More than 70 films from around the globe come to town in the World Film Festival of Bangkok
Postponed from November following the death of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the World Film Festival of Bangkok returns to town this month, with screenings running from January 23 to February 1 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.
A total of 72 films will be shown over the 10 days of the festival and with a menu that includes new award-winning films to cinema classics and animations, it’s a line-up that’s guaranteed to please.
The festival will open with Studio Ghibli’s “The Red Turtle”, an animation without dialogue that was produced in collaboration with French distributor Wild Bunch. It follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds. The film won the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard category at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
The highlight, though, is likely to be “Elle”, which has been picking up prizes since November and most recently won the Golden Globe for “Best Foreign Film”. It is Paul Verhoeven’s first film since his 2006 outing “Black Book” and his first in the French language. The film centres on a successful businesswoman (Isabelle Huppert) who gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her.
This year’s festival offers three Thai films – two features and one short.
One of the features is “Present Perfect: Khae Nee Kor Dee Laew” which was shot amid the gorgeous scenery of small agricultural town Higashikawa in Hokkaido, Japan. The film, which tells the story of two Thai men who meet there and bond, will have its premiere at the festival of Bangkok and is slated to go on general release on February 2.
Documentary “Railway Sleepers” by Sompot Chidgasornpongse observes people from the perspective of the third-class carriage in a Thai train, while Chaisiri Jiwarangsan’s no-dialogue short “500,000 Years” depicts a strange occurrence during an outdoor cinema screening at an archaeological site.
The cultural diversity of the region is presented in the Asian Contemporary section through such movies as “5 to 9”, an anthology of films from Singapore, China, Japan and Thailand all set during the evening of the historic Brazil-Germany match at the 2014 World Cup. Another must-see is the Nepalese film “The Black Hen”. Set in 2001 during a temporary ceasefire in a small village, it focuses on two children raising a hen to earn money. When the hen goes missing the pair embarks on a journey, innocently unaware of the tyranny brought by the fragile ceasefire. The film won the Critic's Week Best Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Cambodia’s “Diamond Island” follows a young man who leaves his village to work on construction sites in the big city and is introduced by a new friend to the city’s night life. Director Davy Chou will attend the festival.
Another highlight of this section is “Barakah Meets Barakah” by independent filmmaker Mahmoud Sabbagh, which was the first film from Saudi Arabia to be screened at an international film festival.
The menu is equally rich in the Cine Latino category, which features the Colombian hits “The Mushroom” by Oscar Ruiz Navia and Ciro Guerra’s “Wind Journeys” as well as “The Debt” from Chile by Barney Elliott.
Cinema Beat explores a variety of films ranging from America's “East Side Sushi” to Poland's “Body” and “Death of a Fisherman” from Spain. Also showing is “American Honey”, which won Jury's Prize from Cannes.
For animation fans there’s Belgium’s “The Phantom Boy”, about a super-powered boy who helps a wheelchair-bound policeman in his attempt to bring down a mob kingpin.
The Doc Fests section is as diverse as ever with such films as “Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez” by director Justin Webster, which not only portrays the life of the 1982 Nobel Prize winner in Literature but also explores his works through an interview with the woman whose stories inspired the narrative for “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.
Other titles include Laura Gabbert’s “City of Gold”, Israel’s “Presenting Princess Shaw” by Ido Haar and the Golden Bear winner from the Berlin International Film Festival “Fire at Sea” by Gianfranco Rosi.
The Shortwave segment introduces viewers to short films by new and upcoming filmmakers from around the world, among them “Wedding: A Film” from Iran and “Fire” from Argentina.
The World Film Festival of Bangkok has a tradition of screening classics and this year is no exception. The programme kicks off with the Chinese martial art classic “Dragon Inn” which was made in 1967 by the late acclaimed director King Hu. The film has been remade several times and was the major influence behind Quentin Tarantino's “The Hateful Eight”.
Also showing are the 1958 thriller “Elevator to the Gallows” (“Ascenseur pour l'echafaud”) by late French director Louis Malle and starring Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Rone, and 1964’s “Marriage Italian Style” (“Matrimonio All'Italiana”) directed by late Italian maestro Vittorio De Sica in 1964 and starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.
One not to miss is Jacques Deray’s tense 1969 drama “The Swimming Pool” starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin, which was most recently remade as “A Bigger Splash” with Ralph Finnes and Tilda Swinton.
The recipient of this year’s Lotus award is Oliver Stone, a rock star of the film industry and an award-winning film director, actor, producer, and writer. Stone is not returning to Bangkok for the film festival, having received the lifetime achievement award last year when he flew into town to present his latest film “Snowden”.
The festival is also playing host to two activities that aim to strengthen the Thai film industry and open new opportunities for Thai filmmakers. The first of these is the “3rd Franco-Thai Animation Rendezvous”, a workshop for Thai animators facilitated by international animators from around the globe.
The second activity is a seminar “Asian Film on the World Stage” which will be held at the Amari Watergate Hotel and is by invitation only.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE SCREEN
- The World Film Festival of Bangkok runs from January 23 to February 1 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.
- Tickets are priced at Bt120. A combo package is available at Bt550 and covers five tickets and soft drinks.
- Thai subtitles are provided in some movies.
- Check for updates and more information at www.WorldFilmBkk.com, Facebook.com/World Film Festival of Bangkok, www.SFCinemaCity.com or watch the trailers at the YouTube WorldFilmBKK channel.