Jakrawal revives porn cinema to "un-vanish" his first feature

Art October 20, 2015 01:00

By The Nation
email: ntsoopsip@g

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Independent moviemaker and artist Jakrawal Nilthamrong's "Vanishing Point", his debut fiction feature, had its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in January - and won the Hivos Tiger Award.



That was just the first of many accolades and impressive trophies the picture has earned as it’s made the rounds on the festival circuit.
It’s been a long wait for Thai film buffs, but “Vanishing Point” has finally un-vanished, and Jakrawal wanted to make a “point”. For its premiere in his homeland, he chose the Laem Thong Theatre on Rama IV Road, one of Bangkok’s off-the-radar porn cinemas. It’s not that he’s into porn (any more than the rest of us) – he just wanted to make a statement about the need to preserve the country’s old-fashioned stand-alone theatres, which have fallen like flies to the advancing armies of malls, condos and the multi-screen cinema chains.
Known for his experimentation in the medium, Jakrawal rolled out of Silpakorn University with a fine-arts degree and then enrolled into the School of the Chicago Art Institute. His pedigree was good enough to get 300 fans into the Laem Thong last Friday, everyone carefully checking the seats first for sticky substances.
The event, pre-screening, was more like viewing site-specific installation art. In fact, there was installation art in one corner of the lobby – a car windshield hanging from the ceiling in dim red light. The red light must have been the tip-off. And Jakrawal had actual porn films playing, juxtaposed with footage from “Vanishing Point”.
So it was a weird and wonderful atmosphere, the art crowd loitering in the lobby and out front and trying not to look at the porn. Dirty movies and oddball art notwithstanding, it was reminiscent of the lively scenes at movie houses 50 years ago.
“I’d been searching the B-grade movie theatres around Bangkok for over a month and finally ended up at the Laem Thong,” Jakrawal told Soopsip. Having chosen the locale, he had to refurbish the place, and it took a lot of time and money. “We spent over a month preparing for this one-night premiere. We had to clean the cinema, rent air-conditioners and specially install a Digital Cinema Package equivalent to a 35mm film print, the same standard for multiplex cinemas,” he said, thanking the Numthong Gallery and Jim Thompson Art Centre for pitching in.
Friday’s show was actually a great double bill. Before “Vanishing Point”, the audience also got to see “Ferris Wheel”, a 20-minute flick by Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, also making its Thai premiere, fresh from the Busan film fest. It’s about a migrant-worker mother and her son attending a rural carnival and encountering a creepy stranger in a monkey costume. (Sounds like a lot of khon productions we’ve seen.) Phuttiphong happens to be the cinematographer on “Vanishing Point”, too.
For his big first feature, Jakrawal drew inspiration from a car accident his parents were involved in and the newspaper picture of the crash scene he grew up staring at. He always wondered how his life might have been different minus that accident. The movie entails memories, love, lust and Buddhism.
Anyone who missed the premiere can watch “Vanishing Point” at SFW CentralWorld (yes, the multi-screen cinema chain) this Thursday and, up North, at SFX Maya Chiang Mai on November 5.