10th April 2010 from a red-shirt perspective to an invited audience of western diplomats. At that event, VCDs with English subtitles were distributed, one of which—Truth 10th April: Who Is the Real Killer—was played for the visiting dignitaries.

21 January 2024

Doc Club Festival


Doc Club Festival

Doc Club and Pub will host its first Doc Club Festival in Bangkok next month, from 2nd to 11th February. The schedule includes two screenings—on 6th and 8th February—of 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 last year’s Short Film Marathon 27 (หนังสั้นมาราธอน 27), and at the 27th Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 27).

Another recent documentary short, Vichart Somkaew’s 112 News from Heaven, is screening on 5th and 7th February. On the film’s soundtrack, an announcer reads a bulletin of royal news—a daily staple of the Thai airwaves—and this is juxtaposed with captions documenting the convictions of activists charged with lèse-majesté (article 112 of the criminal code). 112 News from Heaven was also shown yesterday in Phatthalung.

On 10th February, there will be a mini retrospective of Nutcha Tantivitayapitak’s documentary shorts: Mr. Zero (คนหมายเลขศูนย์), บันทึกสุดท้าย ‘ดา ตอร์ปิโด’ (‘the final record of ‘Da Torpedo’’), and Red’s Scar (บาดแผลสีแดง). The three films all profile individuals accused of crimes against the state: a writer charged with lèse-majesté, a lèse-majesté convict who died shortly after she was interviewed by Nutcha, and a protester falsely accused of arson following the 2010 military massacre. The Director in Focus retrospective will be followed by a Q&A with Nutcha.

The festival also includes three videos from 2022, all of which commemorate violent episodes from Thailand’s modern history. Sumeth Suwanneth’s Lost, and Life Goes On (เลือนแต่ไม่ลืม) features interviews with relatives of the victims of the 1992 ‘Black May’ massacre. In Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s ชวนอ่านภาพ 6 ตุลา (‘invitation to read images of 6th Oct.’), Octobrists and current students interpret photographs of the 6th October 1976 massacre. Chanasorn Chaikitiporn’s Dawn of a New Day (ก่อนฟ้าสาง) traces the history of the student protest movement from the 14th October 1973 uprising to the 1976 massacre. Sumeth and Chulayarnnon’s films will both be screened on 5th and 7th February, and Chanasorn’s is screening on 4th December as part of a Director in Focus retrospective.

18 January 2024

Phatthalung Micro Cinema 0.5


Phatthalung Micro Cinema
112 News from Heaven

The first independent film event organised by Phatthalung Micro Cinema will be held on 20th January at Swiftlet Book Shop in Phatthalung. For this soft launch, no. 0.5 in their screening programme, they will show three short films, including the premiere of Vichart Somkaew’s documentary 112 News from Heaven.

On 112 News from Heaven’s soundtrack, an announcer reads a bulletin of royal news, a daily staple of the Thai airwaves. This is juxtaposed with captions documenting the convictions of activists charged with lèse-majesté (article 112 of the criminal code). Vichart’s Cremation Ceremony (ประวัติย่อของบางสิ่งที่หายไป) used a similar technique, with captions honouring victims of political injustice.

Today saw the harshest sentence ever given to a lèse-majesté convict, as Mongkhon Thirakot received a fifty-year jail term. He was found guilty last year, in relation to fourteen Facebook posts, and was originally sentenced to twenty-eight years: two years per conviction, to be served consecutively. He appealed the verdict, and today the Appeals Court added an extra twenty-two years to his sentence.

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.