The life of a Bangkok escort is depicted in Karaoke Girl (สาวคาราโอเกะ, Sao Karaoke), the debut feature of young independent filmmaker Visra Vichet-Vadakan.
It's the story of Sa, a country girl who was sent to Bangkok when she was just 15. After three years in a factory, she entered the sex trade in order to support her family. Four years later the filmmaker met her, documented her life in the city and in the country and also wrote a fictional script for her to act in. The story is drawn from Sa's actual experiences, threading memories of her rural childhood with the complicated reality of her urban life.
Boasting impressive credits, with New York University professor and Salaam Bombay cinematographer Sandi Sissel as a director of photography, Karaoke Girl premiered in the main competition at this year's International Film Festival Rotterdam, where it earned positive reviews. It went on many other fests, including Helsinki and London's Terracotta Far East Film Festival as well as Karlovy Vary, Vancouver, Jeonju, Hamburg and Luxembourg City. It won the award for Emerging International Filmmaker at London's Open City Docs Fest.
Happily, the film had a positive effect on Sa, and she's turned her back on her old life, according to the filmmaker.
Karaoke Girl is in limited release at the Apex cinemas in Siam Square and the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada. It'll open next week at Major Cineplex Airport Plaza Chiang Mai and at Bangkok's House cinema on October 17. The trailer is embedded below.
In limited release, shows are at 6.30 nightly at the Apex's Lido in Siam Square and 7pm at Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada. Next week, it moves to Chiang's Mai's Major Cineplex Airport Plaza and returns to Bangkok on October 17 for a run at House on RCA. Rated G.
Ilo Ilo – The first Singaporean feature to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival and the city-state's submission for next year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film is a family drama set against the backdrop of the 1997 financial crisis. Anthony Chen's debut film is the partly autobiographical story about a Filipina maid who moves into an apartment with a Singaporean Chinese family. She bonds with the family's bratty spoiled schoolboy and newly unemployed dad but clashes with the domineering mother. By coincidence, Ilo Ilo has a Bangkok connection, thanks to one of its producers, Wahyuni A. Hadi, wife of Thai indie filmmaker Aditya Assarat (Wonderful Town, Hi-So) and herself one of the driving forces behind the promotion of Singaporean independent cinema. Winner of the Cannes Camera d'Or Award for best first feature, Ilo Ilo's critical reception is generally positive. It's at House on RCA.
Gravity – The Oscars are months away, but Academy Award buzz already surrounds three of the releases this week, including this astronauts-in-peril drama directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También), headlined by the stellar Oscar-winning pair of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. She's a medical engineer on a space research mission with Clooney as a veteran astronaut. On a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes and the space shuttle is destroyed, leaving the two completely alone, floating in space. Following premieres in Venice, Telluride and Toronto, critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. It's in converted 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G.
Prisoners – Hugh Jackman is acting like a guy who has his eye on a little golden statue in this taut drama about a father who becomes increasingly desperate and angry after his six-year-old daughter and her little friend go missing. A police detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) tracks down a suspect (Paul Dano) in a broken-down RV but then has to let the mentally not-all-there man go due to lack of evidence. So Jackman takes things into his own hands. Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard also star. Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) directs. Prisoners premiered to much acclaim at this year's Telluride festival, and critical reception is mostly positive. This opened in sneak previews last week and now moves to a wider release. Rated 15+.
The Smurfs 2 – Another sickening blend of computer animation and live action from Scooby-Doo director Raja Gosnell, the little blue folks smurf around with, gasp, humans (including Neil Patrick Harris) to smurf Smurfette, who's been smurfed by arch-nemesis Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and smurfed by an anti-Smurf hybrid creation of his. The star-studded voice cast features Katy Perry as Smurfette plus the late comedian Jonathan Winters in one of his last performances as Papa Smurf. Other smurfing smurfs include Christina Ricci, J.B. Smoove, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, John Oliver, Fred Armisen, Jeff Foxworthy and Alan Cumming. Kids will enjoy this more than critics have. It's in smurfed 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.
Mor Hok/Haa Pak Maa Taa Pee (มอ6/5 ปากหมา ท้าผี, a.k.a. Make Me Shudder) – B-movie studio Phranakorn and schlock filmmaker Poj Arnon make their first stab at 3D with this nonsensical horror comedy about schoolboys who take ghostly challenges in haunted buildings. Rated 15+.
Besharam – SF Cinemas partners up with longtime Bollywood movie distributors Goodwill Trading, a.k.a. BollywoodThai, for the release of this picture starring Ranbir Kapoor as a streetsmart mechanic. He steals cars in order to support the Delhi orphanage he lives in. His sense of what's right and wrong is flawed until he hurts the love of his life (Pallavi Sharda) and comes into conflict with a pair of cops (Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor). Abhinav Singh Kashyap (Dabangg) directs. It's at SF Cinema City Terminal 21. Opens Friday
The Friese-Greene Club – October brings a new schedule at the private cinema club, with Wednesdays featuring precocious girls, Thursdays about "men in crisis", Fridays devoted to behind-the-scenes filmmaking documentaries, the late great John Hughes on Saturdays and Bette Davis on Sundays. Tonight, it's Burt Lancaster in 1968's The Swimmer. On Friday, the great documentarian Les Blank casts his gaze on the obsession behind a movie about obsession in Burden of Dreams, chronicling the disaster-plagued making of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. Saturday, it's John Hughes' fourth-wall-breaking teen comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off. And on Sunday, "fasten yours seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night" with Bette Davis in All About Eve. Next Wednesday, check out a young Natalie Portman in Ted Demme's Beautiful Girls. Shows start at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. It's open Wednesday through Sunday from around 6pm. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.
The Act of Killing – After a bit of a hiatus, film screenings start back up at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand at 7pm on Monday, October 7, with a gripping, much-acclaimed documentary on the continuing and pervasive legacy of the Indonesian death squads of the 1960s. Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer (with Anonymous and Christine Cynn), the experimental documentary is executive produced by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris and has won scores of awards at festivals all over the world. Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. Fresh from an interview with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show", Oppenheimer himself will take part in a question-and-answer session with the FCCT crowd via Skype. Admission for non-members is 350 baht plus 350 baht more if you want to eat. And if you miss the FCCT screening, the Bangkok Experimental Film Festival is organizing another one-off showing on Saturday, October 19 at the Lido.
Complices – The Alliance Française Bangkok, now in its new home opposite Lumpini Park on the corner of Rama IV and Wireless roads, screens French films with English subtitles at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Sadly, they are no longer on 35mm film, but they are still free. Next week's show is a 2009 crime drama by Frédéric Mermoud, about an investigation into the murder of a young man that's taking a toll on a pair of detectives. Meanwhile, the story also tracks back on the love life of the 18-year-old victim and his missing girlfriend.
Love Syndrome (รักโง่ๆ, Rak-ngo-ngo) – The various relationships of four pairs of young men and women are covered in this romantic comedy drama by director Pantham Thongsang. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly at some cinemas before opening wide next week. Rated 15+.
About Time – Now in a second week of sneak previews, this romantic comedy is about a young man who learns the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time for short increments. Domhnall Gleeson (son of Irish actor Brendan) stars as an awkward guy who uses his gift to strike up a romance with a pretty girl (Rachel McAdams). Bill Nighy is the guy's cool dad. It's directed by Britain's rom-com king Richard Curtis. Critical reception is generally positive. It's playing at most multiplexes at around 8 nightly before opening wide next Thursday. Rated 13+.