Thailand

Arnold Is a Model Student

(Arnon pen nakrian tuayang)

Inspired by the Bad Student movement calling for educational reform in Thailand, Arnold Is a Model Student follows the titular protagonist as he joins forces with the rebellious Bee and an underground syndicate of misfits helping students cheat on their exams. This accessible yet subversive debut feature from Sorayos Prapapan pivots deftly between moments of absurdist humour and heartfelt, urgent gestures of cinematic protest. Combining dramatic details from his own childhood with footage from contemporary news and social media, Prapapan acknowledges a continuum of generational experience and the interplay between reality and fiction.

Commissioned by Animistic Apparatus to make a video responding to Southeast Asian animistic practices of communicating with spirits, Tanatchai Bandasak draws inspiration from the presence of prehistoric standing stones in the highlands of Laos.

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Run Time

18 mins

Every year, the Thai Short Film and Video Festival invites a Thai filmmaker to make a trailer for the festival. For the 2016 edition, the invitee is Pimpaka Towira, a veteran filmmaker who recently returned to the film scene with her well-received feature The Island Funeral. In the past, Pimpaka has made several films set in the forest, and this self-reflexive, humorous trailer reflects the experience of dealing with nature.

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Run Time

2 mins

A short film about the life and work of the Kamjorn Sankwan, the film explores his work as a gaffer in the production of a Thai folk soap opera, a genre based on traditional Thai literature with Hindu cultural influences and fictional dynasties. The second half delves into Kamjorn’s personal interests, centralized around the mercenary soldiers who fought in exchange for Thai nationality.

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Run Time

16 mins

Set in Mueang Phayao, Invalid Throne examines the land and people who used to own property in the province. The disputed areas were overtaken by new feudalism and turned into a gold mine and an exclusive monastery, allowing only a select, elite few to enter its landscape. Shot on location in northern Thailand and in a studio (using a miniature landscape), the film weaves historical narrative with the personal memories of Kamjorn Sankwan, the artist and protagonist who was raised in that area, thereby raising questions to what constitutes as a national, collective history.

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Run Time

10 mins

A couple escape from their families and flee deep into the jungle. At nightfall, a song illustrates the innocence of their love and their search for happiness. Palme d’Or winning filmmaker Apitchatpong Weerasethakul invited fellow Thai filmmaker Pimpaka Towira to shoot a 35mm film in the forest while he observed the production though his digital camera. While Worldly Desires is dedicated to Weerasethakul’s memories of filmmaking in the jungle from 2001–05, it is also a story of forbidden love and desire, loaded with poetry, metaphor and mystery.

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Run Time

43 mins

In Confusion is Next, filmmaker Mont Tesprateep focuses his lens on nomadic musician Thom Assajan-Jakgawan, who appears as a fictionalised version of himself. Living in a fragile state, a collapsed country, Thom solitarily confines himself in a bare room filled with tree branches hovering above a leaf-covered ground. Through meditative exploration—and the loops and layers of his sounds—he creates a powerful mantra of protection.

The ‘real’ Thom Assajan-Jakgawan was— along with Tesprateep—a member of the Thai underground band Assajan Jakgawan. Formed more than a decade ago, the band members have since gone their separate ways, one bandmate sadly passing away. But Thom continues to make music under the name Thom AJ Madson, utilising guitar, mics, loop machines and other objects in his two current projects: Sap (‘bewitched’) and Vimutti, which means ‘liberation’ in the Pali language.

A continuation of Tesprateep’s unique body of surreal, black-and-white 16mm films depicting subjects at the fringes of Thai society, Confusion is Next is inspired by Endel Tulving’s hypothesis on ‘mental time travel’, in which mechanisms of memory can evoke the future. The film’s raw atmosphere, along with its confrontation of different selves and personas, leads toward an ambiguous but still threatening finale. —Herb Shellenberger & Peter Taylor

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Run Time

22 mins

Death of the Sound Man

(Awasarn Sound Man)

Two sound recordists arrive at the realisation that, just like the Thai government who don’t listen to the voice of their citizens, cinema audiences don’t care too much about film sound, or the labours that got it there. A deftly political and absurdist film featuring a full cast of flags, various girths of sausage and some brilliant sound recordist choreography with a camel.

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Run Time

16 mins

A deserter awakes to discover that his body is laying lifelessly on the ground. Having no other choice, he embarks on this new journey where he encounters a group of teenagers who intend to give him a cremation ceremony while his dead body is being searched by a military patrol.

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Run Time

19 mins