Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok

Hurtling into its 11th year, the World Film Festival of Bangkok will open with the award-winning Australian-made Lao-Isaan family drama The Rocket and close with a new documentary by indie Thai filmmaker Nontawat Numbenchapol, By the River.

Winner of the Crystal Bear and two other prizes in Berlin, The Rocket is the tale of a little boy who is believed to be the bringer of bad luck after his family loses his home. So, with a colorful cast of characters, including a drunken uncle played by veteran Thai comedian Thep Po-ngam, he sets out on an adventure to change his fortune.

Directed by Kim Mordaunt, The Rocket won the Audience Award and prizes for Best Narrative Feature and Best Actor for young star Sitthiphon Disamoe at the Tribeca fest. It's also picked up audience awards at home in Melbourne and Sydney. And Australia has submitted it to next year's Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

The closing film By the River (สายน้ำติดเชื้อ, Sai Nam Tid Shoer) is an award-winner too, earning a special mention after its premiere in Locarno. It chronicles the 15-year legal struggle that ensued after a lead mine contaminated Kanchanaburi province's Klity Creek and ruined the livelihoods of villagers.

With more than 800 films submitted, the fest boasts a decent selection of Thai indie features this year.

A highlight will be The Isthmus by Sopawan Boonnimitra and Peerachai Kerdsint. The story of a little Thai girl who starts speaking only Burmese, it premiered last week at the 18th Busan International Film Festival, where it was in the New Currents competition.

Other new Thai indie features are Village of Hope, an ode to rural Thai ways by veteran helmer Boonsong Nakphoo, and Mother, the debut feature of young director Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul.

There will also be a few Thai indies that have made the rounds already in limited release in Thailand, such as Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's Tang Wong, Visra Vichit-Vadakan's Karaoke Girl and Boundary by Nontawat.

This year's Lotus Award for lifetime achievement goes to Jarunee Suksawat, one of Thailand’s biggest movie stars of the 1970s and '80s. Two of her classic melodramas will be shown, Baan Sai Thong and Pojjamann Sawangwong

Other highlights of the Asian Contemporary section include Stray Dog, which is supposedly the last film Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-liang plans to make. Others are A Woman and War by Junichi Inoue, To My Dear Granny by Chu Yu-Ning and Innocents by Singapore's Wong Chen-Hsi, winner of best director in the Asian New Talent Awards at this year's Shanghai fest.

And in the Doc Feast category, a highlight is To Singapore With Love. Another is The Last Shepherd, about the last travelling sheepherder in metropolitan Italy.

Cinema Beat, covering the rest of the world, is where you'll find a bunch of other don't-miss titles such as France's Stranger By the Lake, which won the Un Certain Regard directing prize for Alain Guiraudie at Cannes this year as well as the Queer Palme. There's also Israel's Rock the Casbah, an award-winner in Berlin about an Israeli soldier in 1989, seeking to avenge the death of a fellow soldier.

And an oddball pick is Synecdoche, New York from 2008. The story of a playwright (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who goes crazy while spending his life mounting an immense living theater production, it's the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter of such weird and wonderful movies as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.

Other festival sections include Cine Latino, giving rare exposure in Bangkok to films from such places as Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Portugal and Spain.

In all, there are 60 films from 25 countries.

The 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok runs from November 15 to 24, and for the first time it will be held at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Look for the complete lineup at the festival website.

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