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Terry Gilliam was highlight of opening day at Bangkok festival

The fourth Bangkok International Film Festival (BIFF) kicked off with a lavish opening night ceremony last night (Friday 17 Feb) with international stars and local celebrities walking the red carpet to the sound of Thai traditional music.

Among the most internationally famous were cinematographer Christopher Doyle, director Terry Gilliam, Rita Moreno and Russ Tamblyn. But the night was essentially a cocktail-party showcase for Thai glitterati and tourism authority guests.
Access to the opening film, Invisible Waves, was limited mostly to guests of sponsors and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) who own the event and whose mark is imprinted on all aspects of the festival.
The massive budget, rumoured to be in the region of US$25 million, has enabled the festival organizers to invite and host press and dignitaries from around the globe but has done little to help develop the ingredients required to stimulate a cinema culture here.
The Thais are renowned for their appetite for shallow high-budget special-effects movies that have little to do with the indie films normally associated with film festivals.
But there is the occasional glimmer of hope here. The highlight of today’s happenings was a Masterclass with Terry Gilliam. An audience, almost exclusively attended by foreigners, heard the acclaimed director talk in a chatty informal manner about his work and associates.
Much to the amusement of attendees he had some vitriolic comments to make about the role of big film companies, their “film-maker” bosses and their harmful effect on the artistic endeavours of sincere and talented directors and producers.
He also amused his audience by describing his relationship with actors who he has directed as that of a provider. “I don’t direct actors, I provide them with a playground where they can make fools of themselves in the knowledge that the real world won’t see them,” Gilliam said.
The masterclasses at BIFF will continue to be of little interest to locals but of great interest to the expatriate community and industry people who have been flown in to boost the numbers.
The Oliver Stone masterclass scheduled for Monday is being keenly anticipated, as are question and answer sessions with Christopher Lee and Catherine Deneuve. Their attendance is doing much to boost the profile of BIFF but it’s a moot question whether it is helping to boost tourism figures, which is the main objective of the tourism authority.
Another goal is to expose industry professionals to the attractions of
Thailand as an exotic location for film-makers.
The senior advisor to the country’s minister of tourism, Mr Pramote Chokesirikulchai, told FilmFestivals.Com last night that he didn’t expect additional tourism to be generated by BIFF.
“But I do think we will be able to increase revenue from film-making here because our beach and forest locations are second to none. We have everything here,” said Mr Pramote.
But he added that it was doubtful if lavishing millions of dollars on a film festival was the best way of achieving this objective. “I would prefer to see the TAT concentrate on marketing the country as a tourism destination,” he said.
by Jeremy Colson


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