September 20, 2005


The unfortunately named 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok has announced its full line-up and WiseKwai reports that it ain't got no Thai movies. Sure, there're some shorts, a digital video flick called INNOCENCE by a former Miss Thailand, the documentary CRYING TIGERS, and the Oxide Pang produced REMAKER, but that's it. The Thai Night program which had been in the previous festivals has been canceled for undisclosed reasons.

While the Festival site brags about offering 60 films from 20 countries, apparently its home country doesn't count.

September 20, 2005 at 08:59 AM in News | Permalink


The reasons are budgetary in nature. Apparently, all the cash was spent bringing in Roman Polanski. Still, this is freaking Thailand. How much can it cost to throw a few Thai films on the screen?

Posted by: wisekwai | Sep 20, 2005 2:50:12 PM

I think part of the reason might be that the film festival is being sponsored by The Nation, a paper which is more or less oriented towards European/American readers. From what I could tell, the Thailand Film Office doesn't seem to be affiliated with it at all. It's mostly corporate sponsors of various sorts. Maybe the film office and the (Thai) studios don't want to throw their lot in with The Nation? Maybe they're offended by Roman Polanski? Who knows? Someone with better research skills and/or time could possibly find out the Film Office: 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok connection.

Posted by: FiveVenoms | Sep 20, 2005 3:59:49 PM

I don't think it is that surprising. I guess from the point of view of the planners "world" means the "outside world" apart from Thailand. If you were in Bangkok and wanted to see a Thai film, I imagine that it could easily be arranged outside of attending a film festival. Have they had Thai films on their list before (I see it's the "3rd" annual festival.)?

Posted by: Joshua Pettigrew | Sep 20, 2005 6:20:59 PM

I agree - this isn't a national tragedy or anything, but it is indicative of the odd lack of support Thai film seems to enjoy in Thailand. Hong Kong's heyday saw Hong Kong Chinese in love with their own cinema, and Korea's explosive growth internationally in the past 5 years has been a national project. But Thailand can't seem to develop a coherent approach towards its own films.

I find this bit of news about the World Film Fest not having much in the way of Thai films sad when you think about the Bangkok Film Festival which isn't taken seriously (or programmed that seriously) but anyone.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Sep 21, 2005 5:56:31 AM

Indeed, the focus of the "World" film fest seems to be the world outside Thailand. It also seeks to be a lower-key affair than the Bangkok International fest, which has become increasingly bloated over the past couple of years.

Just some background -- The Nation has organized film festivals before. For a few years, it backed the plain old Bangkok Film Festival but its higher-ups clashed with the government higher ups in the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which has gone on to hire the LA firm to put together what's now known as the Bangkok International Film Festival.

There was also an independent Bangkok Film Festival, making for a third festival, but that's another story.

So The Nation now puts together its own festival. I have to work alongside these guys and I think they are doing the best they can under the circumstances.

I'm not sure what the disconnect is with the Film Office, though I thought the Film Office had more to do with attracting foreign productions to make movies in Thailand. It doesn't exist to support Thai film, only to draw in foreign investment.

Living in Bangkok, I'm tickled to have two "major" film festivals to look forward to each year, though I'll again voice my disappointment over the curtailment of Thai films on this year's program at the World fest.

Last year and the year before the festival had Khun Dome from the National Film Archive dust off and restore one of his little-seen classic Thai films for a screening on a "Thai night", with live music performances, a talk show, food and the film. A good time that'll be missed this year.

Posted by: Wise Kwai | Sep 21, 2005 7:40:45 AM

I didn't particularly look into it, since I know of nobody in the Thai film industry save a few classmates of mine who went back to Thailand. If the Film Office's primary job is to attract investors and pursue relations with foreign film studios (which makes sense since it is, as Wise Kwai mentioned, a division of the Tourism Authority), then it begs the question: Who IS supporting Thai films, at least in a promotional sense? Companies like Sahamongkol and Baa-Ram-Ewe seem to dominate the big releases, which guarantees Thai people will go see them, but after that.....nothing. Again; Thai people do like Thai movies, but what job does the government have, if any, in promoting Thai movies outside of the government? Does anybody do it at all?

Posted by: FiveVenoms | Sep 21, 2005 3:24:49 PM

I'm disappointed to hear that this is all such a mess. I had hoped this would turn out to be a properly independent festival - I guess 'Thailand's Independent Newspaper' isn't so independent after all. It's also disheartening to see that T.A.T. has got its claws into this festival too after making such an arse of the BKKIFF.

Regarding Thai Night, I wrote at length in the Bangkok Post about Khun Dome's latest restoration project with the Technicolor lab, so unless Dome already has an arrangement with BKKIFF or someone else to screen those two films, this is a real missed oppportunity.

As for the promotion of Thai films, there is no one to do it - money talks, simple as that. So in practice everything is dominated by Sahamongkol who have the most cash. (Baa-Ram-Ewe is actually a department of Sahamongkol, not a separate company.) They make the most films, hog all the screens, and they even dominate the distribution of foreign films in Thailand. A lot of the responsibility for promoting Thai films overseas has been assumed by clumsily-named Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, but it just so happens that the head of the Federation is the CEO of ... Sahamongkol. It's hard to see how this could ever work as he is unlikely to be very interested in ensuring that other companies films earn a high profiles overseas. Similarly, the Federation has far too much influence over the selection of Thai films for the BKKIFF.

Admittedly the film companies presumably want to retain as much control over their own marketing as possible, rather than delegate to some official body, but even their supposed experts don't always get it right - there have been quite a few botched marketing campaigns this year, including the year's two best films, The Tin Mine and Wai Onlawon 4.

But, on a more optimistic note, I do encourage anyone in BKK to go and see the World Film Fest's Tsunami shorts project which includes contribution from many of the brightest talents in Thailand (Apichatpong, Thunska Pansittiworakul, Pimpaka Towira, etc).

Posted by: Rob | Sep 22, 2005 2:49:03 AM

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