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Bangkok Post : The September issue

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Entertainment » Movie

The September issue

First line-up from the next month's Bangkok International Film Festival

Published: 28/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Realtime

It will happen, and if we learn to close one eye to the florid accessories (plus the still un-convicted corruption scandal) and focus the other just on the films, the Bangkok International Film Festival 2009 is in all fairness something to be excited about. This year, the BKK IFF runs for seven days, from Sept 24-30, at two cinemas, Paragon Cineplex and SF CentralWorld.

The poster for the Bangkok International Film Festival 2009 was designed by Wisit Sasanatieng.

Around 80 films will be shown. The official programme will be ready in two weeks; there will be two competition sections, International (for first and second films) and Southeast Asia (for regional filmmakers), plus the Thai Panorama (Thai films of the past 12 months) and other showcases. It would be unbecoming of me to divulge the full list of films before the festival makes the official announcement, though some of the titles already unveiled by the programming team (Thais, as of last year) are sufficiently appetising for the public in general and for incorrigible cinephiles in particular.

For example, we'll see The Prophet, a searing French prison drama and recent winner of Cannes' Grand Prix, by director Jacques Audiard; Mammoth, a new film by Lukas Moodysson starring Gael Garcia Bernal and shot in Thailand; Pedro Almodovar's new film Broken Embraces; Double Take, an experimental documentary that mixes Hitchcock with the Cold War and the cult of television; I Killed My Mother, a Canadian film by a 19-year-old director who got picked by Cannes; and Burma VJ, a documentary about the uprising by Buddhist monks in Burma. There will also be a pair of films by the late Yasmin Ahmad, Sepet and Talentime; Yasmin, one of Malaysia's prominent independent filmmakers, passed away in July.

Also there will be a few "controversial" films, popular crowd-pleasers, and many more that deal with political issues.

Politics, indeed, is inseparable from the BKK IFF. Last week, the Bangkok International Film Festival brand name got an unpleasant headline splash when the trial of Gerald and Patricia Green began in the US. In his heyday Gerald ran Film Festival Management Inc. In 2007, the LA-based company was charged by the US authorities with bribing a Thai senior official to win a contract to host the BKK IFF from 2003 to 2006. During that time, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, despite criticisms from the press, hired the American team (who only flew to Bangkok one month before the festival and knew very little about Thailand or Thai culture) to run a gaudy and unnecessarily expensive film festival - with our tax money.

The Prophet, a Cannes-winning French drama, is one of the highlights of the fest.

Some of the most perplexing anecdotes from those years was when an old couple - who had nothing to do with the film profession but happened to be neighbours of the American team - were flown in first class to Bangkok so they could tour the City of Angels. I also met a construction worker who came here as a "film writer" (he admitted to me he wasn't writing for any publication in the whole world; just a movie fan and friend of the organiser) along with his wife, again on business class. There were many more cases that would make Thai taxpayers' blood boil. When the American team left, the feeling was like that of the natives watching a conquistador leaving the "Third World" with the loot of Aztec gold.

In 2007, the TAT cancelled the deal with the Americans, to the relief of many, and let the Federation of National Film Association and Thai Film Directors' Association take over the BKK IFF. The budget was cut to about 30 percent of the original, and believe it or not, the festival has gotten better. For a start: it's become a movie festival that cares about movies, with a programming team who're well-versed in international cinema yet understand Thai audiences. Thai subtitles were included in all films last year, despite the much-smaller budget.

True, the new Thai management, supported by the tourism board, still craves a red-carpet gala night with "international stars" - not A-listers, sometimes not even B - and it's particularly itching that this year's theme of the BKK IFF is called "Hollywood Glamour" for no apparent reasons. But let them be, or, as mentioned earlier, just try closing one eye (and ear) to all these strange shenanigans and opening the other to the caravan of good films promised to come to these shores.

This page will keep you updated on the BKK IFF over the following weeks.

Relate Search: Bangkok International Film Festival 2009, BKK IFF, Paragon Cineplex, SF CentralWorld

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