Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The things we leave behind

Jun 12. 2019
"Thee Trong Nan Me Chan Rue Plao" ("Where We Belong") tells the story of Sue (Jennis Oprasert) who is going to study abroad and has one week left to clear things up before leaving her hometown.
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By Parinyaporn Pajee
The Nation

13,121 Viewed

A new movie by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee explores the uncertainties felt by teenagers in this day and age

With eight of the cast from the membership of idol group BNK48, two of them in the leading roles, movie-goers could be forgiven for thinking that Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s latest film “Thee Trong Nan Me Chan Rue Plao” (“Where We Belong”) is a BNK48 movie about the friendships between adolescent girls. 

Hardcore fans of the director, however, will know that Kongdej’s inimitable signature will be on the story and that it will be well worth watching no matter what the genre.

 

Coming to cinemas next Thursday, “Where We Belong” is centred on Sue (Jennis Oprasert) who is spending her last week in her hometown of Chantaburi before leaving for Finland. She’s won a scholarship to study there and accepted it without telling her father. The two argued over her decision and haven’t talked since. 

Sue, who has never been aboard before, packs her luggage with the help of her friend Belle (Praewa “Music” Suthamphong) and makes a list of things she has to do before leaving. These include returning the comic books she borrowed a long time ago to going to Bangkok with her mother to organise her finances as well as apologising to her friend Mew.

 

"Thee Trong Nan Me Chan Rue Plao" ("Where We Belong") tells the story of Sue (Jennis Oprasert) who is going to study abroad and has one week left to clear things up before leaving her hometown.

Sue is mature enough to realise that no matter whether she gets through all the things on her checklist or not, she has to let go of her former life. The small town, so familiar to her, will change – all except the memories Sue and Belle share. So what will Sue leave behind and what will she take with her?

The director laughs when asked whether his style will be outshone by the fame of these young idols. And a brief watch of the trailer immediately puts such worries to rest.

 

"Thee Trong Nan Me Chan Rue Plao" ("Where We Belong") tells the story of Sue (Jennis Oprasert) who is going to study abroad and has one week left to clear things up before leaving her hometown.

“It’s like the other movies I’ve made lately. This is not a complicated plot but it portrays everyday life. In this film, Sue is not choosing to study overseas because she wants to find a better place to live. She simply no longer fits at home,” says the director. 

This, he adds, is common among the young generation no matter the country in which they live. “When the whole world is in front of them on a smartphone, it’s tough, far more so than it was when I was their age. They always feel they are not good enough because they see on the social networks that other people of their age seem to be doing a lot better. That makes them disappointed in themselves. Being a teenager is more of a burden now that it was in the past,” he says.

Like his previous films, the idea grew from his innermost thoughts on the subject and when the BNK48 office contacted him about making a movie, the vague plot became a reality. 

 

BNK48 members in "Where We Belong".

“I haven’t felt I fitted in anywhere for years except when I go home. It’s not a bad thing – just a feeling I have,” he says. And, as the father of teenage twin daughters, such thoughts have become more pressing. 

“They are 14 now and at the age of transition. They have many questions about everything. I’m with them everyday and I can clearly see that that their generation really reflects that sense of not belonging,”

 

Sue accepted the scholarship without telling anyone - even her father (played by the veteran actor Khajornsak Ratananisai) - which has put a severe strain on their relationship.

“Their teenage anxiety became my fuel for writing this story. And with them growing up, I am interested in their relationships with their girlfriends. It’s like that for Sue and Belle: they have their favourite friends, they are confused about the small things and can’t necessarily find the answers. In this film, the question is not about Sue searching for a place where she belongs but, on the contrary, seeing why she can no longer live here. A thread that runs through the story is the question of how much we own our lives in Thai society – for instance, why girls have to wear their hair short to comply with school rules,” he says.

The project was born when Jirat Bawornwatana, chief executive and executive producer of the BNK48 office, asked Kongdej to make a movie starring members of BNK48.

Jirat, who worked with EGV multiplex and Rose Video Company, approached Kongdej after watching and loving his film “Snap”.

“He told me that the budget wasn’t that high, he wanted to see BNK girls in my film and he wouldn’t interfere in the filmmaking, so the conditions were perfect for me,” he laughs.

Kongdej is known as a multitasker. He wrote the screenplays for the remake of South Korean film “The Letter”, the action blockbuster “Tom Yum Goong” (“The Protector”) and “Me ... Myself”.

He also worked with local studios, codirecting “Sayew” (2003) with former school friend Kiat Songsanan, 2005’s “Cherm” (“Midnight My Love”) and 2008’s “Kod” (“Handle Me with Care”) (2008) before switching to independent films with his producer Soros Sukhum. His 2011 film “Tae Peang Phoo Deaw”(“P047”) premiered in the Orizzonti at Venice International Film Festival and his follow up, 2013’s “Tang Wong” was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival 2013 and won Best Picture and Best Director at the Thailand National Film Association Awards,

In 2014, he was asked by cable provider TrueVisions to chronicle the lives of the young novices portrayed in a TV series. Kongdej made it in his own way and the film, titled “So Be It”, went on to premiere at The Berlin International Film Festival 2015 in the Generation K-plus section. “Snap” (2015) was another festival favourite, selected for the main competition of that year’s Tokyo International Film Festival.

 

Director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee directs Jennis on the set.

“All I knew about BNK48 prior to starting the project was that they were a popular girl group. Now I know everything about the BNK universe,” he laughs. 

“Even though they are idols and I was contacted to make the film by their boss, I looked at them as actresses and cast them based on their fit to the characters.”

The script won the CJ Entertainment award of $10,000 at the Busan International Fillm Festival’s Asian Project Market last year, which comes with a first-look option for production, investment, sales and distribution.

The director adds that the collaboration with BNK48 has resulted in plenty of feedback from their fan club,

“When the promotional materials was released, they responded with surprised. I enjoy reading their comments and can’t wait to see what they will think of the movie. For my fans, I believe that they won’t be disappointed because I am pretty sure that it is still my movie style they like,” he says.

 

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