Pen-ek can recall more past lives

Art March 05, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

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Director Pen-ek Ratanaruang attended the recent Berlin Film Festival, where his "Headshot" was being screened, and naturally some nosy person asked what he's planning next.


Pen-ek said he’s doing a documentary. “It’s about Thai politics during the Rattanakosin Era, right from the beginning.” 
He gave little else away, saying only that he’s up to his derriere in research papers, but his revelation thrilled fans in Thailand. They reckon it’s fair to take “Rattanakosin Era” as code – or at least metaphor – for modern Thai politics, since the monarchy is again the foremost issue.
The Berlin festival was awash in documentaries about the “Arab Spring” this year, whereas the 2010 uprising in Thailand and its aftermath have yet to be depicted onscreen.
With his gift for symbolism and surrealism, Pen-ek might be the perfect man to make this movie.
Granddad days
Suthikiat Chirathiwat, who runs the Centara hotel chain, is widely admired for always scheduling quality time for his family, and especially his grandchildren. It’s a house rule that his kids have to spend every Friday evening and weekend with him. 
And that rule stands even when Suthikiat has to go on a business trip. He takes along his daughter and three sons and all 10 of his grandchildren. 
If they travel by car (or is it a bus?), the patriarch lets the younger adults drive while he stays in the back larking about with the little ones – and barking out occasional commands to stop. Suthikiat makes it a point to stop for meals en route – noodles for him but also something the kids will like too. 
Every trip is carefully planned. The idea is to “happen to be in the neighbourhood” of their favourite dining spots. Treks to Samui, for example, always include a certain duck-noodle shop in Hua Hin and a Hainanese-chicken joint in Surat Thani. 
With such attention to the itinerary, Suthikiat’s staff teases him, he should take up writing and do a travel dining guide.