The World Film Festival of Bangkok _ the only remaining well-stocked buffet of global movies after the government-sponsored Bangkok International Film Festival folded _ is returning for the 11th year. Running from Nov 15-24, the festival this year will show 62 films from 25 countries. I will preview some of the highlights in November; here's a first look at the line-up and what cinephiles should be looking for.
Thep Pho-ngarm, centre, in The Rocket .
The festival's opener will be a real delight. The Rocket is listed as an Australian film _ it represents Australia in the Oscar's Best Foreign Language race, with many expecting it to make the shortlist _ but its cast and flavour are Lao with a dash of Thai. The film, which was shot in Thailand, is about a 10-year-old Lao boy who hooks up with a friend and a flamboyantly eccentric James Brown-obsessed uncle (Thai actor Thep Pho-ngarm, in a role that cracks you up). Touching on the theme of development and the arrival of global influences in the landlocked country, the film hitches its climax on a bamboo rocket festival _ hence the Thai and Lao title Bang Fai.
Elsewhere, the festival offers its usual eclectic mix.
Briefly for now, I will point you to some of the unmissable ones. First off, Tabu, the best film of last year on many lists, including mine, is a mesmerising black-and-white Portuguese offering that is best seen, of course, on the big screen. A story about the crumbling colonial dream, Tabu, which is largely set in an unnamed African country, manages to be deeply romantic as well as quietly political.
The next one is really special. The French film L'inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake) will certainly be on my top-five of 2013. An impressionist dream, a murder mystery, a gay hook-up comedy _ the film by Alain Guiraudie is actually about the irresistible appeal of danger. Taking place entirely by a serene lake frequented by gay men, the film is a triumph of structure, suspense, formalism and the sadness and joy of brief encounters.
Three other new films that you should look forward to are Tom at the Farm, Stray Dogs and Young & Beautiful. The new film by the talented and sometimes precocious Xavier Dolan, Tom at the Farm is about a gay man who meets his lover's family. Young & Beautiful, the French film by Francois Ozon, is about a 17-year-old girl who dabbles in high-class prostitution. Meanwhile Stray Dogs is the new film by Taiwan's Tsai Ming-liang, the master of slow cinema.
One of the strengths of the World Film Festival is that it serves as a showcase of new Thai independent productions _ and this is how the festival has a great relevance to the development of the film community here. This year, the festival will parade a number of them: Karaoke Girl, a story of a bar girl from Isan, directed by Visra Vichit Vadakan; The Isthmus, about the Burmese community in Ranong, by Sopawan Boonnimitra and Peerachai Kerdsint; Tang Wong, about Bangkok's street protests, by Kongdej Jaturantrasmee; By the River, a documentary about Klity village by Nontawat Numbenchapol; and a couple more.
Stay tuned for more updates.
L’inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake ).