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Thai Cinema Night at Cannes

Thai Cinema Night took off on day three of the Cannes Film Festival. A special screening of Mekong Hotel, the latest film of the 2010 Palme d'Or recipient Apichatpong Weerasethakul preceded the event. In the audience of the Salle de Soixante was French veteran film director Agnes Varda. The film touches on the theme of reincarnation of his previous film LUNG BOONMEE RALUEK CHAT (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives). Another of his films featured at Cannes was Tropical Malady (2004).Clearly Weerasethakul is a treasure to his country. His soft spoken films are full of empathy, and in Mekong Hotel, filmed and written by him, a journey between the living and the undead takes place with the Mekong as backdrop. "The film is about water", said the Thai director, "and I made it with my friend". Certainly it is a personal tale with a static camera, all medium or long shots, that allow a contemplative experience for the spectator.

After the screening there was a celebration of Thai cinema, presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi. The Princess is an actress featured in many Thai films and excerpts were shown from a few of her films.

Thai Cinema Night at Cannes

The Department of International Trade Promotion of the Thai Ministry of Commerce sponsored the event to showcase recent productions and to entice producers to film in Thailand. Several directors were present such as Tom Waller, director of Mindfulness and Murder (2010) and actress Penpak Sirikul, featured in SUKKHAPISIT Tanwarin’s film It Gets Better (2011).

The Thai night was full of expectation by the many invited guests to the Cannes Carlton. The entire room was full of adherents, and the drinks and chips were abundant. Come time for the Thai delicacies served, the guests turned into the mob on the Croisette. Life is tough for hungry journalists. The feast was magnificent for the lucky who were brave enough to risk standing in the dining area.

Beautiful Thai music set the ambiance for the event based on traditional folk music. When the Princess arrived, the room went silent. During her speech about Thai cinema, the guests gathered around her crimson and gold chair to hear her tribute to her country's cinema.

Afterwards actors and directors assembled on the stage. In particular, Tom Waller spoke about his work. Mindfulness and Murder was part of the selection of the 2011 Gothenburg Film Festival on my recommendation as a programmer for the festival, and although he was unable to attend, Waller was jubilant about Swedish cinema. Olivier Liboutry represented the Thai/British director in his absence. His film was also presented at the 2011 Udine Far East Film Festival.

Penpak Sirikul was also present who played a transgender in It Gets Better, another favorite film at the 2012 Udine Far East Film Festival. Sirikul won a Thai acting award for her performance and prepared for the role with assistance from her gay friends.

Moira Sullivan


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