The GermanThai romance “Patong Girl” comes to cinemas next week
Fresh from its win of the Grimme Prize in Germany, the sweet cross-cultural romance “Patong Girl” comes to Thailand’s SF cinemas next week.
Directed by Susanna Salonen, a veteran cinematographer and director making her feature debut, the comedy-drama follows a dysfunctional German family as they go on one last vacation together before their youngest son heads off to college.
Roped into what turns out to be a dodgy holiday package in Phuket’s nightlife centre Patong, the shy, sensitive teenage Felix, played by Max Mauff, begins a fling with a local lass named Fai, and is head-over-heels without knowing, that, shocker, the enchanting young woman’s ID card has a “Mr” before her name.
Meanwhile, Max’s mum, portrayed by seasoned film and television actress Victoria Trauttmansdorff, wants to have an adventure of her own, and she abruptly ditches the other Schroeders at the airport and goes off in search of her son. She instead finds herself.
The film boasts strong performances, especially from the newcomer transgender actress who portrays Fai, Aisawanya “Amp” Areyawattana, who flew to Germany last week to accept the prestigious Grimme Prize in a nationally televised ceremony.
Director Salonen was there too, and she took time out to answer a few questions by e-mail.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR “PATONG GIRL”?
I taught scuba diving for a season in Phuket in the ’90s; also for awhile in Koh Samui.
Holiday destinations are interesting places because you get people from all over the world. The holiday-makers come from different cultures, different religions, different world views and different walks of life. And when they get to a place like Phuket, they are full of expectations. And these high expectations quite often don’t mix too well with the reality. A holiday destination is inherently a comedy. And I love playing with cultural cliches.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TELL A TRANSGENDER STORY SET IN THAILAND?
In Europe, there has never been any other cultural concept with regard to gender other than male/female. Thailand is quite different in that respect. And I really like that. Travel broadens the mind, as the saying goes. So our German film family does really get some mind-broadening travel experience.
Also, we Europeans will always see a very beautiful lady when we look at Aisawanya Areyawattana. We will never see anything other than that. She really is a transgender poster girl.
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH A THAI FILM PRODUCTION COMPANY?
They are great. The German crew loved the super-professional and super-friendly Thai crew.
WERE THERE THINGS YOU THOUGHT WOULD BE DIFFICULT THAT WERE IN FACT MADE QUITE EASY, OR MAYBE THE OTHER WAY AROUND?
Film censorship is an alien concept in Germany. So, I was worried about film censorship in Thailand. In the end, we did not have any major issues with it, but I think freedom of expression in film is a value in itself.
WHAT’S THE MESSAGE YOU HOPE THE AUDIENCE WILL TAKE AWAY AFTER WATCHING “PATONG GIRL”?
In the end, the movie is a propaganda film for tolerance and broad-mindedness.
Location, location, location
Sharp-eyed viewers might notice that “Patong Girl” isn’t actually taking place in Phuket.
Though drawn from director Susanna Salonen’s experience as a diving instructor on the Andaman island, “Patong Girl” was actually shot on location around Pattaya and the Eastern Seaboard, with help from Bangkok-based production-services company DeWarrenne Pictures, run by co-producer Tom Waller. That’s the company that has been behind many other noteworthy Thai-foreigner romance films, including “Butterfly Man” and “Soi Cowboy”.
The decision to have Pattaya stand in for its rival destination further south came down to the budget and logistics, says Salonen.
“We were a production with a tiny budget. Every single baht counted. So Pattaya was an obvious choice, simply because it’s only a short drive from Bangkok.”
Happily, Patong will get its chance to be in the spotlight when the film has its gala premiere on Monday at the SFX Cinema Jungceylon, just a stone’s throw from the beach and the Andaman waters.
JUST A GIRL
- “Patong Girl” opens on Thursday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, SFX Maya Chiang Mai, SFX Pattaya Beach and SFX Jungceylon, Phuket.
- For clips and other details, check www.Patong-Girl.com or www.Facebook.com/PatongGirlMovie.