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The Forsaken Land wins at Bangkok

The Forsaken Land, a controversial film set in war-torn Sri Lanka, has won Best Picture award at Bangkok’s 3rd annual World Film Festival (WFF) which ends today (Monday 24 October).
The Forsaken Land : Directed by Vimukthi Jayasundara and produced by Philippe Avri, the film had already achieved international recognition by winning the Camera d’Or award at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, was selected at Toronto and was a clear favourite with Thai audiences.

“Cannes was extremely kind to me but the WFF award is no less important for me because it indicates approval and support from Asian audiences. I need support at this time,” Vimukthi told FilmFestivals.Com at the award ceremony on Sunday evening.

Minutes earlier a Q&A session about the film was ended abruptly when a man believed to be a stooge of the Sri Lankan military disrupted the session by repeatedly accusing Vimukthi of treachery.

Vimukthi has been living in Paris since September when the first showing of The Forsaken Land caused an uproar in military circles and led to threats on Vimukthi’s life.

WFF jury member, Paris-based film editor Nadine Tarbouriech, said the five-man jury had no difficulty in arriving at a decision on best picture.

“We all felt this film had unique cinematic qualities and the power to transform the lives of people living in fear,” said Tarbouriech.

Other awards at WFF were: Days of Santiago (Peru), Best Script; 4 (Russia), Best Art Direction; Turn Left at the End of the World (Israel), Jury’s Special Prize; and Le Grand Voyage (Morocco), People’s Choice Award.

Attendance at the 10-day festival has attracted an audience of more than 20,000, approximately 10 per cent up on last year’s record-breaking figures.

Cannes Film Festival Film Department Director, Christian Jeune, attending WFF for the third year in succession, said WFF was improving every year.

“The festival is developing well and it continues to be unpretentious. Particularly noticeable this year is the growing percentage of Thais watching the films. This bodes well not only for the festival but also for the Thai film industry,” Jeune told FilmFestivals.Com.

He added: The selection of films is becoming more precise. The festival director (Kriengsak Victor Silakong) is not picking just new films or old films; he’s focusing on quality, regardless of when they were made.”

Earlier in the week, Kriengsak told FilmFestivals.Com there would be no major changes at next October’s festival.

“We have a formula that is working. We have managed to maintain the integrity of the festival, avoiding show-biz antics and razzamatazz and this is gaining acceptance for us. We would of course like to have a bigger budget for 2006, everyone does, but we can manage.”

The budget for WFF this year was approximately THB20 million (US$500,000), much the same as it was in 2003. (The budget for Bangkok’s other film festival which focuses on glitz as a vehicle to boost tourism to Thailand is believed to be about 12 times as much or THB250 million).

Kriengsak said that WFF is not modeled on any other festival; rather it was the result of his own passion for the cinema and his experience of cinematecque whilst living in Paris.

He added that the aims and function of WFF would continue unchanged. “Everyone is welcome but our main aims are to provide Thai audiences with the opportunity to see world-class films from independent film-makers at an affordable price; our second raison d’etre is to give Thai directors and producers a platform to show the world their best work, not just feature films but also short films and Thai Indies.

“I think it’s generally recognised now that Thailand can and does produce some good work. Crying Tiger, Midnight My Love and Innocence all got a very good response and we think they deserve to do well internationally,” said Kriengsak.

Asked if future festivals might feature more Asian films than the 13 out of a total of 66 films shown this year, Kriengsak said: “ Definitely not. We are not aiming to make this an Asian film festival. We will of course continue to show good quality films produced in Asia, with the emphasis on Thailand, but you can’t show everything in a 10-day festival.”

WFF also provides Thai film professionals with the chance to meet with and learn from their counterparts from overseas. This year’s festival was attended by Roman Polanski, Ulrike Ottinger, Beat Presser, Iran’s Niki Karini, and Taiwan’s Tsai Ming Liang.

“Sadly Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose work was strongly featured in the festival had to cancel at the last minute because of work commitments, but we are very lucky that Beat Presser was able to come in at short notice,” Kriengsak said.

This year’s festival also featured Produire au Sud, a one-day workshop-seminar designed to familiarize young Asian producers with a variety of techniques and tools in the areas of screenwriting, financing, marketing, legal compliance and inter-professional relationships essential in the co-production process.

Producer Elise Jalladeau, sales agent Pascale Diot and script-writer Miguel Machaski ran the workshop which was structured around 10 film projects from Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Jeremy Colson

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