Friday, July 30, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: 2010 Director's Screen Project

Begun in 2008, the indie distributor and production-marque Extra Virgin is relaunching its Director's Screen Project, bringing distinctive, thought-provoking independent arthouse films from Thailand and elsewhere to the Bangkok multiplexes.

There are two features, Mundane History and Agrarian Utopia, and a package of short films. Each will run for four weeks at SFX the Emporium, the same venue as the recent highly successful screening for indie director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cannes Golden Palm winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Showtimes are nightly at 7 with additional Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2. On Saturdays there will special activities after the evening screening where the directors will hold Q&A sessions.

The series starts on August 5 with the long-awaited local theatrical release of Mundane History (เจ้านกกระจอก, Jao Nok Krajok). Since premiering at last year's Pusan International Film Festival and opening the World Film Festival of Bangkok, director Anocha Suwichakornpong's family and social drama has been on a tear through the festival circuit, winning the VPRO Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and most recently Transilvania Trophy at the Transilvania International Film Festival. It's also screened at the Munich Film Festival, Paris Cinema International Film Festival, and is in competition at the Era New Horizons International Film Festival.

Next on September 2 will be Agrarian Utopia (สวรรค์บ้านนา , Sawan Baan Na), a beautiful, digitally shot experimental documentary on the hardships of rice farming by Uruphong Raksasad. It's also been ripping up the festival circuit. It won the Unesco Award at last year's Asia Pacific Screen Awards, best narrative feature at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, and most recently a jury prize at the Millennium International Documentary Film Festival. Earlier it was in the Berlin Documentary Forum, where The Nation's correspondent caught up with Uruphong before the filmmaker jetted off to upstate New York for Colgate College's Flaherty Seminar. It will also be screened in the NETPAC Festival in New Delhi among many others. It screened at the Bangkok International Film Festival last year, and having seen it there, I want to see it again. It's definitely something to appreciate on the big screen.

On September 30, closing out the first leg of this year's series, will be a package of shorts by Aditya Assarat, headlined by Phuket, a drama about a South Korean actress (Lim Su-jeong from I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK and Sorry, I Love You). She's on an island vacation, trying to escape fans and phone calls. She gets a unique tour of old Phuket from her hotel limo driver, played by veteran leading man Sorapong Chatree. The short was commissioned as a tourism promotion and foreign-relations effort by South Korea and Thailand. Two other shorts by the recent Silpathorn Award laureate will be shown, 2004's Boy Genius and 2005's The Sigh. Together, the two shorts are the first two parts of Aditya's Boy Genius trilogy.

The Director's Screen films will show for one month at SFX the Emporium in Bangkok, with daily showtimes at 7 and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2. Throughout the release period, there will be special activities on Saturdays after the evening show, where the films’ directors will do a Q&A session.

The Director's Screen series was launched in 2008 with Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town. Already an award-winner on the international circuit, the limited release secured a spot for the haunting romantic drama in the local awards, where it swept many top prizes, including five trophies at the industry's top kudos, the Subhanahongsa Awards. With the Director's Screen, it probably would not have secured a local release and would not have had such great success here.

Pimpaka Towira's sprawling political documentary, The Truth Be Told: The Cases Against Supinya Klangnarong, was the second film on the Director's Screen slate in 2008. It's now available for online viewing at Asia Pacific Films.

This year’s Director’s Screen Project is supported by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture, and with a new technical partner in ACD Network, Singapore.

"The strengthened commitment and shared vision of all the project’s partners will confirm the longevity of the initiative and more titles are set to be released in the next phases of the project in the coming year," says Extra Virgin.

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