Thai films are scoring at home and overseas. Jean Noh looks at some of the hottest films from Thailand coming in 2010
Over the past decade, the Thai production sector has found its feet, picking up international sales with its edgy action and horror titles, garnering major festival attention with its arthouse films and scoring hits at the local box office with comedies and romances.
“You can call the film business an industry now,” says producer and director Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (pictured), who is head of the international department at Thai studio GTH. “As in most countries, Hollywood films have a bigger market share, but you can expect at least two to three big Thai films each year.”
The success of local films at the box office is spurring the industry: last year Thailand saw 30 million admissions for a total box office of $106.4m (BAHT3.5bn). Local hits were led by Bangkok Traffic Love Story, which took $4.4m, and Phobia 2, which took $3.3m. Both were produced and distributed by GTH.
“You can call the film business an industry now. You can expect at least two to three big Thai films each year.”
Yougyoot Thongkongtoon, GTH
“Thai box office has picked up and the quality of the pictures has gone up, too,” says Robert Li, director of marketing and distribution, international business development at Bangkok-based producer-seller Oriental Eyes. “The last 10 years was about the re-emergence of Thai film. The next 10 years is about new content; cosmopolitan films that will also work with the local audience.”
Anticipated projects for 2010 include new films from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Wisit Sasanatieng, Tony Jaa and the final instalment of Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol’s epic historical series. Previous films in the run, such as 2001’s Suriyothai, have been box-office hits at home and sold well for producer-distributor Sahamongkol Film International. The latest, The Legend Of King Naresuan, is set for release in Thailand at the end of the year.
Sahamongkol also has Jaa’s martial-arts movie Ong Bak 3 (pictured) set for release in May. “We expect the local box office to be huge as well as international sales,” says Gilbert Lim, executive vice-president at Sahamongkol.
From action to comedy
Another anticipated film is Sasanatieng’s The Red Eagle, an action project starring Ananda Everingham set for release in the second half of 2010. Five Star is handling the film in a slate that also includes thriller Slice ― written by Sasanatieng and directed by Kongkiat Komesiri. Slice screened in Rotterdam and will play at the forthcoming Hong Kong International Film Festival. Five Star also has hit romantic comedy My Valentine and Boonchoo 10, the tenth film in the Boonchoo franchise which has so far generated more than $10m (baht300m).
“The last 10 years was about the re-emergence of Thai film. The next 10 years is about cosmopolitan films that will also work with the local audience.”
Robert Li, Oriential Eyes
GTH has the heartwarming The Little Comedian (pictured) and a romance from Banjong Pisanthanakun, one of the co-directors of Shutter, Thailand’s top-grossing local film of 2004.
Set up in 2006, Oriental Eyes has started work with Hong Kong-based Media Asia on the international sales of the horror road movie 9 Temples and the virus thriller My Best Bodyguard.
Phranakorn Film’s slate includes Bang Rajan 2, due out March 25 and the snake horror film The Intruder starring Akara Amarttayakul, due in April.
The arthouse dimension
On the arthouse side, Weerasethakul ― whose Tropical Malady won the jury prize at Cannes in 2004 ― is editing his upcoming Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, about a man dying of kidney failure who meets with ghosts. “We’re working towards the Cannes deadline but it’s really a question of when it’s ready,” says Simon Field, producer at Illuminations Films. “We want to make sure we get the film Apichatpong wants to make.”
Budgeted in the region of $813,000 (€600,000), the film is being sold by The Match Factory. As with many Thai arthouse films, the film has received support from overseas funds ― France’s Fonds Sud, the World Cinema Fund and the Hubert Bals Fund.
“There’s a positive trend of younger film-makers operating outside the dominant commercial cinema,” says Field, also former director of the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Part of the new generation following Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and Weerasethakul, Aditya Assarat’s Wonderful Town made a strong debut at Pusan in 2007. The film subsequently picked up the Tiger Award at Rotterdam and was sold by Memento Films to around 30 territories.
“There’s a positive trend of younger film-makers operating outside the dominant commercial cinema.”
Simon Field, Illuminations Films
Assarat is currently editing his next feature, High Society, with hopes to be ready for Cannes. The $350,000 film has also received support from the Hubert Bals Fund, Torino Film Lab, Switzerland’s Vision Sud-Ouest and the Sundance Film Lab. It was also in the Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum (HAF) and Paris Project. Memento Films is handling sales.
Another up-and-coming director to watch, Anocha Suwichakornpong, won the Tiger Award at Rotterdam this year with her Mundane History and a CineMart grant with her project By The Time It Gets Dark. She is producing Past Love ― featured at this month’s HAF ― to be directed by Lee Chatametikool.
Mundane History will also be screening in Hong Kong.