Despite dealing with a quasi-taboo subject in German society, the Thai indie film “Die Tomorrow” receives a warm welcome from film fans
Since the 2018 edition of the Berlin International Film Festival kicked off a little more than a week ago, more than 400 films from around the world have been screened. The usual suspects – France, the US, the UK, Ireland, South Korea and, of course Germany – have all answered present and Thailand is there too, albeit with only one film in this year’s selection.
That movie is Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s “Die Tomorrow”. Released on November 23 in Thailand, it was still being screened in selected cinemas when it had its international premiere in the Forum section last Sunday.
“My film has already been released back home so showing it here is a real bonus,” Nawapol said after the international premiere.
“It’s good to show the film in Berlin because the festival attracts so many cinephiles.”
And indeed the venue, Zoopalast 2, was packed with film fans, among them the Thai ambassador to Germany Dr Dhiravat Bhumichitr.
“Die Tomorrow” is Nawapol’s fifth feature and sees him return to his indie roots after working with Thai studio GDH for the blockbuster “Heart Attack”. This film, as the title suggests, deals with death, a taboo subject in many cultures. “During my first Q&A session in Berlin, I was surprised to learn that death is a taboo subject for films in Germany too,” Nawapol told the audience following the second screening of the film in Berlin.
“I am from a Thai-Chinese family and in Chinese culture, death is taboo, as it is inauspicious to talk about it. My mother wanted to know why I was making a film called ‘Die Tomorrow’.”
Although Nawapol’s films are well known to international critics who are interested in Thai and Southeast Asian films, “Die Tomorrow” is the first of his movies to be selected by the festival. However, he is no stranger to the event, having been invited back in 2007 to attend the Berlin Talent Campus, a summit and networking platform for international filmmakers. Yet despite being one of the first Thai filmmakers to attend the programme, it took a long 11 years before he returned with his own film.
“I enjoyed the Talent Campus. I took classes and had some time for tourism,” Nawapol recalls of his first experience in Berlin, which was also the first time he had travelled to Europe.
“They asked participants to choose the classes we wanted to attend. There were many classes including discussing about filmmaking with Jia Zhangke,” he says of the event, which is known to feature many useful talk programmes for young filmmakers.
“There was one class that really influenced me, and that was the class on online movie promotion.”
Today filmmakers think nothing of using the social media to promote their work but 11 years ago, it was completely new and was a totally foreign concept to most Asian countries, Thailand included.
“The programme invited Arin Crumley and Susan Buice, directors of the film ‘Four Eyed Monster’, and Lance Weiler to be the mentors. All three had tried to promote their own films through the internet. The class convinced me that we could do the same thing. It changed my life,” Nawapol muses.
Nowhere was that change more obvious than in the promotion for “Die Tomorrow”. In 2017, Nawapol’s Facebook page had more than 190,000 followers, and because “Die Tomorrow” was a small, independent film, he looked no further than Facebook to market the film which, unusually for a Thai film at home, enjoyed a run of three months.
Other Thai filmmakers also visited Berlin back in 2007, though only one domestic production made it into the festival proper. That film was “Dorm” by Songyos Sugmakanan and it returned home with the Crystal Bear from the Generation section that year.
“I saw only one part of Berlin, which is the Berlin Talent Campus so I don’t know much if there have been many changes to the festival in the years that followed. The city itself hasn’t changed much. I remember I had the chance to see only two or three films including ‘Village People Radio Show’ by Amir Muhammad. I could only watch a few films as there was a limited quota for tickets.”
He is pleased with the feedback he received from the screenings of “Die Tomorrow” in Berlin.
“It is the first time I’ve been to a big film festival. I mean, I had a film in Venice earlier and Venice is also a big festival, but my film was in the Biennale College Cinema, which is the section that screens films in which the festival has invested. So you already know in advance that you’re film is going to be shown whereas for Berlin, my film was actually selected.”
“Die Tomorrow” is now all set to continue its journey outside Thailand, starting with the Osaka Asian Film Festival in March, where it will be in competition. It has also done well in the nominations for Thailand’s equivalent to the Oscars – the Subhanahongse Awards – with 12 nods in 11 categories including Best Director.