Sunday, September 20, 2009

[9th Asian Film Symposium] S-Express: Thailand

Curated by Sanchai Chotirosseranee, I had enjoyed this session tremendously, and being my first (Yes I believe so!) S-Express: Thailand session, I will definitely be looking forward to future installments, as the Thai short film scene, if this selection is of any indication, is something that's really vibrant. I wonder how much I have missed out on already.

Man and Gravity - Jakrawal Nilthamrong
2009 / 11min / Thailand / RATINGS TBA

We follow a man on a tricycle moving around the city before hitting some really picturesque landscapes, and harsh terrains on the road less travelled. You'd come to think he has all his world possessions packed into the vehicle, and is probably on his way uprooting himself into a new environment, and that is if he could get there in the first place, his mode of transport being no match for what Nature has in store for him.

It's akin to carrying all your burdens with you, and the failure of letting some go. We stubbornly refuse to budge when we hit a pothole, or when the terrain is bumpy and is pretty much going against us, challenging us to some uphill battle. The film reminds us, in a somewhat comical, cyclic way of how we fail to pay heed to history and the reluctance to lighten our load. And when we do seem to have mastered and overcome our difficult, Nature has its own way of reminding us that she has the upper hand. Wonderful ending, this.

Abtakon - Thawatpong Tangsajjapoj
2008 / 4min / Thailand / RATINGS TBA

It's always a treat to have an animated piece programmed, and it's a bit unfortunate that I had to miss the lot which were programmed by Maggie Lee for S-Express: Chinese. Nonetheless this short, while actually a music video and came without English subtitles, again demonstrates that a story universal in theme, allows just about anyone to enjoy it, through its clean cut, cutely designed graphics, and wonderful song (granted I have little inkling what the singer's singing about).

You'll find yourself hard pressed not to be charmed by a girl-likes-boy story, which society dictates that making the first move is unladylike. Gushing at her crush over brewing a cup of coffee for him, there's plenty of comedy here, especially with that little twist in the end. Next time I head inside any coffee place I'll be keeping an eye on the barista, for good measure ;-)

Red Man - Nattaphong Homchuen
2009 / 8min / Thailand / RATINGS TBA

With the current political landscape in Thailand right now, this film definitely drummed up my interest in seeing how a situation so obtuse and complex could be interpreted on film. And it's a pretty amazing result with how one can portray it with such deft finesse complete with humour to get its message across.

On the surface, a man, because his yellow shirt is still stuck in the laundry, had to make do with a red one when he turns up for work on a Monday. Naturally being the odd one out, he feels enough heat and got flak from peer pressure to want to make a switch so as to avoid trouble and being marked by the boss. Then again, one cannot please everyone in every situation, as he would soon find out.

It's a statement on the current state of affairs of course, but done so with humour, yet never selling itself short in making its points heard. It comes with countless of political allegories such as the political support base in the city, and themes such as conformance come into the picture as well. Little details in the film also seem to suggest that the allegiance could be bought, and changes can be done almost on the fly since the right thing to do is to have elements from both factions handy to go with the flow. One very smart short film.

Français - Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
2009 / 30min / Thailand / RATINGS TBA

Told in 2 distinct acts with different character focus, this short follows a blind college girl at the beginning, where we share in her predicament in preparing for an exam, with a key source textbook she had submitted for translation into Braille never making it back. Since the exams is the very next day, panic sets in as she visits the library and requests for help, only to be turned away with indifference, and a shrug of tough luck.

The second half continues in her desperation to try and salvage the situation, having begged and aggressively rationalizing with her roommate to junk her plans for the hottest concert in town, and make a trek across campus, just to help her revise. And you know desperation when you have a thick book to go through, with your helper neither an expert in the subject matter, nor can understand the material in the first place other than to phonetically read them off. Kudos to the friend who actually tried and not give up, skeptical she may be on the effectiveness of it all, and the resulting well placed humour throughout.

The story telling craft here was superbly done, inspired by a true story even. It tangents from the usual "pitiful" stories about the disadvantaged, though in this story we see her almost as an equal in her independence (after all, making it to the university is no mean feat), and aside from the disability, shares the same strengths and weaknesses like any other, cursing someone for not being able to help, and quite selfishly manipulative when the situation called for it. While I had to rely on the subtitles, the emotions that the actresses bring out through their performance more than sufficiently make up for any possibility of anything being lost in translation.

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