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Thai Film Pioneer At POFF

The 13th edition of POFF, the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival held in the Estonian capital, kicked off a 10-day marathon of film premieres, special events and industry meetings with the premiere of the American indie hit (500) DAYS OF SUMMER last night.

Today, Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thai film director and jury member of the EurAsia Competition program, will hold a press conference prior to the presentation tomorrow evening of his latest film NYMPH. The director has been one of the innovators in the contemporary Thai film industry, having filmed such film festival circuit faves as MON-RAK TRANSISTOR, LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, INVISIBLE WAVES and PLOY.

Born in 1962 in Bangkok, Pen-Ek studied from 1977 to 1985 at the Pratt Institute in New York and worked as freelance illustrator and designer with Designframe. In 1993, he started work at the Film Factory in Bangkok, where he worked with Wisit Sasanatieng. At Film Factory, Pen-Ek made several television commercials, for which he won numerous awards, including a bronze medal at the 1997 Cannes Lion Awards for a Clairol anti-dandruff shampoo spot entitled "Dance".

He made his debut feature film, FUN BAR KARAOKE in 1997, the story of a young woman named Pu whose father falls in love with a hostess girl who's the girlfriend of a mobster. The film premeired at the Berlin Film Festival and was a worldwide film festival hit.

Pen-Ek's second film, 6IXTYNIN9, another crime comedy, which tells the loopy tale of a young woman who finds an instant noodle box filled with money that has been mistakenly placed at her doorstep. As she runs afoul of some mobsters, she becomes an unlikely feminist heroine. The film was Thailand's submission to the 73rd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film in 1999. It was also screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival and other festivals. His third film, MONTRAK TRANSISTOR is a bittersweet country music love story involving a young man named Pan who marries his sweetheart, is drafted into the military and then goes absent without leave to pursue his dreams of being a singer. The film premiered at the Director's Fortnight section of the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. It was also submitted by Thailand to the 75th Academy Awards. In 2004, Pen-Ek was among the artists receiving the inaugural Silpathorn Award by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture of Thailand. The award is given annually to contemporary artists. For his fourth film, LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, he teamed up with writer Prabda Yoon, cinematographer Christopher Doyle and Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano. Asano portrays a Japanese man on the run from the yakuza in Thailand. It was selected for competition at the Rotterdam festival, won the best actor award for Asano at the Venice International Film Festival and was Thailand's submission to the 2003 Academy Awards.

Pen-Ek worked again with Prabda, Doyle and Asano on INVISIBLE WAVES about a Japanese chef who commits a murder in Macau and flees to Thailand. The film also stars Hong Kong actor Eric Tsang and Korean actress Kang Hye-jeong. It was selected for competition at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, where it had its world premiere and also was also the opening film for the 2006 Bangkok International Film Festival.

Pen-Ek was selected to take part in the Digital Short Films by Three Directors project at the 2006 Jeonju International Film Festival. He directed a short called Twelve Twenty, about a young man who falls in love with a woman he sees on the other side of an airport terminal, and then fantasizes about her throughout a 12-hour, 20-minute airline flight. Christopher Doyle provided cinematography and was also featured in the film as the pilot. The other filmmakers taking part in the project were Singapore's Eric Khoo and Darezhan Omirbayev from Khazakstan.

Pen-Ek then returned to screenwriting with PLOY, which was screened at the Director's Fortnight at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Lalita Panyopas returned to lead the cast, portraying a wife who grows jealous and angry after her husband befriends a teen-age girl. The film was censored in Thailand due to sex scenes. PLOY was screened at several other film festivals, including the 2007 Bangkok International Film Festival, the Osian's Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema (where it won the FIPRESCI award), the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival and the San Sebastián International Film Festival. His current film NYMPH, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and recently won a Special Jury Prize at the Bangkok International Film Festival, is making its Eastern European Premiere in Tallinn tonight. For more information on the excitement of POFF, visit the festival's English language website:
Sandy Mandelberger, POFF Dailies


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