The 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok opens this month, running November 15-24, bringing an eclectic mix of movies from all over the world to the Thai capital. Festival director Victor Silakong has travelled the world compiling the programme, which features a variety of story-telling approaches and visual styles.
“The aim is to showcase independent films from around the world – we selected the films from 800 submissions online,” he says.
Pressed on the festival’s highlights, Silakong begins rattling through his favourites.
“There’s an Australian film called The Rocket which stars one of Thailand’s greatest comedians,” he says. “It’s a very touching story of a little boy trying to help his family by building a rocket for a very big festival.”
He is particularly excited by a documentary film called Cambodia, After Farewell, which follows a family of Cambodian refugees who return to their homeland after 35 years living in France to confront the grim legacy of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
“Like many documentaries out of Cambodia, it is about the Killing Fields,” Silakong says. “But this is a more personal film, as these survivors come back from France and try to make sense of what happened in Cambodia.”
The documentary section is just one of the categories dividing up the festival programme and is, as with many film festivals, likely to produce its share of surprises.
“They can be about anything on any subject – the documentaries can often be more entertaining than the fictional films,” Silakong says. “Often, the stories are beyond anything someone would be able to invent.”
There is another section devoted entirely to South American films, a region that produces its own brand of energetic, sometimes offbeat, cinema. Silakong is particularly impressed with a film called Workers (above right).
“It’s about servants in a rich woman’s house – the woman dies and leaves everything to her beloved dog, which they then have to look after,” he says. “It’s a very rich story.
“There’s another film called The Cleaner, about a man who works in a factory and finds an abandoned child one day and adopts him. It’s a simple story but it’s told with a lot of style.”
The great joy of film festivals, of course, is seeing a film without knowing too much about it and being surprised in a way that is now all too rare.
The 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok runs November 15-24. See worldfilmbkk.com for details.
Rock The Casbah
Israel | 2012
In 1989 during the First Intifada, Israeli soldiers are sent to Gaza to oversee the Arab population. During a routine patrol, one of them gets killed by a washing machine thrown from one of the village’s houses. Four young soldiers are then stationed on the roof top of a Palestinian home to keep a close watch on the neighbourood and find those responsible.
A Place On Earth
France | 2013
Antoine is a joyful but disenchanted photographer. His only true friend, Mateo, is seven years old and the son of his neighbour, who is often absent. One day, he hears a piano sonata coming from the building across the courtyard. Mesmerised by the music, he becomes obsessed by Elena, the beautiful but mysterious pianist, and starts to photograph her at every opportunity.
Brazil | 2012
A palpable sense of unease hangs over a single city block in the coastal town of Recife, Brazil. Home to prosperous families and their servants, the area is ruled by an ageing patriarch and his sons. When a private security firm is reluctantly brought in to protect the residents from a recent spate of petty crime, it unleashes the fears and resentments of a divided society.
The Last Shepherd (above right)
Italy | 2012
Renato Zucchelli is the last travelling shepherd left in Milan. And he has a dream: leading his sheep to the inaccessible centre of the city to meet the children who have never seen him. His idea is that, if a shepherd can conquer a city with only his sheep, then dreams and freedom can always endure. It is a touching study of
the power of fantasy.
Thailand, Hong Kong | 2013
Tang Wong is a comedic drama that centres around four high school boys who pray for different things before the Luang Poo idol at a spirit house. When their wishes come true they must repay the debt by performing a traditional Thai dance. This is easier said than done and
they must enlist the help of Nut, a transvestite dancer who lives in their block.
Turkey | 2012
Aziz was once a famous actor but now lives in a hotel, barely earning a living working as a storyteller in the local shopping malls and coffee houses. His impetuous life has worn out his heart, although when he hears that his manager is taking the theatre on tour, he insists on joining them. His last tour is a chance to confront his past, his regrets and his sins.