Update 3 – Comments Day 1; Day 4 Notes
Chiang Mai movies: 1st Doi Saket International Film Festival 2010!
by Thomas Ohlson
I thought the opening ceremonies on Saturday went off beautifully, and was a great start to the festival!
It was a stupendous success from one point of view: The evening made it clear that the organizers meant what they said when they said they wanted a community affair, where contemporary films (particularly Thai) were shown free to ordinary Thais who couldn't afford to go to a Cineplex. They were savvy enough to combine the opening with a temple fair, and on a particularly big Buddhist holiday at that. So they had a huge crowd - whole families were there, plus all their sponsors had booths, there were all sorts of traditional entertainment, from drum playing to Thai dancing. They were hawkers touting their goods, and a lot to eat. The families had a good time, mine included. And for the first two films they had picked really grass-roots films about kids and young people, and the audience was mesmerized, even the kids.
They did rather goof in one crucial area. They started showing the film program exactly one hour earlier than scheduled, the time they had been saying all night that they would begin. They started at 7:30, not 8:30! They had a dance and music show and then showed previews and commercials, and even as the 7:30 time was approaching, there were rumors that they were going to take an hour break before the main show started. But they didn't, and so it started one hour earlier than they had said it would. Two of my friends had come earlier in the afternoon, been told the movies would start at 8:30, so left to eat with two of their friends to come back at 8:30. Not cool.
The first film was wildly melodramatic, touching very basic themes of Thai family life. This was I-Jang: The Woodcarver, by Kornwalai Chai-in. Everybody could relate to it. Way overly-emotional, but a certain skill in the filmmaking. My Thai friend, who never sees films, told me on the way home that he really liked the first movie -- I think, much to his surprise.
The second film, Hand-Painted Feathers / Kinulayang Kiti, by Richard S. Legaspi, was very similar, this time about life and death issues, but was Filipino, and in Tagalog with English subtitles but not Thai subtitles (which probably would not have done much good anyway). Nevertheless, everyone could pretty much follow what was going on.
The kids in the audience alternated between being mesmerized by the film and the whole ambience, and suddenly getting restless for a little while and doing a bit of running before sitting down and getting engrossed again. In a way, that's the way the vast majority of the audience acted as well.
After the first film, the director and one of the actors were introduced to enthusiastic acclaim, and they spoke a bit and there was some joking around, and the audience got the idea that these film folks aren't that strange after all, and why don't we come to these things more often? Score one for the festival.
The third and last film was probably the most serious of them all, and has gotten some measure of acclaim. This was Lost and Found, directed by Noth Thongsriphong, a Thai drama which at 47 mins is one of the longer entries in the festival. It’s a slower and more meditative offering, which I did not stay to see. They had moved outside to show this one on the grass and cement, without chairs, and although they offered to get me a chair from outside, I said no. I just didn't like the added noise and distraction outside, and the lesser quality sound, and the discomfort, and most importantly because of the mosquitoes. .
Gauging from the crowds - many more people than they had expected - and the response I could feel all around me, the people in general had a very good time indeed and were glad to have come. So, I count it a success for them.
The Populist thread is only one of the threads of this film festival though. This thread continues with the Thai films seen at Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna out of town and in town at Film Space. Another thread is the international film festival thread, the showing of films from the international film festival circuit. These began in a serious manner on Monday in the video viewing room at Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna. Friends who went there said that it is a beautifully laid out arrangement in a new library of the university. While films are screened in one of the rooms, serious film festival films are screened on computers (iMacs). You pick the video you want to see, much like on an airplane, and then watch it on the computer screen. Correspondents say that the building is beautiful and the library state of the art. They said they would recommend as excellent choices:
Images Returning Home (Germans who are bringing back the pictures and films they made in hill tribe villages 45 years ago to the same villages);
Round Trip (a former photography student who made pictures on a train eight years ago and now tries to find the people from the pictures along the Chiang Mai / Bangkok route. Gives a great picture of daily life in Thailand;
Assata aka Joanne Chesimard - the Black Panther one; and
if you are interested in Canadian filmmaking, Northern Lights.
And I would also highly recommend, as very serious indeed, the video on Assata, the Black Panther party folk hero or despicable fugitive depending on your point of view. It is at any rate a solid film experience.
For a description of the films, go here.
Here is the complete list of the films available for library viewing, today (Tuesday), tomorrow (Wednesday), and Friday from 10 am to 5 pm. The same list for all days.
10.00 – 17.00 น.
จัดฉายภาพยนตร์ ผ่านคอมพิวเตอร์ iMac
(โปรแกรมเดียวกันระหว่างวันที่ 25-27 และ 29 ตุลาคม)
Northern Lights / Canada 83 min.
Working From a Different Script / England, 50 min.
Les Jours de Carte Postale (Postcard Days) / USA, 100 min.
Pinata / USA 89 min.
Die Ewige Wiederkunft (des Gleichen) (The Eternal Return (of the same)) / USA, 120 min.
Round Trip / Thailand, 69 min.
Images Returning Home, หนังเก่ากลับบ้าน / Germany, 28 min.
Thank You Skinhead Girl / England, 45 min.
elektroStancija / Germany, 67 min.
Assata aka Joanne Chesimard / USA 96 min.
For a description of the films, go here.
Both of these strands also continue in Chiang Mai itself, in the films screened daily at Film Space, the two rooms downstairs, and in the evening the rooftop space.
And for the most serious study of all, there are some special programs, chief among them a whole large chunk of documentaries on Burma and the current situation there. Called Burmatography, it screens Wednesday at 1 pm in Room 2 of the Media and Arts Building. Later that night, on the roof, the deadly serious, 90-minute, Burma documentary, This Prison Where I Live, from Germany. Remember, the Media and Arts Building is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, and across from the ballet school. Showings are in two classrooms on the second floor and on the roof
And tonight, Tuesday night, a series of films made by women that has been shown before, most notabley at the World Film Festival in Bangkok last year. Shown at AUA.
At AUA Auditorium, AUA Language Center, 2 pm to 5 pm.
Special program : CalArts Portrait Documentaries from Women’s Perspective
This program was shown at the World Film Festival last year, and this is Wise Kwai’s review of it.
CalArts Shorts: Portrait Documentaries from Women's Perspective
By Wise Kwai
This is a compilation of five shorts by women directors, curated by filmmaker Sompot "Boat" Chidgasornpongse (Diseases and a Hundred-Year Period), who is attending the California Institute of the Arts and is working on his thesis.
Hollywood by Stephanie Owens (US) -- This is a portrait of a town's local character, a gregarious woman named Hollywood who is obsessed with Hollywood and NASCAR. She does paintings and drawings and mugs for the camera. Delightfully diverting. I wonder what Hollywood thought about it being in black and white?
Eight Women by Laura Bouza (US) -- Eight women, now in their 80s, who in the 1960s formed a housewives' modern dance group, the Confettis, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They achieved top levels of professionalism and recognition in the dance world, and could have toured all over, but they stayed local so they could continue to raise their families. Amazing women.
Me Broni Ba (My White Baby) by Akosua Adoma Owusu (Ghana/US) -- An experimental look at hair salons in Ghana, and the elaborate and laborious woven hair extensions that culminates in a look at girls and women practicing hairdressing on discarded white dolls. Very cool.
Speech Memory by Caroline Key (US) -- Through an interview with her father, the director details the life of her dead grandfather -- a deaf-mute Korean born in Japan during its occupation of Korea and who communicated through Japanese sign language. Interesting and traumatic.
The Wet Season by Brigid McCaffrey and Ben Russell (US/Suriname) -- Back to Africa. This experimental portrait of life in a farming village has a fractured narrative and long, staring takes.
The first two were accessible and were bridged by the experimental Me Broni Ba (my favorite). The package becomes increasingly challenging in terms of difficulty for general audiences but more in line with what festival-goers and programmers would expect and like. (5/5)
Wise Kwai’s rating: 5 out of 5: Must See!
At Media Arts & Design (ติดกับหอนิทรรศการศิลปวัฒนธรรม มหาวิทยาลัยเชียงใหม่)
Room one 2 to 9 pm
Special program: รำลึกถึง คุณแซม สิทธิพงษ์ กัลยาณี
(นิทรรศการและภาพยนตร์ฉายวน ระหว่างวันที่ 25 - 29 ตุลาคม)
On Top Floor (roof) 7 to 11 pm
Karaoke / Malaysia, 76 min.
Little Tree Little Me / Indonesia, 5 min.
FIKSi. / Indonesia, 110 min.
At Lhoo Bar นิมานเหมินท์ ซ. 11
10 pm to midnight
ทุ่งหญ้าบนสรวงสวรรค์ / Germany, 90 min.
Halagway / Philippines, 30 min.
Ingenue / Thailand, 19 min.