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I am jealous of the Indian film industry: Thai director

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PANAJI: Although Thailand has been vigorously promoting itself as an ideal film shooting location with state-of-the-art fimmaking equipment, it's film industry stalwarts say the irony lies in the fact that its very own film industry lacks government support. One filmmaker even went on to say that he is 'jealous' of the bond shared between the Indian government and its film industry.

Globally acclaimed Thai director Nonzee Nimibutr said, "The Thai film industry still needs a lot of improvement. This year for instance, the industry has been severely hit by the recession. I for one haven't been able to make a single movie this year because of the meltdown.

Moreover, the poor economic situation of the country and conflicts between filmmakers and the government has hindered the industry's progress."

Nonzee, who is largely credited for ushering a new era in Thai cinema, adds that the government is yet to recognize films and filmmaking as a powerful medium of societal change.

"It still thinks that movies are only made for commercial gain. As a result, many good films turn into flops at the box office because of lack of adequate funding and publicity. Moreover, Hollywood movies screened in Thai cinemas, especially summer blockbusters, make it even harder for Thai films to gain recognition

Thai filmmakers usually take up social issues in their plots. Actor May Patravarin says, "The number one issue depicted is drug addiction which, incidentally, is very rampant in Thailand. This is followed by child abuse, prostitution and religious and political unrest.

"The Thai government only supports the performing arts and films which support its views. Otherwise, the film industry relies on the Japanese, Canadian, Korean and Indian industries for financial support," Patravarin, who has also acted opposite famed Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage, said.

Producer Benjarat Vittayathep adds, "The company I work for is currently producing a film on drug addiction, which is funded mostly by the government."

Film producer and one of the directors of the Bangkok International Film Festival Yong Yoot Thongkengtoom, however, says that efforts are being made to turn it around.

"We are trying our best (to make the government change its views about cinema). Although we see a light at the end of the tunnel, we hope the road is not too far away. So far, only the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has shown interest in funding indigenous films," he said.

"I am, in fact, proud and jealous of the bond the Indian government shares with its film industry. While India makes numerous films within a year, Thailand manages a maximum of 40. Out of these only five turn out to be hits at the box office.

"What is sadder is that 60% of the filmmaking process relies on sponsorships. Rampant piracy also hinders the industry to a great extent, because a movie becomes available on DVDs much before its release in cinemas," said Yong, whose film 'Best of Times', being screened at the Iffi is Thailand's entry at this year's Oscars.
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