By PARINYAPORN PAJEE
THE WORLD FILM Festival of Bangkok returns for its 11th edition next month with a lineup of 60 films from 25 countries.
The fest opens with the hybrid Australian-Lao-Isaan film “Bang Fai” (The Rocket”), a heart-warming tale of a boy determined to make up for the bad luck he brings to his family by leading them on a journey to find a new home. Starring young Sitthiphon Disamoe, the cast includes veteran Thai comedian Thep Po-ngam as a James Brown-obsessed “uncle”. “The Rocket” won the Crystal Bear and two other prizes at this year’s Berlin film fest and is Australia’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at next year’s Academy Awards.
Director Kim Mordaunt and the cast have confirmed their attendance at World Film Festival of Bangkok.
Bringing the curtain down on the fest will be a new documentary by Nontawat Numbenchapol, “Mae Nam Tid Shua” (“By the River”). Winner of a special mention prize at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, it’s about the problems faced by villagers after a lead mine contamined Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi. The disaster spawned a legal case that dragged on in Thai courts for 15 years.
Festival director Kriengsak “Victor” Silakong has also lined up a big selection of Thai indie films, among them “The Isthmus” by Sopawan Boonnimitra and Peerachai Kerdsint, which premiered at the Busan International Film Festival earlier this month. There’s also veteran director Boonsong Nakphoo’s rural ode “Village of Hope” and “Mother”, the debut feature by young helmer Vorakon Ruetaivanichkul.
Other Thai indies are Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's teen drama “Tang Wong” and Visra Vichit-Vadakan's documentary-drama “Karaoke Girl”.
Another Thai highlight is in the Doc Fest category – Nontawat’s controversial “Fah Tam Pandin Soong” (“Boundary”), which screened in Thailand in a very limited release. It covers the politically sensitive situation around the Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai border.
More documentary views from across our border come from Cambodian Iv Charbonneau in “After Farewell”, which relates his journey to the country of his birth 35 years after emigrating to France. And “To Singapore With Love” casts a different eye on the city-state, with Singaporean exiles who are still not permitted to enter the country discussing the country as they knew it.
This year’s Lotus Award for lifetime achievement goes to veteran actress Jarunee Desneiges. Better known under her old last name as Jarunee Suksawat, she was the most popular star of Thai cinema during the 1970s and early ’80s. Two of her classic melodramas will be shown – Ruj Ronnaphob’s “Baan Sai Thong” and its sequel “Pojjamann Sawangwong”.
A highlight in the Asian Contemporary programme is “Stray Dog”, which is supposedly the last feature that Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-liang plans to make. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice film festival. Also noteworthy is the Singaporean drama “Innocents” by Wong Chen-Hsi, which won the best director award in the Asian New Talent category at this year's Shanghai fest. Wong will attend the festival but Tsai, a regular presence at the WFFBKK, will be unable to be here due to previous commitments.
The Cinema Beat and Cine Latino categories cover a broad range of films from Europe and Latin America and include the Romanian feature “A Month in Thailand” which, despite its title, is set entirely in Bucharest.
French director Francois Ozon’s “Young and Beautiful” follows a 17-year-old girl who turns to prostitution to explore her sexuality and takes place over the course of a year, with each season separated by a song.
Brazil’s submission to the Best Foreign Language category of the Oscars, “Neighouring Sounds”, is also screening. Set in the coastal town of Recife, which is ruled by an ageing patriarch and his sons, it examines the fears and resentments of a society divided by its troubled past.
Other must-sees include director Alain Guiraudie’s gay suspense drama “Stranger by the Lake”, which won the directing prize in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes. There’s also the Berlin festival winner “Rock the Casbah”, an Israeli art film that’s set in the 1980s during the first Intifada conflict and follows a young soldier who is sent to Gaza to avenge the death of a fellow soldier.
And, from 2008, an oddball choice – “Synecdoche, New York” – the story of a playwright (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who goes insane while spending his life mounting an immense living-theatre production. It’s the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter of such weird and wonderful movies as “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”.
The 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok runs from November 15 to 24 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.
Tickets are Bt120. For updates and promotions, visit www.WorldFilmBKK.com.