South East Asian Film Festival and Uncle Boonmee!
Chiang Mai movies update, Wednesday, February 2, 2011
by Thomas Ohlson
South East Asian Film Festival
The South East Asian Institute of Global Studies at Payap University presents “Lifescapes” – a festival running from February 3 to 6 at Payap University.
Opening and closing receptions, film screenings, discussion panels, and presentations will take place on the Payap University main campus. All films will be subtitled in English and Thai. All activities are free and open to the public.
The organizers write that “Lifescapes” will screen contemporary films – documentary, docu-drama, dramatic – to showcase thoughtful work with a social conscience. They hopes to raise awareness while celebrating the film culture and filmmakers of Southeast Asia who make meaningful social commentary with their work – showing the “beautiful” without flinching from “grim reality.”
They go on to say they hope to show films that explore regional issues and human rights struggles within mainland Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The festival will screen films and give audiences and directors the opportunity for discussion. Directors and film-makers are invited to speak, and representatives from NGO’s will host a cross-country forum.
Website for the festival: http://filmfestival.payap.ac.th/?page_id=56
Wise Kwai: Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives are the opening and closing films of the Lifescapes South East Asian Film Festival at Payap University in Chiang Mai from February 3 to 6.
The fest focuses on regional issues and human-rights struggles with films from Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Other Thai films include Kon Jon Poo Ying Yai (คนจนผู้ยิ่งใหญ่), an unreleased work by Sueb Boonsong Nakphoo that "explores the people in rural Thailand, living in the hardest place at the hardest time", and shorts from Rung Uan, a Chiang Rai NGO that trains young filmmakers.
Other highlights include Bradley Cox's documentary Who Killed Chea Vichea?, about the death of the Cambodian labor leader; Only Love, the latest feature by Laotian director Anousone Sirsackda; The Prison Where I Live, on the jailed Burmese comedian Zarganar; and The Most Secret Place on Earth, a documentary looking at the lingering aftermath of the CIA's "secret war" in Laos.
Aside from film screenings, there's talks, among them a panel discussion on censorship featuring Tanwarin Sukhaphisit, director of the banned Insects in the Backyard.
The closing film, which will take place at the Major Cineplex Airport Plaza, will be the Chiang Mai premiere of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which despite having been shown around Thailand in limited theatrical engagements last year, missed Apichatpong's adopted hometown.
The not-to-be-missed event in my opinion is the showing of this film:
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Sun. 6 February, 7:00 pm
At Major Cineplex Airport Plaza, Cinema 7
By Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thai, Comedy/ Fantasy – 1 hr 54 mins – Suffering from acute kidney failure, Uncle Boonmee has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long lost son returns home in a non-human form. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave – the birthplace of his first life… For what it’s worth, it’s gotten what Rotten Tomatoes calculates is generally favorable reviews: 74 out of 100.
This may be your only chance in Chiang Mai to see this mysterious film which won the Palme d'Or at the last Cannes Festival.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Languorous and deeply enigmatic, Palme d'Or winner Uncle Boonmee represents an original take on the ghosts that haunt us.
Telegraph, Sukhdev Sandhu [21 May 2010]: It’s barely a film; more a floating world. To watch it is to feel many things – balmed, seduced, amused, mystified. It’s to feel that one is encountering a distinctive metaphysics far removed from that on display in most contemporary cinema. Weerasethakul has not only drawn on the themes, landscapes, and mood-states he tapped in Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady, and Syndromes And A Century, films that extended the imaginative and emotional grammar of arthouse cinema over the last decade; he has refined them to create his most accessible and most enchanted film to date.
Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar) is dying of kidney failure and has retired to the countryside in North-East Thailand to see out his days in the company of his loved ones. When he’s not receiving medical attention, he tends to his bees and gazes out at the lush nature that surrounds him.
One evening, as he’s dining with his family, his wife Huay (Natthakarn Aphaiwonk), who died fourteen years before, appears at the table. So does, a strange-looking simian whose eyes resemble red lasers: he is, albeit in the form of a Monkey Ghost, Boonmee’s long-lost son. And so begins a conversation, laden with joy and sadness, drifting into the night, in which a man on the verge of dying questions his wife on what he might find in the afterworld – and, if he will find her there too.
Later, he will travel with his family through jungles and deep into a hilltop cave that he likens to a womb, and whose darkness is suddenly and spectacularly interrupted by walls that effulge...
But this is a film that is only partly about journeys. The story that it tells isn’t dramatic, just as the world it evokes isn’t new; here, reincarnation, to say nothing of the division between humans and animals, is widely accepted. At points, it’s implied – an important word, for Weerasethakul is too sensitive and generous an artist to insist on single interpretations – that Boonmee may, in a previous life, have been a buffalo, or perhaps a catfish that in one of the film’s most bizarre and delicately handled scenes has sex with a disfigured princess by a sylvan waterfall.
There are many elements of this film that remain elusive and secretive. But that’s a large part of its appeal: Weerasethakul, without ever trading in stock images of Oriental inscrutability, successfully conveys the subtle but important other-worldliness of this part of Thailand. He doesn’t have to take recourse in fantasy; there are frequent allusions to battles fought against Communism in the region, as well as the arrival there of many migrants from Laos and Cambodia.
In this respect, given the bloody battles in Bangkok over the last few weeks, it’s tempting to see the red-eyed Monkey Ghost as a distant antecedent of the (class- rather than rural-conscious) Red Shirt protestors (many of whom come from the North East of the country).
Those Monkey Ghosts are described as “past people”, but they’re past people in the same way as ghosts: they still have the power to attach themselves to the present, to make an impact. In spite of constantly being tracked and chased by hunters, they grow in number towards the end of the film: they are part rumour, part multitude, utopian possibility. They symbolize – just as the Red Shirt protestors fight to keep aflame - an alternative vision of the present and of the future in that anxious nation.
Mostly though, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a film about what it means to take care of others, and of the importance of caring and of being cared for. And it’s a film, in its meticulous attention to sound design, its exquisite cinematography, and the patience with which it unfolds, morphs and insinuates itself in our imaginations, that, I hope upon hope, the selection committee of the Palme d’Or will care for as much as I do.
View London, Matthew Turner: Fascinating, hypnotic and deeply, deeply weird, Apichatpong's Palm d'Or winner is a beautifully shot Thai drama that will baffle and amaze in equal measure.
...The imagery and camerawork are extraordinary throughout, while the minimal dialogue and atmospheric soundtrack lend the film a hypnotic, contemplative feel. It's also surprisingly funny in places, particularly in everyone's reactions to the appearance of Boonsong.
It is fair to say that Uncle Boonmee will be baffling to most Western audiences (and possibly to Eastern audiences too) and the painfully slow pacing has an undeniably soporific effect, but this is a rare example of a film where falling asleep almost seems like it's encouraged, as your own half-dreams mingle with the strange images and events on screen.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a deeply weird, strangely beautiful film that needs to be seen to be believed. Recommended.
Tickets for the showing are priced at 100 baht (normal seat); 120 baht (honeymoon seat); and 300 baht (Opera Chair – 2 persons). Tickets are available for purchase now at the following places:
Payap University, Mae Khao Campus
Pentecost Building, Room 115
Raan Lao Bookshop
Nimanhaemin Rd, near Soi 2
Cup A Book Cafe
Nimanhaemin Rd, opposite Soi 13
DVD Film & Music
Wing 41 T-junction (off Suthep Rd.)
Film Festival Program
Day 1 Thurs 3 February (Opening Day)
1700-1800 Opening Ceremony
1800-2100 Agrarian Utopia (สวรรค์บ้านนา) by Uruphong Raksasad [Thailand, 120 min, Thai, English subtitles] In Dr. Boontong Auditorium
Followed by Q&A with director, Uruphong Raksasad
2100 ~ Opening Night After Party @ MUMU Arthouse, Nimanhaemin Rd, Soi 7
Day 2 Fri 4 February
1000-1100 Music and Film with Thorsten Wollmann
Presentation, In the Singtoh Changtrakul Room
1100-1145 Burma In Pieces by Arun Sharma [Burma/ Myanmar, 45 min, Burmese, English subtitles] In the Weera Kitjathorn Room
1145-1230 Love Man Love Woman by Trinh Thi Nguyen
[Vietnam, 50 min, Vietnamese, English subtitles] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room
1200-1300 lunch break
1300-1415 Purpose of Film: Beauty, Entertainment, and a Social Conscience?
Panel Discussion, In the Singtoh Changtrakul Room
Gridthiya Gaweewong, Jim Thompson Art Center
Uruphong Raksasad, Director, Agrarian Utopia
Detlev F. Neufert, German Thai Media Association
Moderator: Sutthirat Suppaparinya
1430-1615 In the Middle of the Bridge by Karin Dürr and Carolin Röckelein [Burma/Myanmar, 60 min,
Burmese, English] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room
Followed by discussion with Ashin Sophaka
1630-1730 The Wanderers by Christine Bouteiller [Cambodia, 58 min, Khmer, English subtitles] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room
1730-1830 dinner break
1830-1900 4 Shorts From the Factories [Cambodia, 4 x 8 min, Khmer, English subtitles] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room
1900-2115 Kon Jon Poo Ying Yai (คนจนผู้ยิ งใหญ่) by Boonsong Nakphoo [Thailand, 90 min, Thai, English subtitles] In the Kaew Nettayotin Room
Followed by Q&A with director, Sueb Boonsong Nakphoo
Day 3 Sat 5 February
In the Pipat Trangratapit Room
1000-1200 Looking For Reconciliation [Burma/Myanmar, 83 min] English,
Followed by discussion with the Democratic Voice of Burma
1200-1230 Across the Sea of Dust by Tiffany Chung [Vietnam, 23 min, Vietnamese, English subtitles]
1230-1300 Chronicle of a Tape Recorded Over [by Trinh Thi Nguyen Vietnam, 28 min, Vietnamese, English subtitles]
In the Weera Kitjathorn Room
1000-1300 Lending Lenses shorts made possible by training organizations in SE Asia
THE PEPPER FIELDS
Yangon Film School
A BRIGHT FUTURE
OUR FOREST, OUR FUTURE
MY POSITIVE LIFE
1200-1300 lunch break
1300-1415 Lending Lenses: Building Skill and Capability In SE Asia
Panel Presentation, In the Singtoh Changtrakul Room
Wai Mar, Director, My Positive Life, Yangon Film School
Nico Mesterharm, Founder, Meta House
Ponsak Sukongkarattanakul, Rung Uan
1430-1545 Bleeps, Blurs, and Bans - Film Censorship in Southeast Asia
Panel Presentation, In the Kaew Nettayotin Room
Tanwarin Sukhaphisit, Director, Insects in the Backyard
Amporn Jirattikorn, Dept of Social Sciences & Development, CMU
Thusanai Sethaseree, Faculty of Media Arts & Design, CMU
Moderator: Sirote Klampaiboon
1600-1730 Who Killed Chea Vichea? by Bradley Cox [Cambodia, 55 min, Khmer, English subtitles] In the Kaew Nettayotin Room
1730-1830 dinner break
1830-2115 Only Love by Anousone Srisackda [Lao, 126 min, Lao, English subtitles] In the Kaew Nettayotin Room
2130 ~ After Party @ Sangdee Gallery, Sirimangkalajarn Soi 5
Day 4 Sun 6 February
1000-1200 This Prison Where I Live by Rex Bloomstein
[Burma/ Myanmar, 90 min, Burmese, English, German] In the Kaew Nettayotin Room
Followed by Q&A with line producer, Justin Temple
1200-1300 lunch break
1200-1230 The Floating Tomatoes by Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi [Burma/Myanmar, 30 min, Burmese, English subtitles] In the Weera Kitjathorn Room
1230-1330 Hanoi Doclab Shorts [Vietnam, 60 min] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room
1300-1415 People Living With Stories by Paul Zetter [Vietnam, 33 min, Vietnamese, English subtitles] In the Kaew Nettayotin Room; Followed by Q&A with Ian Bromage
1430-1545 The Most Secret Place On Earth by Marc Eberle [Lao, 77 min, English] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room
1600-1900 dinner break & travel time
1900-2100 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul [Thailand, 120 min, Thai, English subtitles] Major Cineplex Chiang Mai, 4th Fl., Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport, Cinema 7
2100 ~ Closing Night After Party @ The 2nd Floor Gallery & Café, Ratwithi & Ratchapakinai intersection (above Kodak Store).