Source - Bangkok Post (Eng)

Friday, September 26, 2008  07:09


The new venue has proved to be a hit. When the 12th Thai Short Film and Video Festival decided to host its two-week-long event (motto: "longer, meatier, queerer") at the newly unveiled Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, observers wondered whether the near-deserted building, with its Guggenheim-inspired layout would draw in enough attendees. Such suspicion was moot: in terms of audience participation, this is the most successful episode of the Short Fest, with regulars mingling with newcomers and accidental fans at several packed screenings.Two big winners in this year's competition are not newbies. Chulayarnnon Siriphol won the White Elephant Award for students' films with his anti-thesis, anti-academia, anti-climax Pai Klai Tua (or Danger Zone: Director's Cut); Chulayarnnon is a veteran of this festival, having won smaller kudos in the past years. Meanwhile, the winner of the Ratana Pestonji Award for the general public is Tanwarin Sukapisith, who made a sharp 3-minute short, I'm Fine Sabai Dee Ka, that stings like a little queen bee. Tanwarin, too, has participated in the festival for several years and has established himself as a diligent short-maker with a personal style.

I wrote of Chulayarnnon's earlier film, Hua Lam Phong, in 2004 when he won a Special White Elephant Award for high-school students: "this fly-on-the-wall documentary is an ingenuous work of a keen-eyed storyteller." And I wrote of his film, Sleeping Beauty, in 2006 : "the movie is full of melancholic moments of Ozu-like simplicity... Chulayarnnon didn't make his movie according to any film-school textbooks."

This last comment turns out to be prophetic. Chulayarnnon has just graduated from the film department of King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Lad Krabang, and whatever creative dissent he's bottled up through the years of having to deal with his authoritative faculty was re-directed into Danger Zone: Director's Cut. In a witty deconstructive take a la neo-Dadaism, Chulayarnnon deliberately re-edited his thesis film into a new reincarnation that his teachers would never approve in a million semesters. Nonchalantly this "director's cut" defies the basic rules of classic narrative, of tension and climax, of textbook filmmaking. The result is cathartic and amusing, defiant and self-mocking.

With deadpan brilliance, Chulayarnnon then inserted his professors' comments  -  all of which criticised his thesis  -  into key moments of the film. Danger Zone basically tells the story of a murder in an apartment. But at crucial plot points, he interrupts the story with his teachers' text arguing against his choice of style, framing, editing, camera angles, etc. The feeling is that of watching a movie that's not supposed to be  -  the self-anti-cinema  -  yet at a more profound level the film functions as a statement about creative freedom and a rumination on the potential pitfalls of formal academic training on art.

Also meant as nothing if not a statement is Tanwarin's I'm Fine Sabai Dee Ka, the short that delivers its sour punch at our softest spots in this time of political, social and artistic melee. Tanwarin, a homosexual, revels the chance to integrate himself into the element of his movies and in this award-winning short he is both the creator and the creation, the perpetrator as well as the victim. In short, he speaks for us all.

In the movie, shot with the Democracy Monument in the background, Tanwarin locks himself up in a steel chicken cage. In the spirit of a performance artist, he looks unperturbed by his public incarceration. Then we hear the voices, supposedly of reporters, asking him questions. "Aren't you hot?" No, he replies. "Aren't you uncomfortable?" Not really. Tanwarin sweats and shifts around in his cramped, inhuman compound. "Do you want to come out?" No, he said. "Why not?" the reporter persists. Then comes Tanwarin's punch line, delivered not with defiant conviction but with resigned necessity. "I'm fine, I'm Thai."

As of now, the two films have no future screening schedule. But I'm sure they will turn up at some movie events, which I'll keep you posted about.