Thai movie star makes it big at Sundance!
There's excitement in Finland, the US and Bangkok as Frank hits the big time
Late last month, Finnish director and screenwriter Jenni Toivoniemi’s "The Date" won the Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction at the Sundance Film Festival in the US from 14 competing films.
Why (you may ask) is news of a short film by a director from Finland appearing in a Thai newspaper and why in a pet column?
Part of the answer lies in what the film is about -a 16-year-old boy who is forced to arrange a mating date for the family cat.
"The Date" is 35-year-old Toivoniemi's directorial debut. She herself is a breeder of Siamese cats ("vichien maat"), but only on a small-scale. "Film work doesn't leave much time for my cats," she told me last year in Bangkok.
She had come here to look at Siamese cats on the suggestion of her friend and mentor, Dr Cristy Bird, who breeds Siamese cats (mainly old-style) in Los Angeles.
Yes. Cat breeding, like film-making, is an international experience, and in Toivoniemi's case, has provided the cat starring in her film.
Playing "Diablo" in "The Date" is Sarsenstone Galearis, who was born in Bird's household and then joined Toivoniemi's. According to registration requirements, the boy had to be named "Sarsenstone" after Bird's cattery. Bird then chose "Galearis", after an orchid native to North America.
In Finland, though, he acquired the nickname "Frank" because his deep blue eyes reminded everyone of Frank Sinatra. the singer also known as "Old Blue Eyes"
That’s not all the story, though. Go back about 10 years, when a family living in Bangkok discovered a cat living in the carpark of their condominium. Thin and dirty, she was about to give birth.
The family put her in a bathroom in their condo, and later that night, she gave birth to six kittens - two orange and four apparently white kids.
The family sent me a photo of mama (now named "Flowerpot" or "Katang Dorkmai") and her babies. I put it in my column, and because I loved the photo so much, I sent it to Bird for her enjoyment.
"Laurie!" Bird emailed back. "Those white kittens aren't white. They're what we call tortie points." They would have markings just like a vichien maat's, but the markings would be grey-brown instead of a vichien maat's brown.
After three months those markings appeared on the white kids, and Bird took two girls.
In Los Angeles, one of them - "Charoensri" - produced Frank's mother, Xyris.
Thus Flowerpot, the carpark cat rescued in Bangkok is the great-grandmother of Frank, the international movie star.
You never know, do you, where rescuing a helpless creature will lead.