Monday, September 30, 2013

The Guardians takes top prize in 9FilmFest

A scene from The Guardian.

The Style by Toyota 9FilmFest was held over the weekend of September 21-22 at Bangkok's Paragon Cineplex, showing the latest crop of nine-minute films made especially for the festival. Each film had to incorporate this year's "9 signature item", which was "waterway".

Top prize was a brand-new Toyota Vios, which went to The Guardians, a drama about a river village's "crazy man", who is in mourning over the drowning of his young son. He's determined to learn to swim. It also won best actor. A winner of several other awards was Lie, the tale of a middle-aged man who poses on the Internet as a handsome pop singer.

Here's the winners:

  • Screenwriter – Lie, Narongchai Parthumsuwan
  • Costume design – The Great River, Steven Rouse
  • Leadership Award – Distortion, Thana Chairatanasil
  • Best editor – Teppanyaki Kamakazi, Jeremy Zag and Raymond Lewin
  • Best producer – Clueless?, Byron Bishop, Sahajak Boonthanakit and Peter Alan Lloyd
  • Special jury prize – Lie, Narongchai Parthumsuwan
  • Best actor – The Guardians, Supachai Gertsuwan
  • Best actress – Clueless?, Joy Villanueva
  • Best cinematography – Bangkruai Pradesh, Pathara Buranadilok
  • Best director – Clock Blocked, Robert Peters
  • Best creativity – The Cream, Naruphon Punphairoj and Satit Ngerntong
  • Best film – The Guardians, Disspong Sampattavanich

Prizes were handed out by jury that included Prachya Pinkaew, MR Chalermchatri "Adam" Yukol, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit (Golf), Ananda Everingham, "Pop" Areeya Sirisopa adn "Ted" Yuthana Boon-orm, with other celebrities in attendance including "Poo" Vithaya Pansringarm, Jill Roger and Cindy Bishop.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thailand puts up Countdown for Oscars

The psychological thriller Countdown (เคาท์ดาวน์) is Thailand's submission to the 86th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

Directed by Nattawut Poonpiriya and produced by the GTH studio, Countdown is about a trio of young Thai hipsters in New York who are trapped in their apartment and terrorized on New Year's Eve by an unhinged drug dealer named Jesus.

The film has been a hit on the festival circuit and won awards at home, particularly for actor David Assavanond as the goateed pusher.

Countdown is perhaps a surprising choice for Thailand's Oscar submission, but then perhaps not with GTH chief executive Visute Poolvoralucks currently heading the industry's Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, which handles the Academy Award pick.

Water-cooler talk had it that the mega-hit horror comedy Pee Mak Phrakanong, also a GTH film, might be submitted. Another contender among pundits was the indie teenage drama Tang Wong, a current critical favorite that touches on Thai traditional dance – an element that made it seem like a shoe-in for the Thai Oscar pick.

But in the end, it was Countdown, which was released in Thai cinemas last December. It's GTH's third submission, following the The Tin Mine (มหา’ลัย เหมืองแร่) in 2005 and Best of Times (ความจำสั้น แต่รักฉันยาว) in 2009.

Thailand's pick joins several other Southeast Asian entries, including a handful of films from countries outside the region.

Australia is submitting The Rocket, a Lao-Isaan family drama directed by Kim Mordaunt that was filmed partly in Laos and partly in Thailand and features a mostly Thai cast.

Three Tagalog films are in the running. The Philippines has submitted Hannah Espia's Israel-set immigration drama Transit, which also is in Hebrew. Singapore's pick is Anthony Chen's family drama Ilo Ilo, which also has Mandarin, Hokkien and hopefully not too much English. And the U.K. is submitting Sean Ellis' crime drama Metro Manila.

Vietnam had intended to submit the historical drama Thien Menh Anh Hung (Blood Letter), but withdrew because it wasn't released during the qualifying timeframe of October 2012 to September 30 of this year.

(Via Jediyuth)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Stories flow in the Style by Toyota 9FilmFest

Rivers run through the finalist entries in this weekend's 9FilmFest, the third annual Thailand-based contest in which filmmakers from all over the world submit original short films of no more than nine minutes.

The shorts will be screened at 7pm on Sunday at Bangkok's Paragon Cineplex, with the top-prize winner driving away in a new Toyota Vios.

For each year's contest, the 9FilmFest has a unique "9 signature item", and this year it's "waterway", with all the films including rivers, canals or some type of flowing liquid.

Here's a look at this year's nine finalists:

  • The Guardians, directed by Disspong Sampattavanich – A canal village's resident "crazy man" is determined to teach himself to swim in hopes of connecting with the soul of his late son. 
  • Distortion, directed by Thana Chairatanasil – Despite his father's warnings about hanging out down by the river, a boy falls in with the wrong crowd, opening a doorway to a doomed life.
  • Teppanyaki Kamikazi, directed by Raymond Lewin – The Great Penguino, an out-of-work street magician, finds a job working in a Japanese restaurant, where distractions lead to disaster.
  • Bangkruai Pradesh, directed by Rattha and Pathara Buranadilok – Footage from the Flood of 2011, recovered from the memory card of a flood-damaged camera, is used in this documentary in which a young man recounts his experience in the disaster.
  • The Great River, directed by Steve Rouse – A father gives his young son a toy boat, but the family lives in a canal community and is surrounded by dangerous polluted water. So the boy has to dig his own canal to play with the boat.
  • Clueless?, directed by Byron Bishop – A farmer and his wife discover a man, apparently dead, in a rice paddy. They go to the police station, where an overzealous detective treats them as suspects. Watch for an appearance by actor Bishop's supermodel wife Cindy Bishop.
  • Lie, directed by Narongchai Parthumsuwan – A pudgy, balding middle-aged man poses as a young pop star, attracting a high-school girl. And she wants to meet.
  • The Cream, directed by Naruphon Punphairoj and Satit Ngerntong – A man hopes a tube of face cream will make him handsome. 
  • Clock Blocked, directed by Robert Peters – A time-obsessed man has found the perfect woman – she's punctual – except for today.

In addition to the movies, the 9FilmFest has many other activities. Events get underway at 3.30pm on Saturday in the Paragon Cineplex Infinicity Hall with an international dance workshop hosted by choreographer Eddie Baytos. That's followed at 5.30 by a Dj music set and then a magic show at 6.30 with Tommy Tucker and Teppanaki Kamikaze star Dr Penguino.

Sunday opens at 5 with a world music concert by Eddie Baytos and his all-star band, the Nines.
Thanks to support by Technicolor, valuable post-production services were provided to make the films presentable on the big screen, with the finalists unspooling at 7pm.

Picking the prize-winners will be a jury that includes actor Ananda Everingham, film critics Kong Rithdee and John Anderson, directors Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, Prachya Pinkaew, Areeya Chumsai and Adam Yukol and concert promoter Yuthana "Ted" Boonorm.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Second Sight (Jit-Sam-Phas)

  • Directed by Pornchai Hongrattaporn
  • Starring Nawat Kulratanarat, Rhatha Pho-ngam, Wiraporn Jiravechsoontornkul, Anon Saisangcharn
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 22, 2013; rated G
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Even if you believe in ghosts, you'll need extra-strength cables on your suspension of disbelief to get through Second Sight (จิตสัมผัส, Jit-Sam-Phas), the latest 3D horror offering from the venerable studio Five Star Production.

Leaden pacing and an inevitable timeworn plot twist you can see coming from light years away are somewhat redeemed by colorful director Pornchai Hongrattaporn's experience with such comedies as Bangkok Loco and Princess Tukky Sells Frogs. His first time doing 3D horror, he adds a bit of humor in places to lighten things up.

The 3D effects are gimmicky and mostly straight CGI nonsense, but it's all in the spirit of fun.

The story involves young defense lawyer Jate (Nawat Kulratanarat) whose psychic powers allow him to see the bad karma of others and the ghosts that surround them. If he concentrates real hard, he can foresee bad things about to happen. His powers have made him a very rich and a little bit cocky.

"You can escape justice, but you can't escape your karma," he tells a scumbag client who is haunted by the ghost of a schoolgirl he killed.

Later on, worlds collide as Jate is driving his yellow Mercedes convertible over the Rama VIII bridge and the scumbag client passes him in his own flashy convertible. He's got a young woman in the passenger seat with her head ducked over the gearshift. The ghost girl is on the driver's side floorboard. Jate uses his powers and avoids a wreck that creates more ghosts. But the wreck also causes another fatal mishap that gains him a new client. And here Second Sight becomes a sort-of "social problem" movie, commenting on the ripped-from-the-headlines issue of rich and well-connected young drivers at the center of fatal wrecks escaping any prosecution.

The new client is Kaew ("Mild" Wiraporn Jiravechsoontornkul), the foster daughter of a muckety-muck. A pouty young woman, she eventually develops a powerful attraction for her lawyer.

Jate's wife Jum (Rhatha Pho-ngam) wishes he wouldn't take the case and is jealous of the time his spends with his new client.

The proceedings pretty well drag down from this point.

So thank goodness rock singer Anon "Poo Blackhead" Saisangcharn turns up as a maniacally grinning police detective. He has snake spirits all around him, thanks to his habit of eating the slithering reptiles, despite Jate's warnings that their souls are too powerful and will eventually devour him. The CGI serpents hiss and jump off the screen as they encircle Poo's body, and attack him in an elevator that's boarded from the 13th floor. It's the best part of the movie.

More CGI weirdness comes from a childhood flashback, in which a woman falls from a balcony and is attacked by flying catfish.

Another fun bit involves Jate's secretary, who bends over his desk and has 3D cleavage popping out of her low-cut blouse. Jate tells her to cover up and wear a turtleneck. She does next time we see her, but it's a slinky, snug-fitting black number that shows off all her curves. It's worth it to see it in 3D.

The dead are actually more entertaining. They are the ghosts of the folks killed in the car wrecks, including a taxi driver and his two passengers, some random guy hanging around at the office and a bride and groom and their wedding photographer.

Rhatha Pho-ngam is given a role where she can show off her talents as a singer-songwriter. She tinkles away on a grand piano composing tunes alone in her grand home, but finds herself haunted by ghosts, who bang out hellacious tune. Later, the Only God Forgives and Jan Dara remake star goes nude for a scary bloody shower scene, but is covered by strategically placed frosted glass. It is a G-rated horror movie, after all.

Jate continues to bond with his young client, taking her to a gaudy Chinese temple to lay in a coffin in an attempt to appease the spirits haunting her. The place is presided over by a monk (Kowit Wattanakul) who advises Jate to take a good look in the mirror at himself.

More and more of the connection between Jate and Kaew is exposed, with the ultimate revelation being that Jate's own bad karma has finally caught up with him.

See also:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Win free tickets to 9FilmFest

The finalists have been chosen for this year's 9FilmFest, with the screening set for 7pm on Sunday, September 22 at Paragon Cineplex in Bangkok.

Entry to the screening is by invitation, but if you're reading this, you have chance to score precious tickets to this one-time-only event, which is being held for the first time inside an actual cinema, rather than an open theater lobby or under a tent as in past years.

Just send an e-mail to and explain in one sentence or two “why you like 9FilmFest?” The festival organizers will then select your answers and register your name for one or two tickets as you request. If you're selected, you'll get a confirmation e-mail in return.

Of course, you can always turn up on the day, hoping to get in to see the films, but there's no guarantee there will be enough seats in the theater.

Here's the nine finalists:

  • The Guardians by Disspong Sampattavanich
  • The Great River by Steve Rouse
  • Distortion by Tana Chairattanasin
  • Clueless? by Byron Bishop
  • Bangkruai Pradesh by Rattha Buranadilok and Pathara Buranadilok
  • Tepanyaki Kamakazi by Dr. Penguin
  • The Cream by Naruphon Punphairoj
  • Lie by Narongchai Parthumsuwan
  • Clock Blocked by Robert Peters

Each film includes the unique "9 signature item", which this year was "waterway". Sponsored by The Style by Toyota, the top prize in the third annual 9FilmFest is a Toyota Vios.

Other support comes from Technicolor, which provided valuable post-production services to make the films presentable on the Paragon Cineplex big screen.

I'll have more details on the festival and the finalist entries later this week. For now, hit up that festival e-mail address above to score your free tickets.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Review: Tang Wong

  • Written and directed by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee
  • Starring Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich, Siripat Kuhavichanun, Sompob Sittiajarn, Anawat Patanawanichkul, Natarat Lakha, Chonnikarn Netrjui, Prinsadapak Jongkumchok
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 29, 2013; rated G
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

A refreshing departure from the usual crop of overly slick and idealistic teen-oriented Thai comedies and dramas, veteran writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee goes the gritty route with Tang Wong (ตั้งวง), his second indie effort following last year's psychological drama P-047. Here, he takes realistic look at how the youths of today view traditional Thai culture.

Set in a solidly working-class Bangkok apartment block against the background of the 2010 red-shirt political protests, the story involves four schoolboys of varying backgrounds who all make a vow at the spirit-house shrine in their building's courtyard. All wish for success in their various endeavors, but they are then reminded of the superstition that bad luck will befall them if they don't somehow pay tribute to the shrine if their wishes are granted.

Two of the boys are bespectacled nerds, Jay (Siripat Kuhavichanun) and his chubby pal Yong (Sompob Sittiajarn). They wish for success in winning a school science-quiz tournament. Best (Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich) is a table-tennis champ who is struggling to raise his younger brother while their single-dad parental figure is absent most of the time, spending his days at the red-shirt anti-government rallies that have taken hold of the city. Best hopes for a scholarship to take him away from all that. And ladies man Em (Anawat Patanawanichkul), a spiky-haired K-pop cover dancer, wants his girlfriend Fiang (Prinsadapak Jongkumchok) back.

Various other figures in the boys lives remind them of the misfortune that will befall them if they don't pay tribute to the shrine if their wishes are granted. For Best, it's his girlfriend May (Chonnikarn Netrjui), who hilariously slaps the guy upside the head for his general dickishness.

Eventually, the four come together and agree to perform a traditional Thai dance, though none of them have a clue about how to perform it. Luckily, one of their neighbors, the transgender woman Nut (Natarat Lakha), is a traditional dancer at the Erawan shrine. And, reluctantly, especially from the violently homophobic Best, they ask for her help.

Throughout the film, contemporary foreign culture and general teenage angst distract the boys from fulfilling their oath. In icon-laden asides, Jay chats on instant message with a stranger named Doctor Who, who is sort of a clueless Greek chorus to the proceedings. Jay is also under pressure from his parents, who hope he'll follow his older brother to study overseas, preferably in the U.K. like big bro. There are references to Japanese manga, and, thanks to cover-dancer Em, generous doses of K-pop music. Also, owing to Kongdej's P-047 star, indie rock musician Apichai Tragoolpadetgrai, there's a few ear-wormy Thai alt-rock songs on the soundtrack.

Em also has a pregnancy scare from his girlfriend Fiang. Yong is more into playing first-person-shooter video games at an Internet cafe than learning the dance. He also briefly becomes attracted to the dancer Nut, apparently unaware or not caring that the attractive woman is actually a man. This earns him derision at school, where bullies gang up on him. Nut meanwhile hopes to marry her foreign suitor. Jay goes off in search of his father just as the red-shirt rallies are coming under fire from the government forces, and he spends a desperate night alone under a freeway as gunshots ring out around him.

Fight scenes and chases around the school are done in the Paul Greengrass shakey-cam style, thanks to no-nonsense camera work by go-to indie cinematographer MR Umpornpol Yugala, which suits the general aesthetic of the film and the sloppy, uncoordinated style of the awkward teens.

Instead of pulling together, the four boys grow further apart. Jay, being the first to master the graceful backwards-bent-hands "tang wong" dance pose, is the first to break away, leaving the other three to complete the ritual. A fire puts the spirit shrine out of commission, and as it's being reconstructed, there's more pressure for the boys to put on their dance in dedication of the new shrine.

For Thai culture, it's all rather pessimistic, which is a departure from the formula-driven commercial Thai films that are a whitewash of idealized, old-fashioned notions, with characters who predictably overcome all odds to cooperate with each other and win. With Tang Wong, there's no clearcut end, with the takeaway being it's just a slice of real life that's been generously shared and is worth pondering over in the days that follow.

See also:

Related posts:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mindfulness and Murder in Sydney's Indie Gems

Sydney film fans, here's your chance to see Tom Waller's Buddhist mystery thriller, Mindfulness and Murder (Sop Mai Ngeap, ศพไม่เงียบ). It's making its Australian premiere as part of Titan View's Indie Gems 2013

Here's more from the festival website:

When a homeless boy living at the youth shelter run by a Buddhist monastery turns up dead, the Abbot recruits Father Ananda, a former policeman, to find out why. He discovers that all is not well at this urban monastery in the heart of Bangkok. Together with his dogged assistant, an orphaned boy named Jak, Father Ananda uncovers a startling series of clues that eventually exposes the motivation behind the crime and leads him to the murderer. Based on the novel "Mindfulness And Murder" by Nick Wilgus.

Vithaya Pansringarm, hot at the moment thanks to his major role in Only God Forgives, stars as the serene sleuth in saffron.

Mindfulness and Murder screens on Thursday, September 12, at the Riverside Theatres in Western Sydney, with a Q-and-A afterward with Waller.

Waller is meanwhile gearing up to start casting for his next project, Chavoret: The Last Executioner, a biographical drama about the one-man firing squad of Thailand's death row. It will also star Vithaya, who will portray the marksman in his later years.

Tony Jaa no slave to Sahamongkol, manager says

Tony Jaa has a manager, and in the fight over the Tom-Yum-Goong 2 star's signing on to Fast and Furious 7, he's blasted back at Sahamongkol Film International executive Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert, saying that the studio's "exclusive" contract with Jaa does not in fact exist.

Here's the complete statement, via Twitch:

As Tony Jaa's manager I am posting this in his behalf. Tony has always had the greatest respect for Sahamongkol and the people behind Sahamongkol. He is therefore saddened and disappointed to see their recent press statements. The article that Twitch has quoted appeared in the Bangkok Post and was based solely on Sahamongkol's public comments. Sahamongkol's public assertions regarding Tony and his purported contract with them are not factual. Tony Jaa does not have a new contract with Sahamongkol nor did he extend his prior relationship with them. The matter was studied quite carefully and Tony Jaa is free to pursue any acting jobs which he wishes to undertake. Sahamongkol may make a complaint in a competent legal forum with proper jurisdiction if they feel they have such a claim. Assuming that such a claim would be heard; We would be more than pleased to follow the ruling of any competent legal authority. It should be noted that Thailand abolished slavery many years ago, and Thai courts consider provable damages in labor contract disputes, and nothing more than that. Tony is looking forward to his role in Fast and Furious 7 as well as a number of other films. He does not require permission from anyone to act in these films, except possibly his wife and daughter.
Michael Selby

Head over to Twitch to read the comments.

Meanwhile, there's a petition in support of Jaa.

And keep up with Jaa himself, who is extremely English-fluent, at what appears to an "official" Facebook page.

Thailand launches Asean artist-in-residence screenwriting program

Producer-director Pantham Tongsang is heading up a new "artist-in-residence" program by the Thai Culture Ministry that will have four screenwriters from neighboring Southeast Asian countries stay in Thailand for one month while they work on a movie script.

Here's the deal, according to Film Business Asia:

At the end of their stay, which is fully-financed by the Thai government, each writer is required to have researched and produced a ten-page treatment for a feature film that explores the relationship between Thailand and his or her own country.

Head over to Film Biz Asia for more details.

Pantham is the director of 2004's social drama Ai-Fak and the Mid-Road Gang talking-dog comedies, as well as producer of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century and Tropical Malady. His latest directorial effort, the romance Love Syndrome รักโง่ๆ, is due out on October 10.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Concrete Clouds, midnight movies and much more for Busan fest

Lee Chatametikool's Concrete Clouds is among the highlights of a generous Thai selection at this year's Busan International Film Festival.

The directorial-debut feature by Lee, an editor and post-production supervisor on many Thai films, Concrete Clouds makes its world premiere in the New Currents competition. It stars Ananda Everingham as a currency trader who returns to Thailand after his father commits suicide at the onset of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Janesuda Parnto and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk also star. Long in the works, Concrete Clouds was given a big boost in this year's round of the Busan fest's Asian Cinema Fund. Producers include Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Anocha Suwichakornpong, returning the favors Lee did for them in editing their films, along with Sylvia Chang and Soros Sukhum.

Also premiering in the New Currents competition is The Isthmus, a drama by Peerachai Kerdsint and Sopawan Boonnimitra. It's about an eight-year-old girl who suddenly loses her ability to speak Thai after her family's Burmese maid dies. "Believing her daughter is spiritually bound to the dead woman, Da and her child journey to a Thai-Burmese border town to ask the maid’s only relative to sever the connection," reads the program notes.

The Midnight Passion program offers a dose of crowd-pleasing Thai horror with the smash-hit ghost comedy Pee Mak and the international festival premiere of Last Summer (ฤดูร้อนนั้น ฉันตาย, Rue Doo Ron Nan Chan Tai), a three-part indie horror by Kittithat Tangsirikit, Sittisiri Mongkolsiri and Saranyoo Jiralak.

Saranyoo also has his 2012 drama Together making its international premiere in the Window on Asian Cinema program.

And, having premiered at the Venice fest, last year's Busan New Currents Award winner Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit has his Twitter movie Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy in the Window.

There's also Letters from the South, an omnibus about the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. Aditya Assarat is among six directors taking part. Others are Tsai Ming-Liang, Malaysia's Tan Chui Mui, Singapore's Royston Tan and Sun Koh and Myanmar's Midi Z.

Also of interest, there's Australian director Kim Mordaunt's Lao family tale The Rocket, which has been a big hit on the festival circuit this year.

Regional highlights include Toilet Blues by Indonesia's Dirmawan Hatta in the New Currents, and in the Window on Asian Cinema, Dustin Nguyen's directorial debut Once Upon a Time in Vietnam, Lav Diaz' Norte, the End of History, Brillante Mendoza's Sapi, Adolf Alix Jr.'s Death March and Jerrold Tarog's If Only from the Philippines, the Malaysian short-film collection Ikal Mayang: Telling Women Stories, Anthony Chen's Ilo Ilo from Singapore and What They Don't Talk About When They Talk About Love from Indonesia's Mouly Surya.

The fest will open with Vara: A Blessing, the third film by Bhutanese former lama Khyentse Norbu.

The Busan International Film Festival runs from October 3 to 12.

Not so fast Jaa, says a furious Sia Jiang

Prachya Pinkaew, Somsak Techaratanaprasert and Panna Ritthikrai.

It appears promotional efforts for the October 23 Thai release of Tom-Yung-Goong 2 have hit a snag, with the beef between star Tony Jaa and Sahamongkol studio chief Somsak “Sia Jiang” Techaratanaprasert intensifying.

With more to say about Jaa's rumored signing on to Fast and Furious 7, Sia Jiang rounded up Tom-Yum-Goong 2 director Prachya Pinkaew and stunt maestro Panna Rittikrai and held another press conference on Tuesday.

Changing his tune, now Sia Jiang is saying that Jaa's contract with the studio does in fact cover international productions and that if others want to use Jaa, they need to clear it with Sahamongkol first.

The Nation's Soopsip column has the quotes:

Actually, the studio boss said, the contract with Jaa does cover overseas movie projects. “If he wants to be in Fast and Furious 7, they have to contact Sahamongkol Film for approval first,” Sia Jiang growled. Now there were two furious things in the picture.

It turned out that the day after the previous press gab, Sia Jiang heard from Jaa – albeit not in person. Jaa sent him formal notice that he doesn’t belong to Sahamongkol anymore and reserves the right to work on any movie project he chooses. Jaa also demanded that Sahamongkol seek his permission to use him (or presumably his likeness, at least) to promote Tom-Yum-Goong 2 when it comes out on October 23.

“He said his move to Hollywood had nothing to do with me,” Sia Jiang said. “But I called you guys here to make it clear why I’ve changed my stance.”

The Bangkok Post quotes Sia Jiang saying Jaa will face a lawsuit if he goes ahead in Fast and Furious 7.

Soopsip adds that while the feud between the star and studio boss continues, production has stalled on the nearly completed A Man Will Rise, Jaa's directorial effort in which he co-stars with Dolph Lundgren.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thai Short 17: Award winners, R.D. Pestonji competition review

All the winners. Photo courtesy Thai Film Foundation.

The story of a forest encounter between a border-patrol officer and a villager was among the top award winners at the 17th Thai Short Film and Video Festival, which wrapped up on Sunday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Endless Realm by Eakalak Maleetipawan, in which a guitar-strumming artist hangs up sketches on a clothesline in the forest and breaks up the monotonous routine of a border guard, won the top-prize R.D. Pestonji Award in the category for general filmmakers. The prize is named after Thailand's pioneering auteur, Ratana Pestonji. Endless Realm also won the BACC Award from the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Rights issues were a theme that linked many of the entries in the festival, including another big winner, Fate, by veteran filmmaker Boonsong Nakphoo. It follows a man as he's released after seven years in prison in a southern Thailand border town. None of the places he remembers still exist, so he opts to catch the first train back home to Isaan. With the trains delayed by a bombing on the line, his idling about waiting raises suspicions of the police, and he's detained. Fate won the Pirabkhao Award from the 14 October 1973 Memorial Foundation for films that express freedom and equality issues and also earned a special mention in the R.D. Pestonji category.

Two runner-up winners in the R.D. Pestonji competition were also strong human-interest stories, Oriole (นกขมิ้น) by Kaenipa Phanakorn, about a garment-worker mother struggling to care for her troublesome teenage son who has Asperger's Syndrome, and The Sweatshop (นกขมิ้น ) by New York University film student Chin Tangsakulsathaporn, a fact-based account of a trafficked immigrant girl's escape from an illegal garment factory in the U.S.

Another winner from the Pestonji line-up was Ta (ตา) by Kunlakan Chanakan Mamber, the story of a young girl scared by a ghost under her bed. Her mother assures her there's nothing to be afraid of but then tells her a scary story about how she accompanied the girl's late ghostbusting granddaddy to a job that really puts the pee in the Thai word for ghost. The richly told tale won the popular-vote Audience Award.

She Is My Best Friend, the top-prize-winner in the White Elephant student competition.

Two Pestonji entries were among the four winners of Vichitmatra Award for "distinctive achievements in filmmaking". Kai Jik Dek Tai Bon Pak Ong (ไก่จิกเด็กตายบนปากโอ่ง) by Chulayarnon Siriphol was the tale of an elderly grocery shop owner coping with knee-replacement surgery. The other was a smashing music-video entry by sound-and-vision sorcerer Taiki Sakpisit, The Age of Anxiety. Featuring a guitar-feedback squall by the rock band Moth Drakula, it opens with a long shot of just white fog or clouds but eventually a figure of a guitar player emerges from the mist. The scene then cuts to found footage of an old Thai film, possibly a Sompote Sands period melodrama starring Sombat Metanee and Sorapong Chatree. The frames of the footage are chopped and overlayed for a stunning, seizure-inducing strobe effect. From viewers still conscious at the end, it got big cheers.

Going home empty handed from the prize ceremony but still noteworthy were two other Pestonji entries that shared the same cast, All-Powerful! by Aditya Assarat and Boonrerm by Sorayos Prapapan. They both featured Jirawan Saikongkham and Karuna Lukthumtong as maids.

Aditya's was a sequel to his Six to Six, reuniting the security guard (Graison Chainam) and his co-workers, the young maid played by Jirawan and the older auntie (Karuna), who worked at the apartment building in Six to Six and the feature Hi-So. The guard is now selling quack-medicine remedies, and he goes chasing an actual white rabbit. Aditya himself portrays the homeowner.

Boonrerm, which has been well-traveled on the festival circuit this year, has Jirawan again as a maid. She endures demeaning, inhumane treatment by her "crazy woman" employer. At one point she is locked up in a dog's cage. She's then blamed for losing a cookbook and forced her to sift through trash at the dump to find it. Luckily young Boonrerm has a friend, the auntie maid again played by Karuna, who comes to the rescue.

Boonsong doubled down in the Pestonji competition with another well-made entry, Lamoon the Legend (ละมูล ตำนานเพลงพื้นบ้าน), about a folksinging granny who makes daily rounds to visit her elderly friends and keep her art alive. She walks the country roads, hunched over, with her little granddaughter following. Then, one day, her friends are no longer there, and perhaps her art won't survive.

Ta, winner of the popular-vote Audience Award.

Cult indie filmmaker Ratchapoom Boonbunchachoke offered another of his satires on Thai culture with La double vie de Maniejan (มะนีจันเปล่งเสียงไม่ได้ในทวิภูมิทางภาษาของคุณ), which commented on ethnic and gender roles in voiceover narration. Unfortunately, it wasn't subtitled, so only the Thai-fluent were really in on the joke. Too bad, because Ratchapoom has been doing this for awhile now and he's ripe for attention beyond our borders.

Other entries were The Number You Have Dialed Is Not Available In This Time (2413482) by Suphisa Kittikunarak, in which a young couple becomes estranged, and Unknown Territory (เขากะลา ) by Eakarpon Settasuk, a humorous documentary-style account of three filmmakers investigating a transdimensional portal for extraterrestrials at Kala Mountain.

Sivaroj Kongsakul, who directed the festival's egg-themed bumper that's screened before every program, offered Homemade (หนังบ้าน) , which was an extension of the autobiographical themes from his feature debut Eternity (Tee-Rak). Here, he interviews his schoolteacher mother as she recounts all the places she's lived and how she's not yet realized her dream of owning her own property.

The International Competition had an especially strong and accomplished selection this year. The top prize went to Childhood Has Gone by China's Zhao Wei Shou, a wistful ode to a childhood friend moving away. A special mention went to the laugh-out-loud Welcome and Our Condolences by Leon Prudovsky, recounting a Russian family's immigration to Israel that's complicated when an aunt dies aboard the flight. Another special mention was Amateur Filmmaker by Volha Dashuk of Belarus follows the country's oldest living amateur filmmaker as he shoots betacam video footage of the lives of elderly farmers in the picturesque countryside. And a third mention was The Living Also Cry by Basil Da Cunha. The surreal tale is of a Portuguese dockworker who wants spend his life savings to move to Sweden, but his wife has spent the money on a washing machine.

Other winners included entries in the White Elephant Award competition for college student filmmakers, with the top prize going to the tale of badminton-playing gal pals She Is My Best Friend (เด็กสาวสองคนในสนามแบดมินตัน) by Jirassaya Wongsutin. Wang Ploeng Intersection (สี่แยกวังเพลิง), Natpakan Khemkhaw's story of a poor family hit by a draconian regulation of the 2008 Film and Video Act, was among the runners-up.

There was also a special competition, Jenesys 2.0, to pick films by schoolchildren to take part in this year's edition of the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youth.

Endless Realm, the top award-winner in the R.D. Pestonji competition.

Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Award

  • Endless Realm (อาณาจักรใจ), Eakalak Maleetipawan

Kodak Film School Competition

  • The Pilgrim (พระธุดงค์), Harin Pasongthai (Maneerat Srinakarin, cinematographer)

Paribkhao Award

  • Fate (ชะตากรร), Boonsong Nakphoo

Duke Award documentary competition

  • Winner: Nyob Zoo (Hello), Nuttasak Veeranorapanich
  • Runner-up: Voices of the Spirit Cave (พันปีผีแมน), Suporn Shoosongdej
  • Runner-up: Caretaker (Fak Liang (ฝากเลี้ยง), Panu Saeng-Xuto

International competition

  • Winner: Childhood Has Gone, Zhao Wei Shou (China).
  • Special Mention: Welcome and Our Condolences, Leon Prudovsky (Israel)
  • Special Mention: Amateur Filmmaker, Volha Dashuk (Belarus)
  • Special Mention: The Living Also Cry, Basil Da Cunha (Switzerland, Portugal)

R.D. Pestonji Award competition

  • Winner: Endless Realm (อาณาจักรใจ), Eakalak Maleetipawan.
  • Runner-up: Oriole (นกขมิ้น), Kaenipa Phanakorn
  • Runner-up: The Sweatshop (นกขมิ้น ), Chin Tangsakulsathaporn
  • Special mention: Fate (ชะตากรร), Boonsong Nakphoo

Payut Ngaokrachang Award animation competition

  • Winner: Nunui (หนูนุ้ย ), Chanya Hetayothin
  • Runner-up: Vision (视力), Keawalee Warutkomain
  • Runner-up: Pourquoi Chercher Ailleurs (Why Do You Search Somewhere Else), Saknarin Thubjaroen
  • Special mention: 8, Kraisit Bhokasawat
  • Special mention: Life of Fire (วิถีไฟ), Rusharil Hutangkabodee
  • Special mention: Breathe, Twatpong Tangsajjapoj

Jenesys 2.0

  • Circle by Pathumthong Wilai
  • It's My Turn by Panat Chulkasem
  • Myself by Sittiwat Tiptanaorlarn
  • What Would you Do by Alisa Piang
  • Kab Su Jud Rem Ton by Krit Chareonsawad
  • Krai Tum by Panitan Kraikroun
  • Tua Talok by Usa Thepbutr
  • Mua Chan Don Rung Kae
  • Ha Ruang by Supanee Limrojnukul

Special White Elephant (pre-college students)

  • No winner, special mentions only.
  • Do Not Disturb (ดึกแล้วคุณขา), Teerach Wangwisarn
  • The Cortege, Teerapat Ngathong
  • The Way I Want (วันที่ฝันเป็นจริ), Supanee Limrojnukul

White Elephant Award student film competition

  • Winner: She Is My Best Friend (เด็กสาวสองคนในสนามแบดมินตัน), Jirassaya Wongsutin
  • Runner-up: The Pilgrim (พระธุดงค์), Harin Pasongthai
  • Runner-up: Wang Ploeng Intersection (สี่แยกวังเพลิง), Natpakan Khemkhaw
  • Runner-up: Vicious Cycle, Aroonakorn Pick
  • Special mention: Synchronicity, Pongsathon Udomthongkasem

Best actor

  • Natnicha Puespanich from Awasarn Loksuay (อวสานโลกสวย), screened in the Digital Forum

Vichitmatra Award

  • Deleted, Nitaz Sinwattanakul
  • Yoy (หยอย), Tosapol Raengthong (Digital Forum entry)
  • The Age of Anxiety, Taiki Sakpiset
  • Kai Jik Dek Tai Bon Pak Ong (ไก่จิกเด็กตายบนปากโอ่ง), Chulayarnon Siriphol

Audience Award

  • Ta (ตา), Kunlakan Chanakan Mamber