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
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.
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
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
“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
“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.
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.
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
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”.