There might not have been any Thai films in competition at the Tokyo International Film Festival but fans had plenty of local fare to enjoy including the documentary about idol group BNK48
After nine days of screening films from around the world, the 31st edition of Tokyo International Film Festival wrapped on Saturday with the presentation of the Tokyo Grand Prix to French film “Amanda” by Mikhael Hers, a film that also proved popular at the Venice Film Festival.
Danish film “Before the Frost” by Michael Noer, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year won the Special Jury Prize, while Italian film “The Vice of Hope” by Edoardo De Angelis, which was also screened at Toronto, went home with the Best Director award.
Actor Ralph Fiennes was recognised with the Best Artistic Contribution Award for his third effort as a director on “The White Crow”.
Although all the awards in the main competition section went to non-Asian films, screenings from this part of the world had a strong presence at the festival. Chinese female filmmaker Lina Wang’s “A First Farewell”, which received good reviews from critics, won the Best Asian Future Film Award, and “Wushu Orphan” by young Chinese director Huang Huang picked up The Spirit of Asia Award from the Japan Foundation Asia Centre.
No Thai titles made it into the competition but audiences did get to see three Thai films. Among them was the anthology "Ten Years Thailand" by Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnnon Siriphol and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. It screened in the World Focus section and received good feedback from the audience.
"Ten Years Thailand"
“The four directors of ‘Ten Years Thailand’ are very important in the industry and we were very excited to see them direct this omnibus. I remember seeing the world premiere of the film at the Cannes Film Festival and being impressed by the different touch each director brought to his episode, which made it very stimulating. What I found interesting is that “Ten Years Thailand” talks about politics, which is different from “Ten Years Japan”. It would be interesting to show the two films together here, but unfortunately, we didn’t have a spare slot to do so,” Yoshi Yatabe, the programming director of Tokyo International Film Festival, told The Nation.
None of the directors was free to attend the festival, so it fell to producer Cattleya Paosrijaroen to Tokyo to meet the audience and answer their questions. She indicated that “Ten Years Thailand” was expected to hit cinemas at home next month.
The Crosscut Asia programme, a special segment focusing on Southeast Asian cinema and put together by the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Japan Foundation Asia Centre, had at its theme “Soundtrip to Southeast Asia”. The programme, as the title suggests, presented films about music from many countries in Southeast Asia including two from Thailand – Vithaya Thongyuyong’s “Brother of the Year” and Nawapol Thamrongrattnarit’s documentary “BNK48: Girls Don’t Cry”.
“Brother of the Year”
“Both of the films in Crosscut Asia have strong subject matter that involves music and are attractive to viewers, hence our decision to select them,” said Kenji Ishizaka, Programming Director for Asian Future section and Crosscut Asia.
“In ‘BNK48: Girls Don’t Cry’, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit tells the story of an idol group, which is a shoot-off of a Japanese idol group, so we knew the Japanese audience would be interested in the film. ‘Brother of the Year’ has elements of Japanese culture, and also stars the K-pop idol Nichkun, so I was sure young people in Japan would enjoy this film,” Ishizaka added.
Vithaya, who came to Tokyo along with Sunny Suwanmethanont, who stars in the film, got straight to the point following the screening of “Brother of the Year”.
“Do any of you have a brother or sister?” he asked the audience. “I don’t think there are many films that tell stories about a brother and sister relationship. These relationships are special, as we can’t choose our siblings,” Vithaya told an enthusiastic audience.
Asked why he had written Jane – the sister who has to put up with her brother’s inefficiency, as someone who had studied in Japan, loves Japanese culture, marries a half Thai-half Japanese man working for a Japanese company, and eventually moves to Japan, Vithaya said his character had been influenced by her brother who loves Japanese manga, just like many young people in Thailand.
Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit attended the Q&A session of “BNK48: Girls Don’t Cry”, along with producer Pacharin Surawatanapongs.
“The girls are a lot younger than me, but that doesn’t mean that they know less than me. The experience they have gained from being a member of BNK48 was very new to me. I wanted the film to record Thai teenagers today,” Nawapol told his audience.
“The BNK48 Office assigned Nawapol to direct this documentary but they were happy to allow us to film the way we wanted. Their aim was to show how the girls had evolved over their first year as members, so we proposed getting close to the girls and learning their back stories.
“We made it clear we could only do the documentary if we agreed on what we were going to film. Luckily the BNK 48 Office was really open and allowed us to talk with any members in the way we want,” added producer Pacharin Surawatanapongs.
A large crowd turned out for the screening, among them Thais living in Japan, though apparently no one involved with AKB48, the “big sister” of the idol group franchise came to the show. “I heard that the BNK Office showed my film to the people behind AKB48, but they didn’t send me any comments,” Nawapol said. “I expected to see them at the screening but I am not sure if anyone came.”
Also presented in Tokyo was the special omnibus film “Asian Three-Fold Mirror 2018: Journey”, produced by the festival and the Japan Foundation Asia Centre and directed by Edwin (who goes by one name) from Indonesia, Degena Yun from China and Daishi Matsunaga from Japan.
Each director was asked to make a short film on the theme “journey”, with Edwin filming in Japan, and Matsunaga in Myanmar.
The film goes on general release this month in Japan and is expected to be screened in other parts of Asia at a later date.