From drama and comedy to musicals and documentaries, 84 features and shorts will be screened during the 10th World Film Festival of Bangkok, which starts next Friday.
The festival opens at Paragon Cineplex with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest feature “Mekong Hotel”, which premiered earlier this year in a special screenings at Cannes Film Festival. The closer is “Fados” at Esplanade Cineplex on November 25.
Among the highlights will be the presentation of the festival’s Lotus Award for lifetime achievement to French director Leos Carax, who latest feature “Holy Motors” will screen.
Deciding which films to see is always difficult so we asked the festival director, Kriengsak “Victor” Silakong and deputy director Dusit Silakong to pick their 10 must-sees.
Victor: Performing arts on screen tends to looks alienated but director Carlos Saura offers a very subtle representation in ‘Fados’. This is a film that truly honours the performing arts.”
The story: The last in the famed musical trilogy directed by Saura uses Portuguese’s capital Lisbon as a backdrop. He explores Portugal’s most emblematic musical genre fado and its haunting spirit of saudade (melancholy) and traces its African and Brazilian origins up to the new wave of modern faudistas through the production design in each song.
2.YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE
Dusit: “This film represents the Taiwanese trend of turning novels or short stories into films. It is very well-paced and reflects the feel-good and frustrated moments of teenage life.”
The story: Ko Ching-teng claims to be immune to the charms of Shen Chia-yi, the girl all his classmates are crazy about. But when Shen is ordered to tutor Ko, their friendship blossoms into something more. After graduation from senior high, Ko and Shen almost become a couple but Ko sets up a fight, which fails to impress Shen and all deals are off.
3. HOLY MOTORS
Victor: “For me, this should have been the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year even though it went home empty-handed. It’s a grotesque movie in the sense that a rich man disguises himself as different people so he can observe other lives from different social levels. The character bring us to different kinds of people and surprises us eventually.”
The story: From dawn to dusk, Monsieur Oscar, journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man. He seems to be playing roles, plunging headlong into each part – but where are the cameras?
4. ELEPHANT SHAMAN
Dusit: “This is the story of the last elephant shaman and his mission to teach the wild elephants that invade the villagers’ fields. What I love about this film is how much it teaches us and the importance of living in harmony with nature.”
The story: The documentary focuses on an 85-year-old ethnic Meo who is thought to be the last elephant shaman in Thailand. He wants to to pass on his knowledge to the next generation.
5. UNDER SNOW
Victor: “The director presents the local lifestyle through this folk tale with two actors and to the accompaniment of kabuki music. He cleverly has the actors morph into different characters from the folk tales but in the present world. While there is English narration, there are no subtitles during the Japanese dialogue.”
The story: In the Japanese region of Echigo, the locals live under heavy snowfall for half of the year. Because of this, they have developed their own customs of everyday life, festivals and religious rituals. Ulrike Ottinger leads us into the reality of the snowscape with its beauty and austere living conditions, follows the mythical tracks of the “gods of paths and roads” and mountain spirits, and places us within the fairytale world of a beautiful vixen and her lover.
6. LE HAVRE
Victor: “Definitely the must-see movie. This film makes you feel good as it shows how people can give love to another person even though they may not know that other person.”
The story: Fate throws young African refugee Idrissa into the path of a bohemian who works as a shoeshiner. With optimism and the unwavering support of his community, the man stands up to officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation.
7. POST TENEBRAS LUX
Victor: “The film represents contemporary Mexican life. Though we can guess what the movie will lead us to, there is a moment that will both surprise and shock the audience.”
The story: Juan and his urban family live in the Mexican countryside, where they enjoy and suffer a world apart. Nobody knows if these two worlds are complementary or if they are striving to eliminate one another.
8. CINE HOLLIDY
Dusit: “This is a kind of ‘Cinema Paradiso’, where the coming of television and the old world of cinema clash head on. Even though the film doesn’t see TV as the evil that kicks it away, it reveals the common truth that modernity inevitably leads the death of older habits.”
The story: The arrival of television in the Brazilian countryside in the ’70s almost put an end to the small movie theatres. But a hero called Francisgleydisson decided to fight to keep alive his passion for his cinema. His weapons: creativity and a unique sense of humour.
9. NO MAN’S ZONE
Dusit: “This documentary explores the lives of the elderly who lived near the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. They had to leave the homes where they had lived for decades. For them, it’s like a repeat of World War II, as the neighbourhood is empty and they become homeless once again.”
The story: The 40-year-old nuclear power station on the coast of Fukushima went into crisis after being struck by the tsunami on March 11, 2011. Within 24 hours, an evacuation order was proclaimed for the surrounding 20 km area. The documentary travels into this No Man’s Zone and the surrounding regions where people continue to live.
Dusit: “It’s a simple melodrama but it’s a lovely film, especially the young actresses!”
The story: An American physician arrives at Pohang airport with his 13-year-old daughter Barbie. Steve is adopting Soon-yong for a heart transplant to save his younger daughter who has heart disease. Mangtak, Soon-yong’s uncle, is selling his niece well aware that she’s going to die. But Soon-ja, who believes in the American dream and has no idea of the truth, uses every trick in the book to be adopted in place of her sister.
The World Film Festival of Bangkok is organised by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with Nation Broadcasting Corporation, The Nation and Major Cineplex.