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Realtime >> Friday March 14, 2008

The more things change...


Man With a Movie Camera, by Jakrawal Nilthamrong.
The last time the Bangkok Experimental Film Festival took place on the lawn of Lumpini Park, a dozen outdoor screens were put up a hand grenade's throw away from the rally ground where firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul and his followers threw the kitchen sink at Thaksin Shinawatra. After one coup and two elections, the BEFF is, like the former PM, ready to return to the capital, this time in a more sheltered space and with a programme of heady/jolly/crazy video works that promise a varying degree of political exegesis.

From March 25-30, the 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival (BEFF 5) will screen over 380 movies at Esplanade Cineplex, Alliance Francaise, Gallery Ver and Jim Thomson House. The hosts are the usual co-conspirators in the local indie-art scene: Project 304, Kick the Machine and the Thai Film Foundation. Around 140 of the works are from Thai filmmakers, while the rest have been harvested from international submissions by the fest's new curator, David Teh.

"The core programme, called 'The More Things Change...' concerns the idea of cycles - about how things keep coming back to us, either the political situation or the rhythm of our everyday life," says Teh. "Life goes on, but do things really change that much?"

In The Night of Revolution, by Wathit Wattanasakonpan

Black Mirror, by Anocha Suwichakornpong.

Liberal politics play a significant part in many of the Festival movies; the Sept 19 coup and the subsequent impasse of Thai politics in 2007 sowed inspirational seeds for a number of young moviemakers. There are actually movies made on the night of the coup. And this intent to talk politics through movies instills the experimental/independent films with a sense of social urgency lacking in mainstream Thai films.

But BEFF 5 is not just about politics-bashing. A number of works present the theme of cycles through works of visual inventiveness and personal meditation. Some of the most recognisable names in the indie scene will feature. Apichatpong Weerasethakul will feature his music videos; Thunska Pansittivorakul will screen his new 65-minute work, called Soak; Uruphong Raksasat will channel his Terrence Malick-style rumination on Thai landscape in Roy Tai Prae; famed visual artist Taweesak "Lolay" Srithongdee and his collaborator Giam-ee will present their collections of video art, which have never been shown in Thailand before; and an ensemble of artists will present films based on the poetry of the late SEA-Write poet Kanokpong Songsompan.

The following are some of the highlights of BEFF 5. For more information and a complete schedule go to

- Core Programme: The More Things Change

In the words of the programmer, this key category "reflects two strong themes in recent Thai screen culture: the imagery of everyday life; and the political turmoil that has gripped the country since the fall of the Thaksin administration in late 2006." The sub-category, called "Tracks Change", will feature three videos made on the night of the Sept 19 coup. At Esplanade Cineplex.

- Fluid Dynamic

This section explores the role of liquids as the spiritual and metaphysical medium of life. The programme feature abstract video arts and animation, as well as images "hijacked from iPods and Big Brother". At Gallery Ver, Klong Sarn Plaza, tel 02-861-0933.

- BEFF 5 International Harvest

This programme collects new works from around the globe, with the help of Alliance Francaise, Goethe Institute, Argos Centre for Art & Media, Belgium, and Lux, a non-profit film and video agency in the UK. The sub-categories are titled "Memory Machine", "Paranoid Dance", "Variety Theatre". At Esplanade Cineplex, Alliance Francaise and Goethe Institute.

- Doco-Loco

A documentary programme, with experimental twists, of course. "In the era of digital mobile phones, webcams and reality TV," says the programmer, "the documentary has strayed from its traditional role of recording truth, and has been reborn with a new sense of adventure, flirting with fiction and ambiguity." At Alliance Francaise.

- ThaiIndie Buffet

A feast of independent and experimental films by the Thaiindie group, curated by Thunska Pansittivorakul. This vast programme includes a new film by Thunska, called Soak, and works by upcoming filmmaker Sompot Chidgasornpong. It will also feature Thaweesak Srithongdee and Giam-ee's brand-new work. Another sub-category, "Experimental Music Videos", will screen the two versions of Because made by Apichatpong Weerasethakul for Petch Osathanugrah's new album. Meanwhile, "Remains" is a special programme of produced as a memorial for SEA Write award-winning author Kanokpong Songsompan.

- Mobile Cine

A roaming programme of guerrilla screenings will take place in public spaces, leaking alternative dreams into the concrete jungle. Under the direction of conceptual artist and cinephile Pratchaya Phinthong, the mobile cine will take experimental film where it has never been before. Works will be drawn from the BEFF programme, and supplemented with Pratchaya's own selections.

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