Competitiveness: Thailand’s film center dream suffers lack of “Experience in Freedom”

By Pooky, Thai Intel’s economics journalist

  • Most industry are needing more and more freedom to survive!

Taksin, the former Thai prime minister who was ousted by a coup in 2006 and on the run from a politicized and corrupt Thai justice system and called the starting point of all the problem in Thailand, bought modern thinking to Thailand.

All one had to do is go back to check on the news when Taksin came to power and one would see Taksin, not only talking but doing things, about “A Knowledge Based Economy”, “High-Tech Based Economy”, “Creative Economy” and even advance economics concept such as “SMEs Driven Economy”, to “Management Economics.”

All of that can be seen in one place, on the much important to the Thais “Children Day” when Thai prime minister would give the best of his wisdom to all the Thai children on that day.

  • Taksin words on that day, on one year, to all the Thai children were, quote “Think creatively and out-side of the box.” And on another year it was to, quote “Learning must be an enjoyable experience for children.”

I am just so saddened to report to Thai Intel readers, of the famous Cann Film Award Winner, Apichartpong, who said in the following interview with the Korean Times that, “As a Thai, I do not know freedom.”

  • Apichartpong, as a Thai, where the word Thai means freedom, said he had to go to a foreign country, to learn about freedom.

In fact, Freedom House, now rates Thailand as “Semi-Free” with a deteriorating level of democracy.

There has been a great deal of talk about Thailand drive in the film industry-to be a center for filming. But one big shot Hollywood producer told Thai Intel-Thailand just does not have the right kind of environment to support out-side the box thinking.

It is also very saddening, to hear of the many movies in Thailand, that are out-side the box thinking, having been censored or out-right banned, like Insect in the Backyard, because they are deemed bad for Thailand society.

So now the latest news is that the Thai Tourism Authority, is planning to invite about 23 global movie making related people to come to Thailand. And the unit plans to show those people, all the attractions of Thailand-as a way of getting them to invest in making movies in Thailand.

Is it silly Thai Intel?

Or is it silly Thailand?

Apichartpong, by the way, is starting to make movies around the globe as a location.

The following is from the Korean Times:

Analogue dreams: Thai director looks to digital, Hollywood & beyond

By Lee Hyo-won

HONG KONGApichatpong Weerasethakul may have visited Korea last year to judge digital movies but the Cannes-winning director still yearns for analogue when it comes to capturing memories and emotions.

“I feel I’m in the old world — stubborn — to hold onto this medium. But it reflects my vision better. It depends on film to film, but most of my films are about memory and for me, film is the medium for that,” Weerasethakul said in an interview, last week after winning Best Film at the Asian Film Awards.

It was another addition to his collection of trophies for “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year. A lush audiovisual musing on themes of death and the afterlife as well as a tribute to old cinema, the project was shot on retro 16-milimeter film. “Everyone is surprised when I say my film is shot on film because everyone is going digital,” said the Thai filmmaker.

Does he plan to adapt to the trend? “I’m contemplating it,” he said in apparent consideration of how the digital medium saves budget and is environmentally friendly.

Moreover, from an aesthetic point of view, he said attending Cinema Digital Seoul (CinDi) last year expanded his views about the possibilities of digital cinema. “Seoul was really amazing. I found many, many ways you can approach digital. With the diversity and experimentation that I found in that festival, I appreciate it more. The young generation introduced me to the future.”

But in the meantime, the director, though young at only 40, finds inspiration from the past. “Experiment is the word. ‘Uncle Boonmee’ can be different from all my other works because it’s a tribute to old cinema,” he said.

“M Hotel,” Weerasethakul’s contribution to the Hong Kong International Film Festival’s opening omnibus film “Quattro Hong Kong 2,” is also a tribute to classics such as Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 “The Conversation.”

But whether the director is pining for the past or dreaming about the future, the essence of cinema remains the same.

“For me, the core is about storytelling and emotion; it’s about balance between the two and I tend to focus on emotional feelings. Cinema is young, about 100-something-years-old… and we’re still stuck on the tradition of other arts, especially literature, but movies can be more than that. Filmmakers from the French New Wave and others have tried to push the boundaries of cinema. I’m in the same territory, and believe that cinema is something you cannot express into words.”

Cinema, moreover, is a language that Weerasethakul chose for storytelling after experimenting with other forms, including studying fine art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“(Cinema is) one of the very few things I know how to do,” he said. “I’m quite introverted. …But when I’m behind a camera it becomes my eyes to look. Cinema is magic — in each film you discover something new, and it’s almost an excuse to connect to the world.”

It also broadened his horizons as an individual. “I discovered that I didn’t have much freedom at home (in Thailand), and I didn’t know that. When I studied in the States I learned that there was more to life. I also discovered that there is more to cinema— it can be personal and it can have a big effect on society.”

Winning at Cannes led to more globe-trotting for the director. “It’s been interesting,” he said about travelling extensively. He recently saw the opening of his films in New York and Los Angeles, where the reception was very enthusiastic, he said. Traveling also paved the way to develop new working relationships. “There are several offers I need to consider, possibly Europe or even Hollywood. It’s a new territory for me.”

He also got involved with other aspects of filmmaking, and debuted as a producer with “Concrete Clouds.” The film was directed by Lee Chatamentikool, who has long collaborated with Weerasethakul including editing “Uncle Boonmee.”

“Concrete Clouds” is also a co-production between Thailand and Hong Kong that involved working with Thai superstars for the first time. Whether mainstream or independent, Weerasethakul said, Thai films should look to branch out through co-productions.

Weerasethakul himself captured his foreign experience through “M Hotel.” The short film draws intriguing spatial and audio designs, as two young men goof around with a camera in a hotel room that overlooks a plaza in Hong Kong.

“When you shoot a film in a foreign country, it’s hard for me because I don’t know Hong Kong, I don’t live here. What I know when I travel is the hotel room. So it’s about the inside and outside, about spatial relationship, so I focused on that. Also about information and misinformation you get in a foreign country. It’s like a game as well, between the two guys, who are making portraits. Hong Kong is about images, about how you capture it.”

And so the director’s experimentation with images and sounds for storytelling continues. Does he have any messages for aspiring filmmakers?

“The most important thing is to find your voice,” he said, whether it be mainstream or independent cinema. “It’s very easy to be swayed when you’re young, to watch something in a theater and think I wish I could do that. For technical things, anyone can do it, a monkey can do it, a machine can do it — but it needs to be something from your heart and not a copy.”

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