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Thailand invests in film tourism

More than 100 films from about 30 countries will feature in the fifth Bangkok International Film Festival (BKKIFF) that is scheduled to be held from 19-29 July, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The…

More than 100 films from about 30 countries will feature in the fifth Bangkok International Film Festival (BKKIFF) that is scheduled to be held from 19-29 July, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The festival, which was to be held in January, was postponed due to the unavailability of screening theatres.

“But we are all set to go now,” said Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, Chief Officer of the BKKIFF, who will be overseeing the festival, this year. He stated that it would be a “streamlined festival, where we’ve trimmed off the excesses” and added, “The focus will be on quality films which is really the heart of any film festival.”

“This year, our main focus will be to provide the movie-loving audiences of Bangkok, with the films they’ve been waiting to see.” While there would still be a Red Carpet Opening night, it would be on a more modest scale as compared to previous festivals, in keeping with the Sufficiency Economy Theory of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

There will be more emphasis on the cultural and technical parts of the festival. “Promoting cultural events is an important part of TAT’s activities,” informed Chattan. The Program Director of this year’s BKKIFF, is Kriengsak Silakong, who served in the same capacity when the festival was first started in 2003, before moving on to the World Film Festival of Bangkok. The former theatre stalwart from Bangkok said he hoped to work out a good program, with his team. The BKKIFF would have a strong Asian focus this year, with more movies and movie stars from the Asian region making their presence felt.

The jury members would also be mostly from Asia. “Asian films are in vogue now,” said Silakong, who visited festivals in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and India, to acquire movies. The final stop, of course, will be the Cannes Film Festival, in May. Chattan stated that the TAT would possibly hold a small function to announce the BKKIFF in Cannes, along the lines of the modest reception they held at the Hong Kong Film Festival recently. As for the different sections of the festival, there would be three competition sections that would present the Golden Kinnaree Awards to the winners – International, ASEAN and Short Films. The ASEAN category is unique to this festival, and this year boasts of an arresting package of 10 films from the newly developed cinema of countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. The Short Film Competition is new to this year’s BKKIFF.

An important highlight of this year’s festival is that many of the competition films will have Thai sub-titles. The World Cinema section has about 20 movies from countries like Germany, France, Denmark, the U.K., while the Asian Cinema section has nearly 30 films from the region.

“The Asian films contribute to more than 50% of this year’s festival,” said Silakong. As for the Thai Panorama section, he said they had a rich crop of 12 newly released films. There was also the possibility that the Opening Film would be from the kingdom, too.

Other features at this year’s festival, which are still being negotiated, are a special package of Greek movies, as well as a cluster of rare films from French master Luis Bunuel. A Lifetime Achievement Award would be given to the great special effects guru Ray Harryhausen. The festival also plans to have a tribute to a well-known director or actor, with five of the artist’s movies screened, in his presence. This is still being finalised.

“We also plan to hold seminars and workshops, which are a vital part of any film festival,” said Chattan. He said the seminars would discuss topical subjects like anti-piracy, censorship and film shooting in Thailand. They would be conducted by well-known Professor Kittisak Suwannabhokin. There would also be an animation workshop, conducted by a well-known animation company from Okinawa, with a special focus on clay animation.

An important aspect of the BKKIFF would be the Bangkok Film Market that is being organised by the Federation of National Film Association of Thailand, from 23-25 July. With the big demand for Asian cinema on the world festival circuit, Chattan said the Film Market would give a boost to the sale of Asian and Thai films.

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