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LEKHA SHANKAR


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Film Festivals Galore,in Bangkok--!

  Bangkok  seems to have become a movie-hub, judging by the numerous  film festivals that have been spinning  in the city, almost back-to-back, this year.The Embassies have mostly been  responsible for these , and deserve  credit for whipping up the cinematic pulse of the city.Apart from the French, Italian  and EU film festivals ,which have become regular events in the cinema-calendar of the country  (they are held in both Bangkok and Chiangmai), this year,  we had new festivals from Sweden, Spain,  Hongkong.  Last but not the least, came a Buddhist  film festival . 

And now, get ready for an Indian Film Festival, in October -!  Not to forget the  World Film Festival of Bangkok ,in November.This is the only ' regular' festival that has survived in the city, after the  death of  the  Bangkok International Film Festival ,with  the change in political governments.

One hears that the Huahin  International Film Festival, which was launched  earlier this year.  will be held early next year in the  lovely beach-town  again. It  will continue to  focus on ‘Asian’ films , which is a welcome  trend, considering that the Asean conglomerate will become a reality, in 2015.

“ Thailand is the gateway to Asia, and we want to promote the cinema of  Asia  ” said Suwat Liptapanlop, politician ,businessman  and   event-supremo, who’s presently  busy with the upcoming Thailand Tennis Open, which he has promoted for  a decade. “ Cinema and Sport are  both important events for the country ” he declared.

Now,  for the film festivals.The French Film Festival, at the SF Cinema, Central World,  set the cinematic ball rolling, in the best of French traditions, with wine, cheese, and  a  top French star , attending  the Opening event, at the  SF  Cinema, Central World.This was none other than acclaimed  actress Kristin Scott Thomas, whose  moving Jewish drama  Sarah’s Key’ opened the Festival  The actress was shooting in Bangkok for the much-talked-about film 'Only God Forgives'   by  last year's Cannes Best Director  awardee Nicolas Refn , a revenge –drama starring  the charismatic  Hollywood actor Ryan Gosling, with  talented Thai actor   Vithaya Pansringham playing his adversary. While Kirstin Scot Thomas could not stop raving over the ' un-tiring '  Thai crew,   Vithaya could not stop  talking about the  'incredible style'  of the Danish Director. The French festival had an impressive range of movies-  comedy, crime, historical tale ,even a gypsy-drama!  Judging by the houseful-shows, a rarity in Thailand, it's obvious that the Festival has dug deep and culled out its  audiences in a city more known for its  shopping than its cinema culture.  Kudos  to the French for that.

The Spanish Film Festival ,at the Siam Paragon, had an exciting range of movies too .But unfortunately, they were shown in the blue-ray format in the big halls of  the cinema-complex.  While the films were vibrant and varied, the projection left much to be desired. Blue ray films are best viewed in their own  digitalized screens , and hopefully ,the festival will  improve on this, next year, so that  the cinetastes of Bangkok  can  fully revel in their vibrant cinema.

The  Swedish Film Festival,at the SF Cinema,Emporium.  was  a welcome addition to the city’s movie kaleidoscope, as there has not been much exposure to films from the Scandinavian region , in Thailand.  The 7-film package had  new film-makers and  arresting  films, many of which had been nominated for the country’s prestigious Guldebagge awards. One hopes the festival will become a yearly event .

 The Hongkong Film Festival, at the Siam Paragon,  impressively supported by the country’s Economic and Trade office, had a bevy of crime thrillers and noir films, as also romances and even a science fiction tale. The most important  film of the festival, was  famous Hongkong director  Ann Hui’s ‘A Simple Tale’ ,starringAndy Lau  and  Deannie Ip ,for which the latter won the Best Actress Award in Venice.This was the film which cocked a snook at the mega-budget films now being made in Hongkong, by  gaining both critical and box-office success  –a rare anomaly, in  cinema. Hui’s much-acclaimed film ‘Night & Fog’ was also screened.

The icing on the cake, however  was the trilogy of films , made by three  top Asian directors, for the Tokyo film festival-  Cannes award-winning Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s  M Hotel’  , acclaimed  Filipino director Brilliante Mendoza’s ,’Purple,’  and   famous  Singapore director  Stanley Kwan’s film  13 minutes in the life of---‘

The Italian Film Festival, at  the  SF Cinema, Central World, has developed to becoming one of the best in the country, thanks to its recent collaboration with the Rome festival. This year ,the festival titled itself  the Moviemov festival, with the intention of holding similar festivals in Philippines and  India. In addition, the festival also plans to hold a reciprocal festival  of Thai films in  Rome, for which  indie directors like Anocha Suwichakornpong, Tanwarin Sukhapisit ,Wichanon Somumjarn were chosen.

As for the films screened at the festival in Bangkok,they included works by well-known directors like Ferzan Ozpetek,  Giuliano Montaldo , Roberta Faenza, not to forget an exclusive Retro of Sergio Leone films.  The curator of the  Leone-films,  said she was delighted to  bring the package to Thailand and see the enthusiastic response  to the films, both among the old and young. She recounted how they did a similar package at Cannes Festival  this year,which reduced the great Robert de Niro to tears.

One of the highlights of the festival, was the screening of the new 3D version of  Dracula,  by  acclaimed Director Dario Argento,which  had created a sensation during a midnight screening, at the  Cannes Festival,this year.  The film’s producers said the  film had been sold to many parts of the w orld,including India.

Also present at the festival, were the vivacious  actresses Carolina Crescentini and  Paola Minaccioni, who seemed to  have revelled in  the city’s  cultural attractions.   They had also visited Koh Samui, and did not seem to have had enough  of Thailand . Director Roberto Faenza who also attended the festival,stated that festivals like this were important to  foster strong links between the  Eastern and Western countries,socially, culturally and cinematically.

"Thailand ,and  Asia,are stimulating "  declared the director " Italy seems to belong to the past,and Europes eems to be going through  a psychological crise. "  As for America,where he had lived for many years, he quipped- " It's a delight for craziness" and his latest fim,which was screened at the festival,was based on this 'craziness.'

The European Union Film festival,at the BACC,  was  one of the best festivals they’ve held till now, with a dynamic range of thought-provoking movies -23 films from 17 member countries. These included   tales about children, drama, romance, comedy,documentary. The brilliant Danish Oscar winner ‘ In a better world’  was the  Opening Film,followed  by arresting movies like  Pure from Sweden ,Morgen from Rumania, which have been screened at  top festivals like Cannes, as also  Krabat  from Germany,  'The Flying Pigs'  from Poland, Sonny Boy from Netherlands,  not to mention acclaimed Turkish-German director Fatih Aikin’s ‘Soul Kitchen’  , famous British director Michael Winterbottom’s   ‘Indian’ story ‘Trishna’, and  legendary Portuguese director Manouel de Oliveira's  ' The Strange Case of Angelica.'

The strong multi-cultural stories  of the  EU festival proved  how geographical borders have crashed around the world, making ‘European’  films  totally  global in outlook, style, audiences.

Last  but not the least, came  the International Buddhist Festival, at the SF Cinema, Central World,  which took people by surprise, by the  wide array of   thought-provoking  films from around the world. T hese included the celebrated  Opening ‘silent’ Film   from India ‘The Light of Asia’   ,the The Yellow Robe from Srilanka made by their best known director Lester James Peries,   acclaimed Korean director Im Kwon Taek’s‘Come,come upward’ etc. There were many others from Nepal, China, Japan, Thailand, Bhutan, not to mention  arresting movies from unexpected countries like the US, Canada,Argentine. A unique section of the festival was curated  by three monks  !There was also a Short Film  section in competition,  not to forget  interesting  talks and panel discussions .

This was a pioneering Festival, but what was interesting to note was that festivals like this are being held on a regular basis around the world. The most recent one was a grand Buddhist  Festival held in New Delhi, India,  organized by the well-known  NETPAC   organization ( Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) . 

The dynamic man behind it all, is  US-based  Gaetano Kazua Maida, of the Buddhist Film Foundation ,who stated that the Foundation was the world’s leading resource for Buddhist -themed events, including cinema. They had 4 sections- exhibitions, education, production and distribution, preservation.So far, they  had presented over 300 films from more than  20 countries, in Asia, Europe, America,  he declared. It's wonderful to know that Cinema's reach is all-encompassing now, and includes not just people and countries, but also religions.     That should augur well for the future -we do need   Cinema , not just for entertinment, but for  Peace .    

 

 

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About LEKHA SHANKAR

SHANKAR LEKHA

I'm an Indian film-writer, based in Bangkok, and write for publications in India & Thailand. I also coordinate and curate film programs in the two countries, at cultural centres/clubs, film festivals.


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