BACK FOR a third year after two successful outings, the Bangkok Asean Film Festival promises to be bigger and better than ever in 2017 with more films and activities and, for the first time, a film from nine of the 10 Asean members competing to win the grand prize of US$10,000 (Bt340,000). 

Organised by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with The National Federation of Motion Pictures and Contents Associations, this year’s festival celebrates the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Association of South East Asian Nations through more than 20 movies screening at SF World Cinema and Paragon Cineplex until May 1

The showcase opens tomorrow with the joint Thai-Singaporean production “Pop Aye”. 

Directed by Singaporean Kirsten Tan, the film tells the story of a disenchanted architect who bumps into his long-lost elephant on the streets of Bangkok and decides to take the pachyderm back to Loei where they grew up together. Filmed entirely in Thailand, it stars Thaneth Warakul- nukroh and Penpak Sirikul. “Pop Aye” won the Special Jury Award for Screenwriting at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and has been screening on the festival circuit ever since. 

In an effort to bring Asean films to the international platform, the festival is this year hosting the inaugural Asean Film Competition. Two prizes are up for grabs: the Best Asean Film award, which rewards its winner with a trophy and $10,000, and the Jury Prize, for which the winner will also receive a trophy and $5,000. The judges are Hong Hyosook, director of the Asian Cinema Fund (ACF), Maggie Lee, chief Asian film critic for Variety magazine and Tokyo International Film Festival consultant, and Japanese director Koji Fukada, himself a winner of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival’s Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard for “Harm- onium”.

The movies selected vary in genre. “Pop Aye” will be going up against “A Yellow Bird” (Singapore) “Birdshot” (Philippines-Qatar), “Nong Hug” (“Dearest Sisters”) from Laos, Vietnam’s “Father and Son”, the Thai-Japanese co-production “In the Flesh”, Malaysia’s “Interchange”, “Singing in Graveyards” (Malaysia-Philippines), Indonesia’s “Solo, Solitude” and Cambodia-US collaboration “Turn Left Turn Right”.

Mystery-drama film “Birdshot” tells a story of a young Filipina farm girl who wanders into the boundaries of a reservation forest. Deep within the reservation she mistakenly shoots and kills a critically endangered and protected Philippine Eagle. As the local authorities begin a manhunt to track down the poacher of a national bird, their investigation leads them to an even more horrific discovery.

Directed by Mattie Do, “Dearest Sister” is centred on Nok, a young girl who’s moved from the countryside to help take care of her blind cousin, Ana, in the city. Ana’s blindness brings about terrifying incidents – she can see the dead. Even during the day, a ghost comes and whispers numbers, purportedly those that will win the next lottery. After hearing Ana repeat the numbers, Nok decides to chance her luck.

The festival will also feature an Asean showcase of nine additional films, each selected by its embassy. Singapore has chosen the third episode in Jack Neo’s comedy series “Ah Boys to Men 3: Frogmen”, Thailand brings its latest Subhanaghongsa best film winner “Dao Khanong” (“By the Time It Gets Dark”) and Laos has picked “Khwan-Nang”. Also screening are Myanmar’s “By Coincidence”, Indonesia’s “Senjakala Di Manado”, Malaysia’s Temuan Takdir”, Vietnam’s “Ho Chi Minh in Siam, “Cambodia’s “Vikalcharet (“Psychotic”) and Brunei’s “Waris” (“Descendant”)

Thailand has four films in the festival: the two co-productions in the competition “Pop Aye” and “In the Flesh”, “By the Time It Gets Dark”, and the closing film “Namtarn Mai Waan” (“Sugar is Not Sweet”), a tribute to veteran actor Sombat Methanee who receives the lifetime achievement award.

Sombat plays a young playboy whose millionaire father forces him to marry the half-Indian Namtarn (Metta Rungrat) whose father is also rich. But the youngster lets his reckless streak come to the fore and loses everything, only to realise that he loves Namtarn.

“Sugar” was the last work in the repertoire of director Ratana Pestonji and released in 1964. It is, in many ways, an oddity, bringing together drama, comedy and porn and ridiculing mainstream cinema. 

“In the Flesh” is the directorial debut of Kong Pahurak and is centred on Daryn, a 17-year-old girl who is fed up with her life and becomes a human smuggler with disastrous results. Another interesting film is Vietnam’s offering “Ho Chi Minh in Siam” which chronicles the life of Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh in Thailand from 1927-1929 and his travel from Bangkok to Udon Thani.

This year too the festival has added a new section, the Asean classic programme. This will feature selected films by legendary masters, including Myanmar’s 1934 production “The Emerald Jungle”, said to be the oldest film from which elements still exist and the debut feature of Muang Tin Muang. Singapore brings “The Lion City” Singapore which came out in 1960 and was the first Chinese film to go on general release. 

“Tiga Dara” (“Three Maidens”) from Indonesia was released in 1956 and is the first Indonesian film to be restored in the highest 4K format. The movie has influenced modern Indonesian cinema and inspired a remake by award-winning filmmaker Nia Dinata in 2016.

For those interested in Asean film issues, Hong Hyosook, Maggie Lee and Pantham Thongsang will lead a seminar and panel discussion on the development and promotion of the Asean film industry titled “Bringing Asean Films to the International Arena” on May 1 from 9.30 to noon at the Dusit Thani Hotel. 

The closing ceremony will be held on May 1 at Parc Paragon, Siam Paragon with the awards announced and handed out to the winners. The presentation of the lifetime achievement award to Sombat Methanee will precede the screening of “Namtarn Mai Waan”.

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/life/box_office/30313225

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