As the 9th World Film Festival of Bangkok gets started on Friday, January 20, KohSpot took the time to sit down with festival director Victor to discuss why his project stands out from the murky myriad of art and cinema festivals in Bangkok.
“Bangkok has such potential to be a film and arts hub in Southeast Asia, but there is so much entertainment here that it all competes, whether you’re talking about bars, clubs, red light districts or music,” said Victor. “Singapore has sort of taken that role as cultural leader, mainly because we didn’t care enough to do something about it here.”
The festival runs from Jan 20-27 at Esplanade mall on Ratchada, and unlike the Bangkok International Film Festival that was often ridiculed for flying in movie stars that weren’t even acting in the movies they screened and was embroiled in a lengthy bribery scandal, the World Film Festival actually focuses on providing independent movies to an eager public. Go ahead, look at their program schedule. Try to find the majority of those on Imdb.com or Rotten Tomatoes and you can’t. And that’s what truly independent film festivals are supposed to be like: a grab bag where you go in fresh and are amazed or disappointed by what you see.
“This is what we love. We want this to be a film feast, and if you find something you don’t like, you can walk out and try something new. For instance, one documentary I love that you won’t hear about anywhere else is called For Once in My Life. It’s about autistic laborers in Florida making flags for the troops. But they love music so in their free time they practice. They get a chance to play in public, and as you can imagine, trying to organize them in a group is a mess. But when they finally perform in public it is amazing to behold. This is why I love going to the movies,” said Victor.
We second that, Victor. KohSpot has sat through numerous duds at film festivals before, but just remembering the feeling we got when seeing Primer keeps you coming back.
This year’s iteration will honor legendary Hungarian master Bela Tarr, the last master still shooting in black and white, according to Victor. Past honorees have included Polanski and Nuri Ceylan from Turkey. Las Acacias from Argentina, the Golden Camera winner from Cannes, Werner Herzog’s 3-D Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Undertow from Peru, which won the audience award at Sundance, and a collection from Aki Kaurismaki will all feature this year. Sixty features and over 40 shorts will screen in total.
“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind having Brad Pitt on opening night on the red carpet,” said Victor. “But we can’t afford it and we don’t need it if we’re focusing on independent film. It seems like studios have run out of ideas, so more people are looking to independents and documentaries to tell good stories.” Amen
World Film Festival of Bangkok
Location: Esplanade Cineplex, on Thanon Ratchada across the street from the Thailand Cultural Center
Mass transit: MRT Thailand Cultural Centre
Hours: 11am-11pm Jan 20-27