Thai filmmaker Wisit Sasanatieng is having a busy Rotterdam, presenting his new film The Red Eagle, pitching his next project at CineMart, and serving on the Tiger jury.

Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng burst onto the international scene with 2000’s Tears of The Black Tiger, the first Thai film to be selected for Cannes.

He is in Rotterdam serving on the Tiger jury and also presenting his new film, The Red Eagle, something of a departure for the director since it is an action and CGI-heavy superhero story. He is also at IFFR’s CineMart pitching a much smaller, more personal project, Suriya. The film is based on the true story of a Muay Thai boxer who lives a reckless lifestyle. The director says he was inspired by a book about Suriya for many years, and felt it was fate when he lost the copy of the book for many years but was then re-introduced to it.

How did you come to do an action film like The Red Eagle? This is a change of pace for you.

It’s a remake of The Red Eagle, TV show about the Thai hero, that was quite popular and when I was young. It impressed me a lot. When I wanted to do something like this, I thought only of The Red Eagle.

Did you have fun working with all the action and effects?

I think it should be fun but I found the work too complicated and tough, especially on this budget. The production budget was 30m Thai baht [just under $1m] so it’s not that much. We did a lot of CGI is really tricky to make in Thailand because we have less people and the timing is quite tight. The CGI turned out okay, but not great, it’s not the same quality as Hollywood.

How much did you change the story?

We had to change the background of the story, because in that day the politics in Thailand was quite different. Back then, in the 1960s, the bad guy was always from some kind of communist organisation. But now the political situation in Thailand is really different, so the bad guy now is a greedy and corrupt politician.

Your CineMart project very different.

After The Red Eagle, it was hard for me, it was so complicated. So I want to do something more independent and low-budget to have more freedom.

And you have a very personal connection to the book about Suriya?

When I was young, my father was a journalist for a Chinese newspaper, and he translated this book into Chinese. I read it in Thai when I was really young and it really made an impression on me. Even when I lost the book,
I always thought about the book for a long time, even before I made my first film.

And when the book came back to me [through a new acquaintance], I had to do it. It was fate or something.

Do you enjoy being on the Tiger jury here?

For first and second time films, they are really amazing.

And what do you think of Rotterdam as a festival?

It’s a really friendly festival. When I go to Cannes it’s too slick. This is like a friend invited me, it’s more relaxed. And I love the concept, it’s good for new filmmakers.