This evening is the opening night of the Bangkok International Film Festival. An event sponsored by the Tourism Authority, it has historically been disorganized and a bit of an embarassment, even when over funded like it was last yer. (Kind of like the new airport, huh?) This year’s festival was delayed six months as they did a major reshuffle, fired their mostly farang and Los Angeles-based organizers, and tried to go native.
The programming looks to be a bit better, but the disorganization is still there. On Monday evening at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, the festival’s director handed out press materials and spoke briefly, spending most of his time fielding some harsh barbs from the audience, including a few questions that I thought were a bit over the top and, thankfully, appeared not to come from real journalists.
One example was an apparantly inebriated British man who criticized the Tourism Authority for choosing the SF World Cinema at Central World Plaza, one of Khrungthep’s newest of our ubiquitous multiplex cinemas, over somewhere “more culturally appropriate”. I could scarcely contain myself as I wanted him to explain what he thought a more culturally appropriate venue would be? Khrungthep has no “traditionally Thai” multi-screen movie theatres. I don’t even know what that would be!
Anyhow, the press materials included schedules of the films and a list of ten highlighted films out of the 130 or so being screened. Oddly, they have no program guide that lists the movies and provides synopses of them. You have to go to the website for that. Talk about the surest way to not reach an audience.
The good news is that there are 18 films from the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and another 26 from elsewhere in Asia. There is also a “Thai Panorama” featuring 10 recent Thai films, a few of which I’m not sure are really that deserving.
I’m partnering with the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival to attend the Bangkok Film Festival as one of SFIAAFF’s “associate” programmers. Yes, I actually get an industry badge and admission to three free screenings a day. Woo-hoo! Exhibition and Festival Director Chi-hui and Assistant Director Taro selected some films from the schdule that they’ve asked me to view as they’ll likely not get a chance to see these films at Toronto, Cannes, Rotterdam or other larger festivals.
In conjunction with their requests and my own browsing, here are some of the films I’ll see which look promising. If you’re a ready here in Khrungthep, may I suggest you consider catching one or more of them? All of the films are at SF World Cinema in Central World Plaza. Tickets are on sale at the cinema box office and seats are assigned.
Three Days to Forever – (Indonesia) Riri Riza’s thoroughly modern road trip movie. Yusuf and his cousin Ambar spend a wild night out just before heading out of town for a relative’s wedding. When the pair passes out overnight and Ambar misses her flight, the two head off on a three-day road trip. Little do they realize those three days will have a lasting impact on their lives. 20 July at 14:00 and 23 July at 18:00.
The Rebel – (Vietnam) Charlie Nguyen historical drama and romance set in 1920s Vietnam. Under colonial French rule, rebellions emerge all over the country. A French-cultured undercover elite falls in love with the daughter of a rebel leader. 21 July at 19:30, 23 July at 15:30.
Before We Fall in Love Again – (Malaysia) James Lee tells the story of Chang, whose wife Ling Yue has been missing for a month with no clues left behind. One day a man named Tong shows up and claims to be Ling Yue’s lover. Tong is looking for her, too. In a turn of events both men form an uneasy alliance in order to find Ling Yue. 24 July at 20:30 and 26 July at 17:40.
Love Conquers All – (Malaysia) Ten Chui Mui directs this drama set in the pre-mobile phone 80s. It is the story of Ah Ping, who arrives in KL from her hometown. Bored and alone in a strange place, she finds herself mysteriously drawn to the predatory John, both physically and emotionally. 27 July at 14:20 and 28 July at 14:30.
Love for Share – (Indonesia) This comedy-drama about the consequences of polygamy. Shifting techniques, director Nia Dinata tells the stories of three wives from vastly different backgrounds; one thin thread connects the women. Successful doctor Salma must reconcile her devotion to Islam with her discontent; living in an overcrowded slum, Siti resents being a third bride and forms a tight bond with wife Dwi; and the self-involved Ming vows to make it work to her advantage. 24 July at 20:30 and 16 July at 17:40.
Kala – (Indonesia) Director Joko Anwar tells this drama about a nameless country in a state of chaos as natural disasters, corruption and street justice are on the rise. A cop named Eros is investigating the case of five men who were killed by a mob. A journalist named Janus is also covering the story. The two are quickly drawn into a labyrinth of mysteries and murders. 25 July at 17:20 and 27 July at 16:40.
Dancing Bells – (Malaysia) Director Deepak Kumaran Menon tells the story of 11 year-old Uma, a little girl living in KL’s Little India, who wants to dance. But first her mother must save enough money from her flower stall to buy her a pair of chalangdai – dancing bells. Menon’s beautifully naturalistic second feature was shot entirely on location using neighborhood amateurs, revealing a minority community under stress in the shadows of developing Malaysia.
Pao’s Story – (Vietnam) Set in the breath-taking landscape of the mountainous provinces of Vietname, director Quang Hai Ngo tells the story of a Hmong tribe girl named Pao. She was raised by her stepmother after her real mother left when she was little. One day after her stepmother dies in an accident, Pao begins to track down her birth mother. But her journey turns out to disclose an unsealed sentimental drama of the family in the past.