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Realtime >> Friday March 28, 2008
Reeling down the river

Anchors away for the opening bash for the 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival


The 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival runs until March 30.
At the riverside launch party of the 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival (Beff) on Tuesday, I weaved through the muggy lanes and intoxicating 7pm armpits of Klong San market's shoppers to join the usual congregation of Bangkok's art-world cliques: indie princes and punk princesses, artists, filmmakers, architects, curators, critics, wannabes, bloggers (looking solemn), real gurus, phony gurus, agog freeloaders. The boys were clad in T-shirts, oversized sunglasses and skinny jeans; the girls were dreamy, like art-school beauties (pre)tend to be, floating around in billowing printed skirts or leg-hugging denims. A legion of expats were present - blond, brown, yellow, Japanese, European, Rastafarian, tattooed, merry, proudly localised.

Near the open-air party, I sneaked up to Gallery Ver, a dark, two-room space where projectors beamed hypnotic movies onto the walls. Some would deem the place sexily dim, which was partly true, though it also reminded me of a druggy scene in Apocalypse Now, minus the Viet Cong. So I came back down to the riverside bar. Now a bunch of indie princes and punk princesses had put on recently-bought T-shirts with slogans like: "Free China from Tibet" and "No Country for Old Prime Ministers". Ouch. My friends suggested "No Home for Old Farts", or "Shut Up, You Fat Nose", or something like that, just to make sure the guy gets the message.

Quite a lot of young guests formed a tight circle around two beer cylinders (free of charge). Many more civilly queued up at the buffet table (free and generous). The camaraderie, I must say, was genuine and mellow. And when we got on the antique barge and did our turn of the 30-minute cruise, it wasn't hard to agree that this was, perhaps, the best and most experimental launch party in the first quarter of the year.

"We have the boat because we could have it," beamed David Teh, curator of Beff, meaning the cruise was sponsored. Grittiya Kaweewong, president of Project 304 and one of the organisers, chimed: "Do you think, with the boat, this is better than the opening night at Lumpini Park? I have to keep coming up with more experimental opening night ideas!"

Experimental movies on a cruising boat.

Thanks to the resourceful Grittiya, it was indeed more amusing than the 4th Beff party at Suan Lum one chilly night in December 2005, with a dozen outdoor screens glowing in the twilight park like an installation piece. On Tuesday what we did on the old rice barge, converted into a kind of modern Oriental yacht, was nothing particularly experimental (or dubious, like what movie people do at yacht parties in Cannes or Venice). Simply we just chatted and chilled, half-reclining on the gigantic sofa at the rear, with red wine flowing from the bar, and watched, rather distractedly, some of the movies in the Beff programme shown on the TV screen.

Viewing experimental movies - dancing lights, bleeding paints, mind-boggling graphics, edgy animations - while cruising down the Chao Phraya was a pleasant, and unusual, experience, partly because we hardly understand those movies anyway, on land or on board. The barge can take no more than 30 at a time, so the guests took turns going downstream until midnight approached. Actually, people loved going on the riverborne art-space so much that Grittiya toyed with the idea of having a "movie cruise" as part of the film festival. That would sacrifice the intellectual quotient of the Beff, but as a marketing gig it's surely workable.

Maybe at the next Beff, then. This year, the festival will run until Sunday, March 30, at Esplanade Cineplex (02-515-5555), Gallery Ver (02-861-0933), Alliance Francaise, and William Warren Library at the Jim Thompson House (02-612-6741). Screenings at Esplanade Cineplex cost 60 baht, and are free of charge at other venues.

I'll stop playing party reviewer now and guide you through some of the festival's highlights showing this weekend.

Learned Behavior (part of the core "The More Things Change" programme): a presentation of Thai and foreign shorts dealing with "the poetics of reproduction and the unconscious forces shaping the patterns of social and political life". Showing Sun, March 30 at 2pm at Esplanade.

Track Change (also part of the core programme): a more politically-tinged section featuring shorts that reflect our recent political history, including one made on the night of the Sept 19 coup. Showing Sun, March 30 at 6pm at Esplanade.

Daily Rounds (also part of the core programme): This is "a collection of new Thai works focussing on the cycles of everyday life." Showing Sat, March 29 at 2pm at Esplanade.

Waterworks: Shorts made about the literal and metaphysical qualities of water. Showing Sun, March 30 at 3:45pm at Alliance Francaise.

Test Patterns: The programme features shorts made from pastiches of "hijacked" images from YouTube to Big Brother, from fashion catwalk to TV soaps - a visual "jam session". Showing Sun, March 30 at 3:45pm at Alliance Francaise (following "Waterworks").

Paranoid Dance: A "challenging" programme of international shorts that trespass and flirt with and parody genre codes through paranoia and strange choreography. Showing Sat, March 29 at 4pm at Esplanade.

Doco-Loco: A documentary programme from international filmmakers. Showing Sat Mar 29 at 6pm at Alliance Francaise.

Thaiindie Showcase: A collection of Thai works by the group Thaiindie. Showing Sat, March 29 at 8pm at Esplanade.

Experimental music videos: As the name suggests, you can feast on unusual and creative MVs by a number of well-known Thai directors. Showing Sat, March 29 at 6:30pm at Esplanade.

For more info go to and click the Beff 5 poster.

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