It has been a difficult year for the Thai film industry, coping with the double whammy of political unrest and inflation which have battered the economy and impacted on audience spending power. But although local studios have been cautious and there have been delays to production schedules, there are some big projects set to emerge over the coming year.
One of the most highly touted projects, Ong Bak 2, suffered delays that had nothing to do with anti-government protests or the economy when the film's star and director, Tony Jaa, went missing from the production in early summer. Reportedly suffering from stress, the star has apparently recovered and is back on set. Sahamongkolfilm International hopes to still be able to release the film in Thailand in its scheduled slot in December.
Sahamongkolfilm's AFM slate also includes two other high-concept action films - Nonzee Nimibutr's Queens Of Langkasuka, which premiered at Venice and was scheduled to open in Thailand in October, and Prachya Pinkaew's Chocolate, which Magnolia Pictures' genre label Magnet recently acquired for North America.
Thailand's other major studios traditionally focus on horror, comedy and romantic drama. However, Five Star is stepping into the action arena with big-budget super-hero movie The Red Eagle, to be directed by Wisit Sasanatieng (Tears Of The Black Tiger) and star Ananda Everingham. Production has been delayed but Five Star expects to start shooting at the end of the year for local release next summer.
Thai ghost films have been subject to the same buyer fatigue as Japanese horror films, but local studios have been coming up with new twists on the genre. GTH's 4bia, an omnibus of four youth-oriented ghost stories, was a hot seller at Cannes and has been a box-office success in several Asian territories over the past few months. The studio is now working on a second instalment and is also selling Coming Soon, directed by Shutter co-writer Sophon Sakdaphisit, about a horror movie that follows its audience home from the cinema.
Moving away from the ghost genre, thrillers are becoming more popular with Thai studios, such as Sahamongkolfilm's In The Shadow Of The Naga, which receives its first market screening at the AFM. The film is expected to be controversial in its home territory due to the storyline about three criminals who disguise themselves as monks to recover treasure buried under a temple.
Five Star is also working on an as-yet-untitled thriller to be written and directed by Kongkiat Khomsiri (Art Of The Devil 2, Muay Thai Chaiya) from a story by Wisit. Production is scheduled to start before the end of the year.