Friday , August 12 2022

Thai director returns to junta-run home country with the latest movie


Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul spoke during an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Nakhon Pathom (AFP image)

Palme d. Or-winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul makes his next feature in Colombia with Tilda Swinton, but he promises to bring his key words – ghosts, memory and politics – with him.

Apichatpong, a softly spoken 48-year-old from rural Thailand, must not jump like a household name.

But he is the lead in Thailand's cinema scene and a doctor in the global arthouse circuit, boasted for his nonlinear narrative, dreamy shooting style and strong – often subtle – political messages.

With his home country under military board since 2014, the filmmaker AFP told him that he did not decide not to make the film in Thailand, where political discussion was overthrown and he said films could be closed by the general attacks.

Making a movie without dealing with the urgent issue of Kingdom politics would be to undermine its role as a filmmaker, says Apichatpong.

"I want to talk about politics, our reality, our lives," he told AFP this week before an award competition on November 19 in Nakhon Pathom, outside of Bangkok.

The military rule has a queer artistic expression in Thailand, but with the choice of slats for early next year, a creative return will arise, from documentaries to rap and graffiti.

But for movies, the way forward, Apichatpong said, explaining that "the cinema will follow … true democracy and rights" and adds he is happy to "nurture a new generation of filmmakers."

Apichatpong was catapulted for the recognition of "Uncle Boonmee who can remember his past lives", who won the 2010 Palme d'Or in Cannes.

His elegance films sweep through mysterious forests, mysterious creatures, hallucinations and damaged national stories.

In December, he is required to release a card in the Kingdom as part of "Ten Years of Thailand", a bold project to document its nation's political and social travails.

Memory and ghosts

But his next feature, "Memoria", currently written, will be filmed in Colombia – a country that shares some parallels with its politically fragmented homeland.

Set between 1970 and 1980, a period marked by the bitter battle between left-wing Farc guerrillas and radical paramilitary groups of the right, the movie Swinton has played an expat "adventurer" of varieties.

She experiences auditorial hallucinations and tries to "find the sources of these sounds that only happen to her," explained the Thai director.

Research took two months of travel to Colombia and interviewed psychiatrists on drug abuse, he said, typical of his in-depth approach to filming.

For years, Apichatpong had been working on a script for his long-lasting friend, Swinton.

The couple agreed to frame the story outside Thailand, where they were "both strangers and both foreigners".

"The story is about the discovery. She (Swinton) is very adventurous. She has different life in the cinema world, she has more common movies … but also experimental films."

The French actress Jeanne Balibar, who met the Thai director when they were jury members in Cannes in 2008, will also strengthen the film as archaeologist.

The story is based on a motive that goes through all their movies – ghosts.

Apichatpong's parents were physicians and he grew up in a hospital association where "illness, death and birth" left an indelible brand, while he was also busy with sci-fi and supernatural throughout childhood.

"There was nothing at that time besides the newspapers of sci-fi, ghosting and ghost movies," he said.

"Then to me they belong to the same place, a place that is common, antigravity, something that can occur at night and disappear in front of your eyes."

But it was logic in the run-up to Colombia – first, from a financing perspective for an international film, but also to satisfy its curiosity.

"I was very interested in Latin American culture, I was very interested in the Amazon. But when I was there I became more attracted to the people, to their memories," he said.

"They also really believe in the ghosts."

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