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    Top Thai Movies 2007

    Lights, camera ... CONFLICT
    The Thai film industry came up with some great movies this year but censorship still casts a cloud over the future
    The Nation
    Published on December 26, 2007

    The Thai film industry has undergone several changes this year so we're choosing not to focus on box office success in this end-of-year round-up but are selecting the films that we consider the most outstanding.

    In most cases, our choices are based on the movies themselves. In one case, our award goes to filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul for having the courage to stand up for his beliefs and for refusing to give in to censorship and marketing constraints.

    Chosen by Newsweek magazine's film writer David Ansen as the best movie of this year, avant-garde director Apichatpong's "Sang Sattawat" ("Syndomes and a Century"), a two-part story about doctors, was more mainstream than his earlier films but still unconventional enough to please his many fans.

    Ironically, the film only got extensive coverage in Thailand when it hit a problem with the censors and, rather than have scenes cut, Apichatpong decided it wouldn't be shown here at all. The conflict over his movie led to filmmakers forming the Free Thai Cinema Movement and calling on lawmakers to classify films as part of the mass media thus allowing the industry to enjoy the same freedom as the press.

    "Rak Hang Siam" ("Love of Siam") created something of a stir when it was released, with audiences either cheering or jeering when the two teen male characters share a passionate kiss. The contemporary drama quickly became the talk of the town following its November release and was the topic of much discussion on popular online community forum While gay films are not new in Thailand, director Chookiat Sakweerakul was brave to portray a gay relationship between teens in a family drama, thereby risking the censors' scissors.

    "Muay Thai Chaiya" is the first solo work by low-profile director Kongkiat Komsiri, who sharpened his skills as scriptwriter for "Bang Rajan" and "Pen Choo Kab Pee" ("The Unseeable"). "Chaiya" is a brilliant movie with a strong story and great direction and acting - definitely one of the best action dramas to come out of Thailand in years.

    Four years in the making, MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's first two episodes of "Tamnan Somdej Phra Naresuan Maharaj" ("The Legend of King Naresuan") recount the story of Thailand's legendary warrior King Naresuan the Great. Unlike his previous epic, "Suriyothai", which followed more of a documentary style, Chatrichalerm injects greater drama and action to this big-budget movie, the final part of which is scheduled for release next year.

    "Phra Buddhajao" ("The Life of Buddha") was a testament to the faith and perseverance of Wallapa Pimthong who spent Bt80 million of her own money and raised another Bt40 million from private donations to fulfil her dream. The film, which depicts the life of Buddha in Disney-style animation, is ideal for children although it probably won't teach most adults anything they don't already know.

    Other films well worth watching included "Faed" ("Alone"), a horror flick about conjoined twins which did well on both the festival and film-market circuits after harvesting Bt65 million at the domestic the box office, and "May Narok Muay Yok Lor" ("Bus Lane"), a black comedy about travelling on a Bangkok bus from Kittikorn Liawsirikul.

    Pen-ek Ratanaruang was back on form with the low-budget "Ploy", and rookie director Soraya Nakasuwan also entertained with her light-hearted documentary depicting a Mattayom 6 student's life, "Final Score".

    For the filmmakers, the year ended on a sour note with the passage through the National Legislative Assembly on December 20 of a new film bill to replace the 1930 Film Act.

    While there is good news in that Thailand now has a rating system, many regard the five different ratings as cumbersome classifications. Worse still, the new law still allows the Film Board to ban films in their entirety, as well as cut and edit any parts of movies they film unsuited for public viewing.

    The top 10 Thai movies of 2007

    1. Tamnan Somdej Phra Naresuan Part II: "Prakad Issara Phab" ("The Legend of King Naresuan: Reclaiming Sovereignty"), Bt256 million

    2. "Tamnan Somdej Phra Naresuan Part I: "Ong Prakan Hongsa" ("The Legend of King Naresuan: Pegu's Hostage"),

    Bt254 million

    3. "Bodyguard Na Liam 2"

    ("The Bodyguard 2"), Bt98 million

    4. "Teng Nong Khon Ma Ha Hia",

    Bt91 million

    5. "May Narok Muay Yok Lor",

    Bt85 million

    6. "Ponglang Sading Lumsing Sai Na" ("Ponglang Amazing Theatre"),

    Bt71 million *

    7. "Tud Soo Fud" ("Kungfu Tootsie"), Bt70 million

    8."Sailab Jab Baan Lek" ("The Bedside Detective"), Bt70 million

    9. "Faed" ("Alone"), Bt65 million

    10. "Ma Mah See Kha Krub"

    ("Mid Road Gang"), Bt58 million

    Sources: Film companies as of

    December 21.

    * Still showing in cinemas.

    Parinyaporn Pajee

    The Nation

  2. #2
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    Re: Top Thai Movies 2007

    Bangkok Post, 26th December 2007

    It has become a cliche' to complain that Thai cinema is swamped with cheap horrors and inept comedies, with arm-flapping gay buffoons tossed in for good measure. But like most cliche's, this one seems to be true, especially over the past 12 months when audience saw ghosts of various pedigrees and malicious spooks mingle with professional bozos on the big screen.

    The number of local movies released in 2007 clocked in at 49 (last year there were 43), with Poj Anont's Yern, Pae, Lae, Se Ma Kutae, a comedy whose principal humour revolves around its three physically handicapped characters (one cross-eyed, one physically disabled and one buck-toothed), ending the year with its December 28 release. I'm sure it's going to be so funny I won't be able to stop crying - what a marvellous end to an eventful year for Thai films.

    Of the 49 titles, only two crossed the 100 million baht milestone - the two Legend of King Naresuan movies, each making around 230 million baht. But there is a big caveat here. The big-earning Naresuan pictures (the third, initially scheduled to open on December 5, has been postponed) cannot serve as reliable indicators of the health of the local film industry, or of audience loyalty to homegrown movies in general, because these two films by Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol were produced outside the mindset of regular movie-business practices and were subjected to no financial pressure. Whether the movies recouped their investment or not was not the major concern (reportedly the two films cost over 600 million baht). The two films might have stimulated audience enthusiasm - and invoked chest-beating pride - but they are not part of the game played by other (struggling) Thai film-makers.

    Big TV clowns remain bankable assets, though they didn't carry any of their films past 100 million baht: Petchthai "Mum Jokmok" starred in and directed The Bodyguard 2, which made 90 million baht, whereas Teng Terdterng and Nong Chernyim took Teng Nong Khon Maha Hia to 80 million baht. The numbers seem impressive, but the investors certainly expected more.

    Surprise hits of 2007 included the dog film by Pantham Thongsang, Ma-Mar See Kha krub (Mid-Road Gang), tallying over 50 million baht; Kitikorn Leosirikul's Mail Narok Muay Yok Lor (Bus Lane), a road comedy that opened on Songkran Day and made 80 million baht; and the gay ghost comedy - no bases go untouched! - Hor Taew Tak (The Haunted), Poj Anont's low-budget pic that made over 50 million baht.

    Every Thai studio does exactly the same thing when they spot despair on the doorstep: Make a ghost film. Yet the much-awaited creep of the year, Fadd (Alone), turned out to be a surfeit of recycled scare tactics that shocked but did not awe viewers. The film, by the directors of the 2004 smash hit Shutter, made 62 million baht. Still, the graves of Thai horror are reputably fertile so we saw Rot Fai Pee (Ghost Train), Weng Pisaj (Haunted Cove), Perng Mang (Haunted Drum), Goey Ther Gay (Ghost Station), Kham Chanod (about a haunted movie screen) and Pee Maijim Fan (Haunted Toothpicks) - no kidding. All are mediocre ghost yarns made with the belief that Thai audiences need a weekly fix of lame and unworthy fear.

    Surprisingly, the films that earned critical praise during 2007 were love stories, a much-maligned genre that has been relegated to the back seat for many years. In April we saw Kor Hai Rak Jong Charoen (Me ... Myself), which stars Ananda Everingham as a cabaret transsexual who's lost her memory and falls in love with a woman. In June, Pen-ek Ratanaruang released his sixth feature, Ploy, a marital drama taking place largely in a hotel room (the erotic scenes were trimmed by censors). And in November, Siam Square turned bright pink with Chukiat Sakweerakul's Rak Haeng Siam (The Love of Siam), a warm-hearted family drama that became a sensation with viewers of all ages. Kor Hai Rak Jong Charoen, Ploy and Rak Haeng Siam didn't earn phenomenal amounts at the box-office, but just enough to put a smile on their investors' faces.

    Over with the independents, the most shocking news of 2007 was director Apichatpong Weerasethakul cancelling the release of his film Saeng Satawat (Syndromes and a Century) following the censor board's demand for him to cut four seemingly innocuous scenes. The incident led to a passionate, industry-wide campaign by film-makers to pressure the government to abolish censorship and to introduce a ratings system in the new Film Act. As of now, the bill is still stuck in the National Legislative Assembly.

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