By Wise Kwai
"Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy," which has had a strong presence at the Venice International Film Festival in recent years, was disappointingly absent from this year’s main competition selection, but there’s still one Thai feature making its premiere.
Selected for production from the Venice Biennale College – Cinema project, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s sophomore feature “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy” will make its bow in the 70th edition of the Venice fest, which runs August 28 to September 7
Formerly called “The Year of June”, the film follows the life of a Bangkok schoolgirl based on her Twitter status. It’s produced by Pop Pictures’ Aditya Assarat.
Nawapol has long been fascinated with social networks. His short film “Bangkok Tanks”, which dealt with the 2006 coup, combined grainy footage of tanks on the streets with rumour-filled computer instant-message conversations.
Two other micro-budget projects were also selected for production in the Biennale College project, “Memphis” by Tim Sutton from the US and “Yuri Esposito” by Italy’s Alessio Fava.
The Venice selection is the latest plaudit for Nawapol, whose debut feature, the highly experimental drama “36” won last year’s New Currents Award in Busan and was awarded this year by the Bangkok Critics Assembly, the Thai Film Director Association and the Kom Chad Luek Awards.
The young filmmaker’s varied career so far has seen him making award-winning experimental independent short films and writing award-winning commercial-hit screenplays for major Thai studios, including “Home”, “The Billionaire” and “Bangkok Traffic Love Story”.
Thai audiences can look for “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy” in cinemas around December.
“By the River” in Locarno
With his Cambodian-Thai border documentary “Boundary” wrapping up a troubled Thai theatrical run last month, director Nontawat Numbenchapol is forging ahead with another documentary on another ripped-from-the-headlines topic.
Already completed, “By the River” (“Sai Nam Tid Shoer”) makes its world premiere at Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival, which runs from Wednesday to August 17.
Taking part in the Windows of Discovery competition for new talents, “By the River” deals with the environmental disaster along Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi Province. It looks into how the lives of the Karen villagers have been affected while a legal case over the lead mine’s contamination of the creek dragged on for 15 years.
The film is especially topical now with another environmental disaster, the Samet oil spill, making headlines.
“If this documentary feature can inspire us to start thinking about our own actions that might affect other people in the society, especially the actions concerning environmental problems, to try to understand the people who have to live with the pollution without having any choices, and to start changing our behaviours – both at the individual level and the societal level, I – as a documentary filmmaker – will be truly honoured,” Nontawat wrote in his director’s statement.