Japanese audiences welcome the Thai films shown at the recent Asian Film Festival
One of the most exciting celluloid happenings in Japan, the 12th edition of the Osaka Asian Film Festival wrapped last weekend after screening 58 films from all over Asia. Thai films were very much in the spotlight this year as, in addition to the competition section, the festival also programmed five Thai films in a special section celebrating the 130th anniversary of Japan and Thai diplomatic relations.
And that spotlight shone even brighter on Saturday when Anocha Suwichakornpong’s “Dao Khanong” (“By the Time It Gets Dark”), which recently picked up the Best Picture and Best Director prizes from the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand Awards, won a Special Mention Award from the international jury, which included such film notables as Malaysian director Ho Yu-Hang (“At the End of Daybreak”) and Filipino producer Monster Jimenez (“Apocalypse Child”). The main prize of the festival went to “Mad World”, an independent film from Hong Kong by Wong Chun, which stars Shawn Yue and Eric Tsang, while Derak Tsang won the ABC Award for his drama “Soul Mate”.
“I learnt about the award after I arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport,” Anocha told from Bangkok, adding that previous commitments forced her to leave Osaka before the award ceremony. “I’d like to thank the festival and the jury members. I didn’t expect to win anything, as my film is of the type on which audiences are divided, so I am happy that it won the award.”
“This was my first time in Osaka and I really enjoyed the festival. The organisers took good care of me, and the audience there was really nice and polite too. I’ve attended some festivals where audience members leave in the middle of the film, but viewers in Osaka watched until the end and asked good questions,” Anocha said.
“We want to introduce independent films, and ‘By the Time It Gets Dark’ is a very unique film. Normally I programme films that I know the local audience will appreciate, but I also don’t want to draw a line between mainstream and arthouse films, which is why I selected her movie,” says Teruoka Sozo, programme director of Osaka Asian Film Festival. The former programming director of Tokyo International Film Festival, Sozo joined the Osaka Asian Film Festival in 2009, and has selected several Thai films for Japanese festivals over the years.
“I was the first programmer to invite a GTH film to Japan,” says Sozo. “I was working for the Asian Marine Film Festival in Makuhari, Chiba prefecture back then. GTH had produced ‘Hormones’, which stars Chantavit Dhanasevi, and I selected the film. I still remember its director Songyos Sugmakanan asking me how I had discovered the film as it hadn’t been shown outside Thailand. I told him I found it on YouTube. Before that, for the Tokyo International Film Festival, I had invited ‘My Girl’, which had already been bought by a Japanese distributor. I also remember that I invited Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Michael Shaowanasai for ‘The Adventures of Iron Pussy’. The film was made for Thailand only and negotiations were difficult as they told me they didn’t have plans to subtitle the film. I had to push them hard so the film could have its world premiere in Tokyo. Other than ‘Iron Pussy’, I was never able to invite a film by Apichatpong again as most of the films are bought by Japanese distributors.”
Since joining the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Sozo has brought many Thai films to the Japanese audience and was delighted with the inclusion this year of the special Thai film programme. One of the highlights was the Japan premiere of GDH’s “Fanday ... Fan Kun Khae Wan Diaw” (“One Day”), which was selected for the competition section, and was also shown at the Thai Night, a special event supported by the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Osaka and the Thailand Foundation. Director Banjong Pisanthanakun flew into Osaka for the screening along with its stars Chantavit Dhanasevi and Nittha Jirayungyurn, the latter earning particular praise from the audience in Osaka.
“We invited ‘Hello Stranger’ in 2011, and Banjong won the Most Promising Talent Award. After he made ‘Pee Mak’, he became hot property, so we were interested in screening ‘One Day’,” Sozo comments. Though it didn’t win any prizes, ‘One Day’ attracted plenty of attention from the Japanese audience.
Another film from GDH shown in the festival this year was ‘A Gift’, an omnibus based on His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s compositions. Two of the directors, Chayanop Boonprakob and Kriangkrai Vachiratamporn, came to Osaka to present the film.
“Four or five years ago, we had a special programme to celebrate the seventh anniversary of GTH. At that time they had put out “Seven Something”, and we screened it. We have worked with GTH for a long time and we have good relationship with them. ‘A Gift’ is like ‘Seven Something’. It is very much a GTH film. The film may not be suitable for competition as it is an anthology but we wanted to show it,” Sozo says.
Also screened as part of the special programme was ‘The Seed’ by Bhandit Rittakol. This 1987 film tells the story of a farming family, their struggle in fighting the drought and their faith in King Bhumibol Adulyadej. “The Seed has been digitally remastered. Five Star sent the film to me and I think it’s beautiful,” Sozo says.
The last film in the section was ‘Suddenly 20’, the remake of South Korean box-office hit ‘Miss Granny’, which rights holder CJ Entertainment has been producing in local versions across Asia including in Japan and China. In 2015, ‘Sweet 20’, the Vietnamese remake of the film became a box office hit and was screened at Osaka Asian Film Festival.
“The Vietnamese version proved really popular with our audience. After the festival, the Japan branch of CJ Entertainment decided to release the film in Japan. Now Thailand has made the film, so we were interested in showing it,” says Sozo, adding that its director Araya Sooriharn was in town for the post-screening Q&A.