By Special to The Nation
Thai cinema and its talented female directors come to the fore this month, in a series of films being screened by the Thai Film Archive at its Sri Salaya theatre to mark International Women’s Day.
Cinema is an industry run by men. Throughout the history of filmmaking, the job of “a director” is automatically linked to the image of a man seated in the director’s chair and running the creative engine of a movie. But in fact, women have long been involved in the key position on a film set. Alice Guy-Blache, for instance, was arguably the world’s first female filmmaker active between 1896-1906, right there at the dawn of cinema. A number of silentera filmmakers in Europe and the US were also female.
In Thailand, Pratuang Srisuphan is believed to be the first female cinematographer and director whose name appeared in several post-WWII movies (“Tat Rak”, 1953; “Sood Teerak”, 1955). Theatre director Ladda Sarntayon, who was active during the war years, later directed a film called “Fai Cheewit” in 1956 and “Kabuankarn Seree Cheen” in 1958. Wellknown actress Suphan Buranapim directed Chaam Amprang in 1955. Most prominently, Mom Ubol Yukol Na Ayutthaya, wife of Prince Anusornmongkolkarn, was credited as the director of several classic titles such as “Pak Thong Chai” (1957) and “Chaloeisak” (1958).
In short, women have long been a creative force in Thai cinema. And yet their presence has been limited, especially in the 16mm era in the 1960s and early 1970s. When the Thai film industry entered the 35mm era in the mid-1970s, a number of female directors came forward: Poranee Suwannatat, Amporn Prateepsane (who was a former action star), Suangsuda Chollampee, Nantana Weerachon, Oranuch Ladpanna, who all specialised in action flicks, as well as actresses who turned to directing such as Choosri Meesommon and Patravadi Meechudhon.
It was in the late 1990s and 2000s that a generation of nonmale filmmakers – spurred by technology and a renaissance of the industry that engendered new opportunities – made their presence felt both in the mainstream and independent scenes. Among them were Samarnrat “Ing K” Karnjanavanich (“Shakespeare Must Die”), Pimpaka Towira (“The Island Funeral”), Mingmongkol Sonakul (“Isaan Special”), Siwaporn Pongsuwan (“Khaoniew Moo Ping”), Paoon Chantasiri (“The Letter”), Sukanya Wongsatapat (“Akha Pu Narak”), Areeya Sirisopa and Nisa Kongsri (“Dek Toh”) and Anocha Suwichakornpong (“By the Time It Gets Dark”).
These directors touch on a wide range of style and subject, from hard-hitting documentary, satirical drama, experimental film and mainstream romantic flicks. Recently, a new crop of woman directors has emerged: Kanittha Kwanyoo (“Arpat”), Saraswadee Wongsompetch (“Yes or No”), Bongkot Benjarongkakul (“Sad Beauty”) and Manassanan Panlertwongkul (“Love Sucks”). There are also a number of young short filmmakers who’re poised to move on to feature filmmaking.
And while distinguishing between “male” and “female” directors is increasingly pointless in the world of gender fluidity, the collective rally for the film industry to promote nonmale perspective through the works of nonmale filmmakers has gained momentum in the past few years – in Hollywood, international film festivals and in Thailand.
And so, to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, the Archive (Public Organisation) hosts a programme of 13 female-directed Thai films, from the 1960s to 2018, plus Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Women” in a special (and free) screening.
The programme starts tomorrow March 1 and runs throughout the month at Sri Salaya Theatre, Thai Film Archive on Buddha Monthon Sai 5 Road, Salaya.
For more information, call (02) 482 20134 or visit www.face¬book.com/ThaiFilmArchivePage
Coming to the screen, weekdays at 5.30pm
- Tomorrow: “Arpat” (2014) directed by Kanittha Kwanyoo – A horror film about a monk, a girl and a ghost
- March 6: “Rak Niran” (“Eternal Love”, 1970) directed by Poranee Suwannatat – A vintage love story shot partly in Hong Kong
- March 8: “Wonder Woman” (2017) directed by Patty Jenkins – stars Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
- March 12: “Yes Or No” (2010) directed by Sarasawadee Wongsompetch – A love story that defies gender stereotype
- March 14: “Dek Toh” (2005) directed by Areeya Sirisopha and Nisa Kongsri – A documentary about a rural school
- March 16: “Sad Beauty” (2018) directed by Bongkot Benjarongkakul – A thriller/drama about two female friends and their misadventure.)
- March 20: “Pumaree See Thong” (1988) directed by Nantana Weerachon – A woman who keeps losing her husbands to deadly accidents falls in love and fears that the curse will follow her.
- March 22: “Peen Kliew” (1994) directed by Oranuch Ladpanna – An action film about a group of locals who decide to rise and fight against influential landowners.
- March 23:
1pm:”Lovesucks” (2015) direct¬ed by Manassanum Punlertwongsakul
3pm: “Karaoke Girl” (2013) directed by Visra Vijitvadhakarn
- March 28: “Rak Risya” (1979) directed by Patravadhi Sritrairat (Meechudhon) – tale of forbidden love from Thailand’s doyenne of the screen and stage
- March 29: “Khao Niao Moo Ping” (2006) directed by Siwaporn Pongsuwan (A girl and her puppy go on an adventure in Bangkok.)
- March 31:
1pm: “The Island Funeral” (2015) directed by Pimpaka Towira (A road movie set in the Deep South of Thailand.
3pm: “By the Time It Gets Dark” (2016) directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong – An award-winning film partly inspired by the events of October 6, 1976.