Thai movies ride the Euro circuit

A number of our home-grown feature, short and classic films are being screened at European film festivals commencing this week

A scene from Motel Mist.

The new year starts with a slate of new Thai films -- and some older ones -- which are already making rounds at the European film festival circuit which began this week.

First we go to the International Film Festival Rotterdam, which began on Wednesday and runs until Feb 7. The cold grey sky of the Dutch port city has always embraced Thai filmmakers and this year the harvest is rich. In the Tiger Competition (for first or second feature films), the festival picks Rong Ram Tang Dao (Motel Mist), the directorial debut of writer Prabda Yoon. The film takes place in a love motel upon which mysterious, kinky powers exert their influences and the lives of the characters -- a predatory man, his young prey, a motel staffer and a man who believes aliens are coming to get him -- merge and clash in a strange way.

Prabda is one of Thailand's best known writers and publishers. He wrote screenplays in the 2000s and his first project as a director seems to revel in the kind of eccentricity that has made his books popular. Motel Mist will be released in Thailand later this year.

Rotterdam will also screen two Thai films that made their debut last year: Pimpaka Towira's The Island Funeral, about a woman's journey to the Deep South; and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery Of Splendour, a 2015 critics' favourite. Besides that, the festival known for championing young filmmakers will screen four short films.

Perhaps the most expected is Painting With History In A Room Filled With People With Funny Names, a work by installation artist Korakrit Arunanodchai. To round off, the other three Thai short films in the programme are Fat Boy Never Slim by Sorayos Prapapan, Ghost Rabbit & The Casket Sales by Arnont Nongyao and The Asylum by Prapat Jiwarangsan.

Moving on to Göteberg Film Festival, which began on Saturday. The festival in this cold Swedish city will screen The Island Funeral, which seems to be doing quite well in the festival circuit, and again Cemetery Of Splendour.

Then we have Vesoul International Festival of Asian Cinema, held in the French town of Vesoul. This year the festival hosts a special "Forgotten Masters of Thai Cinema Programme", which looks at some of the important films in Thai cinema history: Sunh Vasudhar and Pridi Banomyong's King Of The White Elephants (1940); RD Pestonji's Country Hotel (1957); the social realist classic Tong Pan (1977); MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's Citizen I (1977); an existential noir A Tow In Fog by Permpol Cheyaroon (1978); Euthana Mukdasanit's The Angel Of Bar 21 (1978); Vijit Kunawut's Son Of The Northeast (1979) and many more. That the festival put together a programme dedicated to old Thai titles -- "The Forgotten Masters" being not entirely accurate though, since these are names we celebrate -- shows there is enthusiasm for our far-flung cinematic culture.

But of course the biggest film event of February will be the Berlin International Film Festival, considered one of the four major tournaments. This year, no Thai feature films have been picked to join the prestigious gathering -- though one short film is: Pimpaka Towira's Prelude To The General, a nearly wordless visual sketch about a young woman and an old masseuse. The film is Pimpaka's pilot project, a warm-up or a prelude to her feature-length film The General's Secret, which will go into production later this year.

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