May 24, 2005


Thai cinema is undergoing a renaissance, but you wouldn't know it unless you live in Thailand.

The distributors are having a hard time making sales because they're asking outrageous prices for screenings at film festivals, and then selling their movies to the highest bidder with no regard for how the movie will be treated after they cash their check. If the movies do make it into a film festival, Thai government officials, or people claiming to be Thai government officials, often pop up and object to movies that they don't think represent Thailand in a good light. Add to that the fact that gay-themed films are now officially discouraged and you've got a mess. Which is too bad, because Thailand is making some good movies right now.

TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER - one of the most acclaimed Thai films, it was sold to Miramax years ago and promptly vanished.
BANG RAJAN - played a lot of festivals and then got a release from Magnolia. It went on to gross about $25,000.
TROPICAL MALADY - won the jury award at Cannes last year, but Thailand chose not to submit it to the Oscars, supposedly because of its gay content. It's played lots of festivals in the US, but has had no real theatrical release. Apichatpong Weerasethakul's next film looks like it'll face more of the same.
ONG BAK - a giant Asian hit, and the movie that got a lot of folks excited about Thai cinema, it was released in the US on lots of screens with lots of marketing and went on to underperform with a gross of $4.5 million. Not chump change, but way under expectations.
CITIZEN DOG - the latest film by Wisit Sasanatieng, director of TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER. Europa, Luc Besson's company, picked up the rights but there are no clear plans for the film at this time.
LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE - the artsy, off-kilter flick by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang was distributed in the US and made a so-so $32,014. Of course it made more than twice that in the UK, so maybe the Brits are smarter than we are.
TOM YUM GOONG  - the follow-up to ONG BAK was sold to distributor, TF-1, for a price many times greater than what was paid for ONG BAK. A few Cannes insiders have speculated that Tony Jaa's management is more interested in making the most money they possibly can while Jaa is hot, and not strategizing to ensure that he has a long and lucrative career. Who knows?

May 24, 2005 at 08:21 AM in News | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference WHITHER THAILAND?:


TROPICAL MALADY doesn't open in New York until June 29th, so it's a bit early to conclude that it's destined for obscurity. The gay angle will undoubtedly help its marketing in the U.S. I suspect it's the main reason Strand acquired it.

Posted by: Steve | May 24, 2005 9:41:43 AM

Well, I hope the fact that it's a friggin' masterpiece might have had something to do with it too...

When Nonzee Nimibutr's JAN DARA played a festival in SF a few years back one of those "Thai government official"-types did just what Grady describes. Didn't realize it was becoming something of a regular occurance.

My brief-but-not-that-brief (1.5 year) experience living in Thailand was that it wasn't that easy to see the good Thai films (especially not with English subtitles) even if you WERE there. Hopefully things have changed since I left a few years ago. (though at least I got to see TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER during its brief run in Thai cinemas)

Posted by: Brian Darr | May 26, 2005 12:14:04 AM

Post a comment