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The tale of ‘Ploy’

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Artist Prapat Jiwarangsan’s middle length feature ‘Ploy’ becomes one of the only two Thai films at Berlin International Film Festival 2021.

At Berlin International Film Festival, Forum Expanded is section that focuses on visual arts exhibition or performance. In the ear of the pandemic, Forum Expanded 2021 continues with the selection of 17 shorts, medium-length films and features which were screened online to press and industry people during the first half of Berlin International Film Festival from 1-5 March 2021, and was presented physically to audience in Berlin from 9-20 June 2021. This year, Forum Expanded has chosen Thai medium length feature film ‘Ploy’ to be a part of the program. 

The tale of ‘Ploy’ ‘Ploy’ is a new work of Prapat Jiwarangsan, Thai visual artist whose installations have been presented in many cities around the world like Gwangju, London or Hong Kong. Previously, Prapat’s shorts and exhibition were presented at International Film Festival Rotterdam, but ‘Ploy’ is the first time that his work is presented at Berlin International Film Festival. 

“2 years ago, Asia Center of the Japan Foundation gave me a grant to do research in Japan and two other countries, so I made visual arts about Southeast Asian migrant workers who go to Singapore, Japan and Myanmar.”, Prapat talks about the beginning of this project which later received financial support from Tan Ean Kiam Foundation-SGIFF Southeast Asian Documentary Grant (SEADOC) and had world premiere at Singapore International Film Festival in December 2020. 

“I was a lecturer in Chiang Mai. In my neighborhood, there were Karen teenagers who didn’t have any ID card. They work as gardener. After the coup d’etat in 2014, there was rumor that undocumented immigrants would be arrested and deported. The Karen gardeners in my neighborhood disappeared. It makes me interest of stateless workers so I made my first film ‘The Asylum’ which I shot in Chiang Mai.” Worked as a lecturer at Chiang Mai University, Prapat’s works are mostly about migrant worker and people living on the fringe of the society. His work like ‘The Asylum’, screened at International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2016 is about a refugee boy from Myanmar and a DJ who worked for a radio station which was shut down after the 2014 coup d’etat in Thailand.   

Prapat Jiwarangsan's Ploy was screened physically to audience of Berlin International Film Festival on 15 June. The outdoor screening at the rooftop terrace of Open Air Kino HKW was packed with audience. Copyright - Ulrich Ziemons“The condition from the grant I received from Asia Center is that I had to travel to do research in 3 countries, which are Japan, Singapore and Myanmar. In Singapore, I stayed there for 2 months because there are many immigrant workers in Singapore. Many of them are from the Philippines, Indonesia or Myanmar. Some of them are from Thailand. What I am interested the most is domestic worker. In Singapore, a group of Thai people there published a book ‘Kon Glai Ban (Persons far from home)’, edited by Pattana Kitiarsa. In the book, there are 20 short diaries of people who came to work in Singapore 10 years ago like housemaid or construction worker. ‘Ploy’ is one of the stories.” 

Ploy is a Thai woman from Buriram who went to Singapore to become illegal sex worker. There, she worked in a ‘jungle brothel’ which is a brothel located in Singapore’s parks or forests. Ploy was caught by one of the members of the Gurkha contingent who forced her to have sex with.“I am not sure if Ploy is the person’s real name, but her story is true as there’s an evidence.”, says Prapat. 

“ 3 years ago, I went to Singapore and filmed some footages of the workers having a picnic, but I didn’t know what to do with them.”. During the first trip, Prapat found the book ‘Kon Glai Ban’ which inspired him to turn one of the stories in the book into film. Prapat later went to Singapore again in 2020 and film the additional footage near Malaysia-Singapore border and in Hat Yai. Prapat finally finished the film as middle length feature film of 51 minutes. In ‘Ploy’, Prapat mixed footages which some are interviews of migrant workers in Singapore with photographs, paintings and 35 mm film slides. The life of Ploy was told through narration.  

To be a part of Berlin International Film Festival’s program is a very exciting experience for Prapat  though he couldn’t travel to Berlin to present his film. The physical screening of Ploy on 15 June in the roof terrace of Haus der Kulturen der Welt went successfully and was sold out. “My producer (Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn) read the reviews for me. Some critics were interested in the film that is an experimental film with mixture of documentary elements. However, some people may not understand the situation in the film.”, says Prapat about feedback of the film from the screening at Berlin International Film Festival. 

After the Summer Special screening at Berlin International Film Festival, Ploy will have its limited theatrical release in Thailand later in 2021. 

Published : July 04, 2021

By : Special to Nationthailand by Donsaron Kovitvanitcha