Indie movies "Tang Wong" and "Mary is Happy" triumph over the box-office leader "Pee Mak" at the Subhanahongsa awards.
Eyebrows were raised, albeit virtually, on the social networks yesterday after the announcements on Sunday night of the Subhanahongsa Awards, the Thai film industry’s biggest honours.
That’s because two indie films, “Tang Wong” and “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy” divvied up the top awards between them and returned to Bangkok with four wins apiece.
“Tang Wong” picked up Golden Swan trophies for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay for Kongdej Jaturanrasmee and Best Supporting Actor for its young star Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich.
The two young stars from “Mary Is Happy”, Patcha Poonpiriya and Chonnikan Netjui, won both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress while the movie also took home awards for editing and cinematography.
The awards, presented at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya, marked the introduction of a new judging system that was designed to reflect the opinions of those in the industry and the press along with those of the traditional jury.
Kongdej was delighted at his wins.
“Winning the award doesn’t have any effect in terms of money, but it takes indie films like ‘Tang Wong’ and ‘Mary Is Happy’ from the dark corner of the film industry,” he said.
Initially planned as a film about Thai culture and part of a project supported by the Culture Ministry, “Tang Wong” morphed during the screen-writing process into a satirical comedy drama reflecting the eroding state of Thai society and culture through the story of four teenage boys desperate to fulfil a vow they made to a spirit shrine in return for their wish being granted.
Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy”, meanwhile is a first-of-a-kind feature based on 410 consecutive tweets from a Bangkok schoolgirl. It was shot on an ultra-low budget as a project for the Venice Biennale College and premiered at last year’s Venice film festival.
Going into the awards, the leading nominee was “Pee Mak Phra Khanong”, which had nods in 13 of the 16 categories. The popular ghost romance by the GTH studio shattered records at the box office last year with estimated earnings for more than Bt1 billion. But when the night was over, “Pee Mak” only got one award – for art direction.
“Khoo Kam”, a World War II romantic drama released by studio M-Thirtynine around the same time as “Pee Mak” and was clobbered at the box office, fared better at the awards, picking up Best Actor for soap star Nadech Kugimiya as well as the prize for costume design.
“I think the awards reflect the fact that people are seeking a new flavour in Thai films and are pleased when a filmmaker has the courage to do something different. That’s the root common to all three films,” says Kongdej.
He adds though that it is much too early to truly judge the pros and cons of the new voting system.
“The intention is good but we’ve only just started. Lots more work needs to be done on refining and improving the process,” he says.
Visute Poolvoralaks, the president of the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand agrees, adding that the major problem with the new system is that those casting their votes in this first year hadn’t see all the films nominated for the 16 categories so preferred not to cast a vote.
However, he’s also quick to point out that this failure to vote didn’t affect the results as the decisions were evaluated on a percentage eventually though he admits he is disappointed in how the new system panned out.
In the first round, around 700 of around 1,500 eligible voters from the film industry enthusiastically joined the new system. But when it came time for the final voting, when filmgoers, critics and the media were supposed to join, those casting ballots dropped from 700 to less than 300.
Film critic and long-time jury member Prawit Taengagsorn says that the federation has to choose whether to use the jury or the open system and is in favour, in principal at least, of trying out the new system.
The Subhanahongsa Awards, essentially Thailand’s answer to the Oscars, he says, must have their own identity.
He is neither for or against the jury system but thinks it will be healthier letting the people in the industry have a say too.
“Certainly we can go on for the jury system, but everyone knows that the judging panel is always made of the same faces. In addition, they also make up the jury for other film awards too, which is why most of the awards in this country are pretty much the same.”
“Who knows? We might find the award’s true identity by trying the popular vote. We might even get some unpredictable results.”
Visute decided to revamp the judging after complaints both about the results and the way in which the categories are defined.
Prawit points out that whatever the voting system used, the complaints won’t go away since there is no ideal voting system that can satisfy everyone.
Visute’s most urgent task now will be to examine the best mechanism to ensure that all the eligible voters see the films before voting as well as explore the problems and obstacles that stop industry people from joining the voting.
“If we go back to the jury system, I will have to find a new procedure for appointing the jury. We shouldn't repeat the same tradition because my goal is to make the awards accepted by everyone,” he says.
Here are the winners at the 23rd Thailand National Film Association Awards on Sunday night at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya:
- Best Picture: “Tang Wong”
- Director: Kongdej Jaturanrasmee “Tang Wong”
- Screenplay: Kongdej Jaturanrasmee, “Tang Wong”
- Actor: Nadech Kugimiya, “Khoo Kam”
- Actress: Patcha Poonpiriya, “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy”
- Supporting Actor: Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich, “Tang Wong”
- Supporting Actress: Chonnikan Netjui, “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy”
- Cinematography: Pairach Khumwan, “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy”
- Film Editing: Chonlasit Upanigkit “Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy”
- Recording and Sound Mixing: Ram Indra Sound Mixing Studio “Tom-Yum-Goong 2”
- Original Song: “Yuewya”, Cin Thosaporn Achawanantakul, “Last Summer”
- Original Score: Chatchai Pongprapapan, “Jan Dara: The Finale”
- Art Direction: Akradej Kaewkote, “Pee Mak Phra Khanong”
- Costume Design: Vorathon Krisanakalin, “Khoo Kam”
- Makeup: Arporn Meebangyang “Thongsuk 13”
- Visual Effects: Surreal Studio Company and Thossaporn Poonnart, “Tom-Yum-Goong 2”
- Lifetime Achievement Award, Jaruek Kaljaruek
- Popular Vote Awards: actor Nadech Kugimiya and actress Suthata Udomsilp