A look ahead at what’s in store for Thai film fans in 2018
While most Thai movies failed to rake in the profits in 2017, it would be unfair to call it a bad year for the industry. Hope of regaining our position on the regional stage came with the international success of the GDH film “Chalard Games Gong” (“Bad Genius”), which not only wowed our neighbours in Asean but won the hearts of moviegoers in the notoriously tough Chinese market, grossing Bt1.13 billion in box office takings.
A clever caper centred on a group of straight-A students who dream up a scheme to cheat in the international exam by using different time zones, picked up Bt112.5 million at the local box office, making it the highest scorer of the year.
Two other movies also proved successful at home – “Mr Hurt” and “Som Phak Sian” – both of which earned more than Bt100 million. The former gave new hope to indie studio Transformation after a series of flops, leading the company to announce four new movie projects. The first of these, “Premika Paa Rab”, hit cinemas yesterday.
In another first for Thai cinema, Thanwarin Sukhaphisit’s 2010 drama “Insects In the Backyard” finally opened at a mainstream cinema. Banned under the provisions of the 2008 Film Act for its subject matter – two teenagers being raised by their transvestite father – Thanwarin battled in the courts for seven years to get the ban lifted.
It wasn’t a very good year for veteran producer Visute Poolvoralaks, who walked away from GTH to set up his own company T Moment. His debut release, the comedy “Oversize Talai Phung”, failed to stir up much excitement and left the big screen even more quietly than when it arrived. The studios other projects seem to be on hold but movie buffs will be hoping this changes in 2018.
And speaking of 2018, the programme for the year is all set to kick off with the animation “9 Satra” (“The Legend of Muay Thai”), a strange blend of computer game, movie and animation that combines Thai kick boxing with action fantasy. It centres on a lad trained in muay thai who takes the powerful weapon known as 9 Satra to the prince in order to protect their land and take down a monster. Film fans are already speculating whether a local anime can complete with topstandard animations from Hollywood and Japan.
Also coming up next month is “Rak Kham Luad” by veteran TV drama director Marut Sarowat. It’s about a transvestite showgirl who wants a perfect family like other women.
February will see the homecoming of two Thai movies that have been earning rave reviews and accolades from international festivals. First up is Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s long-awaited opus “Samui Song”, which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival. Being released here as “Mai Me Samui Samrab Ther”, it tells the story of Viyada (Chermarn Boonyasak), a famous actress who is married to Jerome (Stephane Sednaoui), a devout disciple of a strange cult led by “The Holy One” (Vithaya Pansringarm). When Viyada decides she can no longer stay in her marriage, she hires Guy (David Asavanond), a mysterious man with a sick mother to kill him. From there the story takes several strange turns, but the thrust, according to Pen-ek, is an examination of the identity of women in Thai society.
Also opening in February is “Malila” (“The Farewell Flower”), Anucha Boonyawatana’s award-winning film that won her Best Director at the Singapore International Film Festival and Best Film at the Busan International and Golden Horse festivals.
The film, which opens on February 15, has Sukollawat Kanaros and Anuchyd Sapanphong in the roles of Shane and the terminally ill Pitch, two men reunited after years apart. The second part of the film focuses on Shane’s spiritual redemption through Buddhism.
Another Thai filmmaker flying high on international circuit is cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, who is winning media attention for his work on the hit gay drama “Call Me By Your Name”. Already nominated for best cinematography at the Independent Spirit Awards and likely to earn more nods as awards season marches on, Sayombhu worked with Apichatphong Weerasethakhul on several of his full-length features including his debut “Dokfah Nai Mue Man” (“Mysterious Object at Noon”) and “Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Life”, which won the Palme d’Or from the Cannes Film Festival. He was also behind the camera for Kongdej Jaturanrasame’s “Cherm” (“Midnight My Love”).
Known for his refusal to shoot movies in digital format, he has moved on to international productions including the Portuguese-French outing “Arabian Nights”.
Next year he will return to work on the Thai film “Nakhee 2”, a sequel to the hit TV drama of the same name. Phongpat Wachirabanjong, who directed the TV series and who worked with Sayombhu on “Me Myself” and “Happy Birthday”, is back at the helm for “Nakhee 2”.
The movie version replaces the TV protagonists Nattaporn Temeeruka and Phupoom “Ken” Phongpanu with Nadech Kugimiya and Urassaya “Yaya” Sperbund – a couple in real life too – but fans of the drama are casting doubt whether the pair can pull it off.
“Nakhee 2” won’t be the only challenge TV actress Yaya is facing in 2018. She is also slated to star in the GDH romantic comedy with the working title of “Brother & Sister”. Vithaya Thongyooyong directs and Sunny Suwanmethanont and Nichkhun Horvejkun of Korean boy band 2PM also star.
GDH apparently has another two movie projects in hand though no announcement has yet been made and Sahamongkol Film Company is likewise keeping mum, though it is almost certain that the sequel to the action fantasy “Khun Phan”, currently being filmed, will be in cinemas sometime in the next few months.
Poj Anon, one of Thailand’s most productive directors, put a brake on his projects after his latest film “Kad Krachak Grean” (“Zombie Fighters”) drew little interest.
In 2018, his first release will be “Luang Pee Jazz 5G”, a sequel to the successful 2016 outing “Luang Pee Jazz 4G”. But the film appears to have problems before it even comes out. The music video complete with clips from the movie were recently released and annoyed many people by showing footage of a mother and son whose bad behaviour after being stopped for a traffic violation went viral and annoyed everyone who saw it. The two are appearing in the film and this time will be seen haranguing a monk. Their inclusion has led to several people deciding to boycott the film and urging others to do the same.