Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 8-14, 2014

Village of Hope

Thai indie filmmaker Boonsong "Sueb" Nakphoo tells hardscrabble stories of contemporary rural life, enlisting his family members, friends and neighbors in his native rural Sukhothai Province to help him make his low-budget movies. It's a portrait of folks who have been surpassed by society, and they are out of step with the increasingly urbanized, digitized, plastic-coated modern Thailand.

Boonsong's latest feature is the ironically titled Village of Hope (วังพิกุล, Wangphikul), which is a sequel to his 2010 effort Poor People the Great.

In between those two films, Boonsong did the ambitious Four Stations, a 2012 compilation of four short stories by noted Thai authors. It won a jury prize at last year's Deauville Asian Film Festival.

With Village of Hope, which premiered at last year's Mumbai Film Festival, Boonsong further hones his craft, presenting the succinct tale in black and white. The story follows Sorn, a somber young soldier on leave who returns home. He feels ill-at-ease as he reaquaints himself to the village’s slow pace and the struggles of his impoverished relatives, who all live in a tight-knit collection of rustic wooden houses. Boyhood has slipped away and the reality of adulthood is looming for young Sorn.

Village of Hope screens at 6.30 nightly until Wednesday, May 14 at the Lido in Siam Square, with post-screening talks by the director and his crew.

By the River

It's a big week for Thai indie cinema, with two interesting films in limited release.

Along with Village of Hope, there's By the River (สายน้ำติดเชื้อ, Sai Nam Tid Shoer). Directed by Nontawat Numbenchapol, who follows up his Thai-Cambodian border doc Boundary, By the River looks at the hardships in a remote Karen village in Kanchanaburi where lead mining has contaminated the creek that used to be the community's lifeblood.

Concentrating mainly on the villagers, the film only briefly refers to the legal wrangling over the Klity Creek case, which stretched on for more than a decade. Though a verdict last year ordered a clean-up, it's going to be a massive effort, covering some 19 kilometers of waterway. It doesn't seem like the damage will ever be truly undone. Meanwhile, how will the villagers survive?

Nontawat recently returned to the village to stage a special outdoor screening for the residents.

Worth mentioning at this point is an effort to bring clean water to the village being undertaken by the Enlawthai Foundation.

By the River won a special mention at last year’s Locarno Film Festival and also screened at the 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok. It's been picked up by the new Thai indie outfit Mosquito Films Distribution and was part of the recent ChopShots festival in Jakarta.

Shows are scheduled to be at 4 and 8 daily (approximately) at SFW CentralWorld and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Rated G.

Also opening

13 Sins – Eight years have gone by since there was word of a Hollywood remake of the 2006 Thai thriller 13 Beloved. The slick, tension-filled drama had a down-on-his luck salesman receiving a series of mysterious phone calls promising him increasing rewards for completing 13 increasingly sinister and dangerous tasks. Also called 13 Game Sayong and 13: Game of Death, the original film was directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul and was based on a comic by Eakasit Thairatana. Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism) directs this new version, which at one time bore the title Angry Little God. Mark Webber stars as the salesman, with Devon Graye, Tom Bower, Rutina Wesley, Pruit Taylor Vince and Ron Perlman. Critical reception is mixed, with a few surprisingly kind reviews. I wonder if they ever saw the original? Rated 18+

Bad Neighbours – Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are a young couple with a new baby. They look forward to settling into adulthood in in their dream home in a quiet residential neighborhood, but their plans are disrupted when an unruly fraternity moves in next door. An escalating war between the neighbors looks to spiral out of control. Zac Efron also stars, playing the lead frat boy. Nick Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) directs. Critical reception for this raunchy comedy is actually pretty positive. Rated 18+

Oculus – After a young man is released from jail for the murder of his parents, he teams up with his sister to take down the real killer – a supernatural force unleashed through an antique mirror from their childhood home. Brenton Thwaites and Karen Gillan star. Critical reception is generally positive. This opened in sneak previews last week and now moves to a wide release. Rated 15+

Spirits War (ไพรดิบ, Prai Dib) – In this fantasy, spirit hunter Prai (Akara Amarttayakul) stops to rest in a forest near an abandoned mine and comes under attack. He is soon rescued by another spirit hunter, Paratee, but then she is taken prisoner by an evil priest. Pisut Praesangeam, who earlier this year did She Devil (รักเราเขย่าขวัญ, Rak Rao Khayao Khwan) and the 2008 comedy Super Hap, directs. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Maggie Smith won an Oscar for her portrayal of a radical girls' boarding-school teacher in 1969's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, screening tonight. Tomorrow, open those pod-bay doors and check out the big-screen must-see spectacle of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. On Saturday, it's Brian DePalma's Carrie, which is among this month's crop of "troubled youth" movies. It was originally scheduled to screen during an earlier "troubled youth" series at the club but was pulled due to a last-minute schedule change. Sunday's Audrey Hepburn showcase is 1953's Roman Holiday. And next Wednesday, perhaps have a pizza delivered to your seat while you are watching another classic American comedy – Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Shows start at 8. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so reservations are a must. There are sometimes additions and changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

Learning through Asean – Indonesian movies – Films by celebrated Indonesian independent director Edwin will be screened this Saturday and next at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom. This Saturday at 3pm is his surreal comedy Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly, which comments on the serious issues surrounding race and Chinese ethnicity in Indonesia. Among the offbeat characters is a singing dentist who warbles Stevie Wonder's song "I Just Called to Say I Love You". From 2008, it competed in several film festivals, winning prizes in Nantes, Rotterdam, Singapore and the Golden Horse fest. Next Saturday, May 17, starting at 1pm, is the also-surreal Postcards from the Zoo, a comedy-drama about an orphan girl who grows up in a zoo, where she is raised by the giraffe keeper and works odd jobs to earn her keep. She then takes up with an itinerant cowboy magician. That's followed at 3pm with short films by Edwin and then a talk with the director and his producer Meiske Taurisia.

German Film Series – A young family copes with impending death when the father is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in the 2011 drama Stopped on Track (Halt auf freier Strecke). Andreas Dresen directs. Part of the Goethe-Institut's series of monthly screenings, it's showing at 1pm on Sunday at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, and at 6pm on Tuesday, May 13, in the fifth-floor auditorium of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. For further details, please contact the Goethe-Institut at (02) 108 8200.

Alliance Française – Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival – a historic first for a film from Chad – Un homme qui crie (A Screaming Man) is the story of Adam, a former champion swimmer comfortably spending his declining years looking after a luxury hotel's pool. He's demoted to security guard when his own son is hired to take over as lifeguard. With the country in the midst of a civil war, Adam sees an opportunity to move the younger man out of the picture. Mahamat Saleh Haroun directs and Youssouf Djaoro and Diouc Koma star. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, May 14 at the Alliance Française de Bangkok.

Take note

There's another new movie-listings website – For now, it appears to only support showtimes for the big multiplex chains, Major Cineplex and SF.

The other startup movie-listings site Moveedoo collates data from the Apex cinemas in Siam Square and House on RCA as well as the mall cineplexes. So Moveedoo has the edge over Cinematic.

Both Moveedoo and Cinematic have arisen since the demise of MovieSeer, which went down the drain last year.

Indie filmmaker Thunska Pansittivorakul has released his taboo-breaking 2010 feature Reincarnate through his Tumblr site, but the actual platform is Vimeo. To watch, you'll have to "follow" Thunska on Vimeo, send him a message and then receive a password. Reincarnate will stream through Sunday, then on Monday, another of his features will be released online for one week only.

Mark your calendar for the European Union Film Festival, which runs from May 23 to June 5 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Highlights include this year's Oscar-winning foreign film, The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) from Italy. A free festival, this is always a very popular event with thrifty expats and balloon-chasing freeloaders, so be prepared to queue up for an hour or two to guarantee you'll get a decent seat.

And the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand has a "double bill" coming up, with Switzerland's La Petite Chambre (The Little Room) on May 19 and from the U.K., Michael Winterbottom's Trishna on May 26. Shows are now at 7pm, not 8 as they've been in the past.

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