EIGHT YEARS of hardship finally bore fruit when Pimpaka Towira's "The Island Funeral" won the Asian Future Film Award at the prestigious Tokyo International Film Festival.
The Thai title of the award-winning film directed by Pimpaka is “Maha Samut Lae Susaan”.
The award, established in 2013, is for the best film among 10 selected in the Asian Future section by first- and second-time directors. Though many Thai films have been screened at the Tokyo festival in the past, “The Island Funeral” is the first film from the Kingdom to win any award here.
“I am so excited right now. The film took so many years to complete. I’d like to thank the Tokyo International Film Festival and all the crew and the actors who made the big effort until we could finish this project,” Pimpaka said in her acceptance speech.
The film tells the story of Laila, a Muslim woman from Bangkok who travels to Pattani to meet her long lost aunt. “I was not sure initially as my film was different from other films, but the feedback from the audience was very nice,” Pimpaka said later in an interview. After “One Night Husband”, which premiered in the Forum Section of Berlin International Film Festival in 2003, she had to put in a lot of efforts to make her second feature film.
“During the production stages, I was not sure if this film was good enough. I had to revise the editing so many times. The award proves that at least the jury and the audience saw something in this film,” said Pimpaka, whose film was praised by the jury for showing the landscape and politics of the country with strong cinematic language. The jury members were Olivier Pere, managing director of Arte France Cinema, Jacob Wong of the Hong Kong International Film Festival and Tatsushi Omori, director of the critically acclaimed Japanese film “The Ravine of Goodbye”.
Shot partially in Pattani with 16mm film, “The Island Funeral” went through a lot of problems and was almost left unfinished. “At one point, I didn't feel like I wanted to finish the project.. There were lots of problems, from myself, from the source of funding, and what happened around me, but in the end I made a decision to finish the film even though the result was unforeseeable.”
The actress, Heen Sasithorn Panichnok, whose previous film |was Bhandit Rittakol’s “Meteor” in 2004 recalls her decision to join |the production of the award-winning film. “In 2011, I remember Pimpaka emailed me when I was studying in New York. I read the script and was thrilled by it. What Laila questions in the story were |the same thing I used to question about since I was young. I didn’t expect the film to become an award-winner but I trusted her and I want to work with a good film director like her. The production of this film was very difficult because of the location. I was crying when I heard the jury announce the film as the winner.”
The winner of the Asian Future Film Award picks up a cash prize of US$10,000. As an independently made film, Pimpaka plans to release the film in Thailand later but not this year. “The film will have to travel in festivals abroad first before coming back to its motherland,” said Pimpaka.