THAILAND - One of the most important cinematic events in Asia, this year's edition of the Busan International Film Festival can probably best be described as wet. Typhoon Toraji chose the early part of the week to blow into the southern part of South Korea, leading to a significant drop in audience numbers for the last few days though not dampening the spirits of serious viewers.
Thai films have traditionally been welcomed at Busan and this year has been no exception, with the event boasting six Thai features, two of them in the New Currents competition, which awards US$30,000 (S$37,000) to two winners.
One of them is "Concrete Clouds", the long-awaited debut feature of Lee Chatametikool.
Lee, an experienced film and sound editor, has long been associated with leading Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul and has also edited such box-office hits as "Shutter" and "Love of Siam". His 2001 short "Miami Strips, Hollywood Dreams" was shown at several festivals and picked up second prize at the Thai Short Film and Video Festival.
"I fell into editing work by accident and I've always wanted to direct," he says. "After finishing my studies in the US, I came back to Thailand and my first job was as editor of 'Blissfully Yours'. I kept trying to develop my own film project but I found out that I had a talent for editing and for 10 years that felt like enough. Then [producer and 'Mundane History' director] Anocha [Suwichakornpong] asked me about the film I wanted to make and together we submitted this project to the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum. Everything started from that point."
Produced by Apichatpong, Anocha, Soros Sokhum and actress-director Sylvia Chang, "Concrete Clouds" stars Ananda Everingham as Mutt, a half-Thai, half-American who comes back from New York to attend the funeral of his father who committed suicide at the height of the 1997 financial crisis. Janesuda Parnto portrays Mutt's socialite ex-girlfriend, who is facing money problems, and Apinya "Saiparn" Sakuljaroensuk plays the girlfriend of Nick, Mutt's younger brother. Foreigners might have problems following the film, which is heavily critical of the country's financial and social problems, but Thais in their 30s will have no problem going back to 1997 thanks to a soundtrack that includes The Back Up's "Panpueng" Pukky Prissana Praisaeng's "Kor Kae Mee Ter" and Billy Ogan's "Yak Ta Gon". In a homage to Thai music videos, the songs come complete with karaoke subtitles. Tik Shiro's "Luem Mai Mod" ("Can't Forget It All") plays as the end credits roll to newsreel scenes of events from the 1997 financial crisis.
The other Thai contender for the New Currents Award is "The Isthmus", the debut feature of Sopawan "Kru Yui" Boonnimitra and Peerachai "Kru Tery" Peerachai Kerdsint. Sopawan lectures at Chulalongkorn University's Film and Still Photography department while Peerchai holds a similar position at Bangkok University's Film Department.