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A culture on celluloid

Jun 24. 2015
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By Phatarawadee Phataranawik

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British audiences get to enjoy Thai films this weekend as the first Thailand Film Festival opens in London

After being stunned by the sheer beauty of khon, Thai masked dance, at the Royal Albert Hall last Thursday, Londoners will get a taste of more contemporary culture from tonight as the first Thailand Film Festival gets underway in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ Princess Anne Theatre in Piccadilly.

The opener is the award-winning 2014 romantic comedy “Teacher’s Diary” by Nithiwat Tharathorn who will accompany his actress Laila “Ploy” Boonyasak to the festival. Suwannee Chinchiawsharn, vice president of SF Cinema City and the Thai film ambassador, who has worked closely with the Culture Ministry to take the seven Thai films to London, will also be present.

They will be rubbing with a host of VIP guests including Sir David Puttnam, producer of the 1984 made-in-Thailand Oscar-winner “The Killing Fields”. Sir David, who has a Thai wife, is very familiar with the Southeast Asian film industry and especially Thai cinema.

The internationally acclaimed contemporary drama “Concrete Clouds” by Lee Chatametikool will close the festival on Saturday night.

“The films have been selected by both Bafta and the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand. Bafta wants to screen Thai films of different genres ranging from drama, family, action, horror and animation,” Suwanee told The Nation during a recent visit to the newspaper’s office in Bang Na.

“Movies are key to promoting our culture. We hope the festival will help us sell Thai films to the British and European markets,” the Thai film ambassador explained.

Other films showing in London include the popular martial arts action flick “Tom Yum Goong 2” by Prachya Pinkaew and the late Panna Rittikrai and the horror tale “Ghost Coins” by Tiwa Moeithaisong. This revolves around a Thai tradition that requires relatives to put coins inside the mouth of the deceased so that they can move on to the afterlife and shows what happens when a group of young Thais decide to rob the dead.

Another selection is the award-winning documentary “Poo Somboon” (“Somboon”) by indie director Krissada Tipchaimeta, which follows the daily life of an elderly man as he cares for his invalid wife.

Also screening is the drama “Phlae Kao” (“The Scar”), ML Bandevanop Devakul’s sophisticated and artistic remake of a famous literary work. ML Bandevanop, who is better known as Mom Noi, re-edited the film for the festival to give it more appeal to a foreign audience.

“It’s such an honour to have my film picked to represent Thai culture overseas, especially for a film festival that’s entirely devoted to a given country’s culture rather than the entries’ technical and aesthetic merits,” he told XP.

ML Bandevanop has readied an “international version” of his romance-tragedy, adding an extra 45 minutes to explain what happened after the deaths of the hero and heroine, Khwan and Riam. “It’s another story, kind of, and I hope the European viewers like it, because the storytelling is done in a more international style now,” he says.

Thai viewers will also be given the chance to see the extended cut. It should be in cinemas early next month, a good few months before his newest film, “Mae Bia”, hits the screens in October.

Another sure-fire hit is the animation “The Story of Mahajanaka”, which is adapted from the book by His Majesty the King.

Thailand will showcase its strength in the field of contemporary art come November in “Thailand Eye”, an exhibition co-curated by Saatchi Gallery’s chief executive Nigel Hurst and Prof Apinan Poshyananda, the Culture Ministry’s permanent secretary. Showing at the gallery in central London, it features works by 25 Thai artists. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will preside over the opening. The exhibition will be shown here in March..

The three events are part of the “Totally Thai” event celebrating the Princess’ 60th birthday.

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