Missing Picture, Berkeley premiere at Salaya Doc | Bangkok Post: lifestyle

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Missing Picture, Berkeley premiere at Salaya Doc

4th International Documentary Film Festival has a few treats in store

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It’s funny and sad that some Thai academics are still embroiled in a debate about whether documentary film is film. Funny, because it is. Sad, because Cambodia, whose film industry and film schools are struggling hard to regain their cultural significance, has a documentary film that won a prize in Cannes and was nominated for the latest Oscars — in the foreign language category where it competed with four other fiction films. That film, The Missing Picture, will finally have a Thailand premier at the “4th Salaya International Documentary Film Festival”, a cine-event that has consistently gained ground and reinforced the importance of documentary filmmaking as art and as a social statement. 

Behind The Screen from Myanmar.

Hosted by the Thai Film Foundation, Salaya Doc will take place from Mar 22 to 30 at the Thai Film Archive’s auditorium in Salaya and at the screening room at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) in Pathumwan.

The festival has a competition section that features new documentary films from Southeast Asia, and these capture the woes, quirks and changes our lively region is experiencing. Complementing those are international documentary films from many countries. The opening film on Mar 22, however, is At Berkeley, a four-hour campus epic by Frederick Wiseman, regarded as one of the world’s best documentary filmmakers at work today. The closing film on Mar 29 is the much-awaited The Songs Of Rice, a rapturous record of Thailand’s rice culture by Uruphong Raksasat.

All screenings are free of charge. We pick some of the highlights here. Go to www.facebook.com/SalayaDoc for the full schedule.

At Berkeley
(Mar 22, 1pm at Film Archive; Mar 25, 4.30pm at BACC)

The 224-minute film by 83-year-old Frederick Wiseman takes a look inside the scholarly life at the University of California at Berkeley, one of the world’s top intellectual enclaves. The film is a probe into the inner workings of academia, featuring interviews with people from deans to freshmen.

The Missing Picture
(Mar 29, 3pm at Film Archive; Mar 30, 7pm at BACC)

This Cambodian film by Rithy Panh is an autobiographical story of the director as he grew up in the Khmer Rouge era. Mixing voice-over, photographs, footage of propaganda films and recreated scenes with clay figurines, this doc is also a contemplation on the power of image and film on how we remember history. Expect packed screenings.

The Songs Of Rice
(Mar 29, 6pm at Film Archive)

This Thai non-narrative documentary by Uruphong Raksasat plays out like a bucolic poem about the spiritual and cultural treasure of rice. The director, a son of farmers, travelled around the country to record ceremonies and festivities that show rice at the centre of the Thai existence.

To Singapore With Love
(Mar 23, 5pm at Film Archive; Mar 28, 7pm at BACC)

Tan Pin Pin’s documentary talks to exiled Singaporeans — activists, journalists, politicians — who left the country in the 1960s and 70s.

Behind The Screen
(Mar 23, 1pm at Film Archive; Mar 26, 6.45pm at BACC)

This short documentary by Aung Nwai Htway is where cinema intersects life. The director is a son of Myanmar’s great screen legends, Daw San San Aye and U Yin Htway, and here he uses footage of the films they starred in together back in the 1960s and newly shot interviews to tell a startling story of how life imitates art, or vice versa.

Red Wedding
(Mar 23, 1pm at Film Archive; Mar 26, 6.45pm at BACC)

From Cambodia, this documentary film tells the story of Sochan, a woman who was forced to marry the Khmer Rouge soldier who raped her. Sochan takes the case to the international tribunal, and her story opens up the horror of forced marriage of 250,000 women during the Khmer Rouge era. Directed by Linda Chan and Guillaune Suon.

Pretty Woman Walking Down The Street
(Mar 23, 1pm at Film Archive; Mar 26, 6.45pm at BACC)

Directed by Wichanon Somumjarn, this Thai doc looks at the life of an Isan girl who comes to live and work in Bangkok as a “pretty” — a scantily clad girl plugging alcoholic beverages.

Soundtrack For A Revolution
(Mar 27, 5.30pm at Film Archive; Mar 29, 1pm at BACC)

Every revolution has its songs. This documentary by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman looks at the American Civil Rights Movement and the black singers that provided a heartfelt and powerful soundtrack to their struggles.

Moving To Mars
(Mar 28, 5.30pm at BACC)

Directed by Matt Whitecross, the film follows two refugee families from Myanmar who are forced to leave their homes to stay at a Thai camp, before being relocated to Sheffield, England, where it feels like another planet.

Director in Focus: Kazuhiro Soda

Salaya Doc will screen two films by the 43-year-old Japanese director well-known for his observational style. Soda has made several documentary films on subjects from mental illness to cats and disabled people. The festival will show two of his films that deal with the election process.

Campaign 1 (Mar 24, 5.30pm at Film Archive; Mar 30 at BACC) was made in 2007 and tells the story of a candidate with no political experience and no charisma who runs for a seat with the backing of Liberal Democratic Party in Kawasaki, and the battle to find the meaning of “democracy” becomes the undercurrent of the film.

Campaign 2 (Mar 25, 5.30pm at Film Archive; Mar 30, 12.45pm at BACC) is a 2013 film that tells the story of the same candidate from Campaign 1. This time he has no money and runs with an anti-nuclear message in response to the Fukushima disaster.

At Berkeley, the opening film of the 4th Salaya Documentary International Film Festival.

The Missing Picture, Cambodia's Oscar-nominated documentary.

Moving To Mars, about Myanmar families in England.

The Songs Of Rice, a Thai documentary about rice culture.

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