Interview with the winner of the Palme d’Or 2010
“Cinema is man’s way to create alternate universes, other lives”
the revels of a wondrous, original and unwantedly rebellious mind
Serge sprak met de Gouden Palmwinnaar 2010
Arlette van Laar filmde het gesprek
Cobra.be – 24/05/2010
Onze man in Cannes mocht vlak voor de slotceremnie samen met enkele andere journalisten aan tafel met regisseur Apichatpong Weerasethakul, de latere Gouden Palmwinnaar. Het gesprek vond plaats in het Engels.
Serge Van Duijnhoven in Cannes Cannes 2010 gouden palm film festival cannes 2010 uncle boonmee who can recall his past lives uncle boonmee apichatpong weerasethakul regisseur jury tim burton
Thai filmmaker Apichatpong ‘Joe’ Weerasethakul is widely praised as one of the central figures in contemporary cinema. Trained as an architect in Thailand and as a visual artist in Chicago, he has stunned the film world with five innovative and dreamlike features made since the year 2000 – including award-winning films such as Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady, and Syndromes and a Century. He is also an acclaimed installation artist, exhibiting his work in museums and art spaces all over the world. His film and installation project Primitive was on show at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, at FACT in Liverpool, and part of it can currently be seen at the BFI Gallery in London (until July 3rd). Joe’s most recent feature movie, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, won the Palme d’Or at the Filmfestival of Cannes 2010.
THIS IS THE COMPLETE AND FULL LENGTH TEXT OF THE FEATURE ARTICLE – INCLUDING THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW THAT TOOK PLACE ON MAY 22nd
CANNES – Tim Burton, the American Guru of imaginary filmmaking and director of masterpieces like Edward Scissorhand, Ed Wood, Big Fish and recently Alice, had warned the world that with him being president of the grand jury of this year’s 63rd edition of the Cannes Filmfestival, “really anything would be possible and should be expected”. At the beginning of the festival, Burton specifically welcomed all of those movies that ”would knock on the doors of our dreams”.
With this kept in mind, the ultimate winner of the Palme d’Or 2010, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s mystical rêverie Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, might be less of a surprise than most critics claimed it to be. During the jury and prize-winners press conference in the Grand Palais des Festivals in Cannes, an event that usually marks the melancholy ending of the world’s largest and most prestigious filmfestival, Benicio del Toro said of the film that he “liked the way the lucid Thai director dealt with the biggest mystery there is – death”. Shekhar Kapur weighed in too, saying Weerasethakul showed “incredible compassion” in his filmmaking. He described the Palme D’Or winning movie as a “beautiful experience that drew us in and seduced us to ask all these questions of ourselves.” Burton himself hailed the movie as “an intimate tale of mystery and imagination. A beautiful and wondrous dream. Cinema as an art of metaphysics.”
The 39 year old director, who was born in Bangkok and grew up in the city of Khon Kaen (north-eastern Thailand), expressed surprise “that there is recognition for this type of cinema” and echoed Tim Burton’s sentiments that the world is getting smaller and more Westernised when he said: “We have become a monoculture… We need diversity in the moving image. I try to present a different kind of cinema that pushes the boundaries and challenges audiences.”
Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Joe for those who think the name unpronouncable – started making films and video shorts in 1994 and completed his first feature in 2000. He has also mounted exhibitions and installations in many countries since 1998. Often nonlinear, his works link an Ovid-like sense of morphological imagination with a very strong and everlasting need to satisfy the hunger of his sensible and somewhat nostalgic mind. Working independently of the Thai commercial film industry as well as of Bangkok’s much feared Ministry of Culture, he devotes himself to promoting experimental and independent filmmaking through his quasi-underground production company Kick the Machine-Films.
The acclaimed and since his victory in Cannes momentarily even worldfamous artist who draws deeply on the indigenous culture of Thailand and its remote areas, remains an outsider at home. His status is somewhat close to that of a dissident. His films are barely shown in any cinema of the country, he is deliberately left without funding by the Thai regime, and the authorities have, since 2007, repeatedly threatened with outright censorship of his work if he would continue to insert his films with scenes of homosexual behavior or critical analogies to the current political situation that, according to Apichatpong, “is marked by a viscious sollipsism of Thailand’s ruling classes.” When the Thai authorities requested cuts from his movie Syndromes of a Century he immediately helped form an international anti-censorship group called the Free Thai Cinema Movement.
At his Cannes news conference, where journalists posed questions about the recent clashes between the government and the red-shirt protestors in Bangkok, Apichatpong was not afraid to speak out. “Thailand is a violent country,” he said. “It’s controlled by a group of mafia.” He told the press it had been unclear if he would even make it to Cannes given the unpredictable situation in Bangkok. Earlier this week, he said, he drove around Bangkok as the city burned, going from one European embassy to another — they were being closed as the violence spread — in the hopes of securing a visa. To get around curfew restrictions, he spent the night before his flight at an airport hotel. “It’s been an adventure getting here,” he said.
Born in Bangkok and raised by his doctor parents in the northeastern village of Khon Kaen, he still considers the pulpy Thai genre films of his youth an important influence. Most of his films are autobiographical—he has said that he draws above all on personal memories—but they are also precise and rigorous in their formalism. He studied architecture in Thailand before getting an MFA in filmmaking at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he discovered art-house cinema as well as the experimental moviework by Andy Warhol and other conceptual artists.
Light and darkness, silence and sound, life and death, city and jungle, man and nature: strong contrasts are his trademark, as well as his lighthearted way of blending those ingredients into an indigstinguishable brew of magic and reality – set in a transdimensional timezone.
Though the result of his achievements may not always be easy for an audience to digest or even comprehend, and while the meaning of his highly personal and enigmatic symbolism is not always clear, even his most indifferent or critical opponents will admit that his videos and features – by the shere force of their vigorous and uncompromising originality – certainly transcend the realm of the mediocre or the “artyfarty”. The movies may be too mindpuzzling for some or intellectual for others, in any sense it’s obvious that they are created for other purposes than pretentious machismo. Actually, instead of a director Apichatpong Weerasethakul prefers to call himself a “conveyor” or “facilitator”. Directing is one part of the job, but it says nothing about the participation with the rest of the crew. And even though he draws a lot upon the use of autobiographical details for his scripts and seems to be driven by a psychological quest for a completely hermeneutical reenactment of his earliest childhood memories, Joe assures those around him with his quiet and soft spoken voice: “for me, making movies is not about the crowning of one’s ego. It’s about curiosity and sensibility.”
In the introduction to a thick book of essays that was recently dedicated to him by the Austrian Filmmuseum, Filmmuseum Synema Publikationen Vol. 12 (Vienna 2009), acclaimed Hollywood actress Tilda Swinton pronounced “that Apichatpong is one of the very few truly modern filmmakers working today, far beyond the pale of both narrative tradition and post-modern experiment. The forest binds the soul and holds it, safe and wild, in his cinema. I am deeply besotted with that particular wilderness.” The compendium indeed helps to shed some light on the deeper motivations of his peculiar cinematographical approach.
In the book, Apichatpong himself opens up inresting routes of interpretation – or at least of a better understanding – regarding some of the more enigmatic or even metaphysical aspects of his work. He does this through an essay that is called “Ghosts in the Darkness”, containing his reflections on the primal act of filmmaking and film-watching, which for him are inseparable acts. Drawing a haunting analogy to primal man’s habit of painting images on cave walls, he tells a story “said to be true” about an Isaan man with a traveling cinema show, making “open-air presentations in villages and temples.” As he showed his film, an audience filed in to watch them and they “all got up and wandered away. At dawn the next day, the film-show owner realized he was in the middle of a cemetery, and that he had been paid to show a film for ghosts.
“Even ghosts wanted to watch films,” Apichatpong writes, drawing a parallel to ordinary people watching, ghost-like, moving images on a screen. “The cinema itself is like a coffin with bodies, sitting still, as if under a spell. The moving images on the screen are camera records of events that have already taken place; they are remains of the past, strung together and called a film. In this hall of darkness, ghosts are watching ghosts.”
As it happens, Cannes has always been quite kind to the jeune premier of Thai cinema. Three of his six features have been shown at the festival before, and they have all won prizes; his second film, Blissfully Yours, won the Un Certain Regard prize in 2002. Two years later his fourth feature, Tropical Malady, captured the prize of Cannes’ most prestigious subcompetition called La semaine de la critique.
Expanding upon an element in Tropical Malady, his central interest Uncle Boonmee is reincarnation, or the migration of souls over time between humans and other animals, represented in this case by an ox, monkeyman, catfish as well as some ghosts of deceased next of kin.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives tells the story of an older man who, suffering from acute kidney failure, has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long lost son returns home in a non-human form. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave – the birthplace of his first life.
It is a very calm movie in many ways, with death being afforded a tranquil, reflective treatment that it rarely gets in western culture. The film also buzzes with myriad offbeat ideas and magical projections, such as the son who transforms into a ‘monkey ghost’, and a sequence involving a talking catfish getting amorous and performing cunnilingus with a princess who stumbles upon its enchanted pool.
On the last day of the festival, 24 hours before Joe would be endowed with the Palme d’Or – a precious handcut design from Chopard’s reknown jewelry house – my partner Arlette van Laar (with camera), myself and a few lucky colleagues from the international film press, had been granted the opportunity to spend some time with the refined and softly speaking multi-talented director. The setting was a sundrenched terrace behind one of the white tents of the Unifrance pavillon next to the Palais des Festivals, right at the southern dock of Cannes’ luscious harbour.
Despite a wry remark at the beginning (“Might there be any question I have not heard yet?”), stemming from the fact this is probably the sixth or seventh interview of the day, Apichatpong looks the epitome of relaxation in black striped shirt and Ray Ban aviators. And this outward coolness subsequently proves to extend beneath the surface as he answers all our questions with a polite thoughtfulness. An eclectic range of topics are tackled during our “round table” – ranging from the director’s own thoughts on reincarnation and the benefits of meditation, to the clashes between military and anti-government protesters in Bangkok which dominated news headlines in and outside Thailand for the last months.
What inspired you to make the film?
“A few years ago, when I was living in the north-east, I came across Uncle Boonmee. Some monk of a monastery near my house told me that there was an old man who had arrived at the temple to help out with the temple’s activities and to learn the spiritual art of meditation. One day this man, Boonmee, came to an abbot and told him that while he was deep in meditation, he could see his past lives playing behind his closed eyes like a movie. He saw and felt himself to be a buffalo, a cow, even a body-less spirit that roamed around the north-eastern plains. The abbot was impressed but not surprised, because Boonmee was not the first person to tell him about such experiences. From near and far, he had collected stories from villagers who shared their past lives with him. Later, he published a little book. On its cover one could read: A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives. The story of this abbot kept evolving in my mind. Unfortunately, by the time I got a hold of the book and wanted to envision his tale, Boonmee had passed away several years earlier.”
All your films have incorporated strongly autobiographical elements. That seems to be much less the case with Uncle Boonmee…?
“Compared to that original Boonmee book, this film has a lot of me in it. I grew up in north-eastern Thailand but never before I talked about that in my films. My goal was to evoke these memories and show these landscapes in which I grew up. I had this story on my mind and I had to get it out there. The process of making this film made me realise that I am incapable of being faithful to any original source! Besides altering the past lives, I pushed Boonmee into the background and foregrounded Jenjira and Tong, who act as witnesses to this anonymous guy’s passing.
The film is not about abbot Boonmee, but about my take on the idea of reincarnation. Everyone from Thailand has grown up with this idea of the transfer of souls between humans and animals. And even nowadays, many Thai people still believe in ghosts. I wanted to seize on this childhood fantasy and connect it with a mature idea of death. It naturally developed into an homage to the cinema I grew up with. A cinema that’s also dying or dead. And once again, my father slipped into the film. He succumbed to kidney failure. All those pieces of equipment in Boonmee’s bedroom are a simulation of those in my dad’s. As a conclusion I can say that this movie is not autobiographical in the first degree, but very much so in it’s second degree.”
The multi-layered, overtly theatrical and illuminated approach to cinema, which seems to be Apichatpung Weerasethakul’s trademark as an experimentally inclined auteur de cinema who is certainly more interested in the artistic meaning of his movie than in the harsh reality of ticketsales and box office numbers, Uncle Boonmee is certainly not Pulp Fiction, Underground or Barton Fink (to name just three former Cannes Palme d’Or prize winning cash croppers) in terms of accessibility. Much of what is shown in the movie, remains mysterious and unexplained. Does Apichatpong have any suggestions for how viewers might be advised to understand his film? Or at least how to approach it. A mode d’emploie Apichatpong, in the way Godard and Truffaut educated their audiences and introduced them to non-linear and destructuralised manners of storytelling?
“Relax!” he replies smilingly. “Open up your mind, wake up your senses and just let the images flow.” He assures us that as a director he tries to avoid any rules or rigidity or self proclaimed program of modernity. “I try to stay open to fresh impulses and the imput of chance operation. I trust the judgement of my instinct, and have no urge for overall or premeditated control.On the contrary. I try to enrich my time of preperation before shooting by multiple sessions of breathing meditation. It helps me to focus. To see the flaws or chances for a different approach in all stages of the working process. I tend to keep on scribbling, changing, testing different parameters and details. For me, a final script does not exist. Hoewever, the vision of the movie I want to make must be very precise. In order to follow the just path and make the right choices, I need to stay put and clear in the head. No stress please. No, no. I cannot deliver the density I desire for my movies, if I would let my mind be buggled too much by all the problems that occur during the various phases of production. To a large extent we have a choice as to the amount of weight we attach to the things that will always be a bore in our daily life. Of course, the troubles in our lifes may be the cause of a whole lot of misery, poverty, pain and disease, unhappiness and stress, perhaps even damnation. But they might as well result in the most valuable source we have in the end. Wisdom. Knowledge. Life experience. The breeding ground of character. Woody Allen would say: the ultimate cause of death is life itself. Life is tough. Life is a bitch. And on top of all that: life is short. Unless you really want it to be so, of course. In that case life may turn out to be quite a drag. A form of life imprisonment for capital crimes we are unaware of. Or did we forget? The burden of our current life, may very well be determined by the life’s that we have lead before. Why not? The destiny of each and every one of us seems – if only from a biological perspective – for almost 90 percent to be determined by the very nature of the genes we inherited from our forefathers. For the other ten percent, our destiny may possibly be molded at its tips or toes. By chance. Good luck. Bad luck. And in some cases, at least that is what we have been taught to hope, by the consequence of our free will. The noble, heroic or perhaps on the contrary, the very vicious deeds for which we have to face responsibility.
Whatever it is, this complicated life of ours, it is always more than just that sunny, joyful walk through the park we had hoped it to be in our infant days. It is always much more hazzardous – and far less leisurely, romantic and pleasurable, than that famous “sunday picknick in the meadows” as Thai farmers use to say.”
Although the title of the film refers to Uncle Boonmee’s past lives, you never explain them or describe what they are.
“Originally, the script was more explicit in explaining which were the past lives, which were not. But in the film, I decided to respect the audience’s imagination. Of course, after watching it, you can tell that he could be a buffalo or a princess. But for me, he could be every living thing in the film, the bugs, the bees, the soldier, the catfish and so on. He could even be his Monkey Ghost son and his ghost wife. In this way, the film reinforces a special association between cinema and reincarnation. Cinema is man’s way to create alternate universes, other lives. I love my movies to operate like a stream of consciousness, drifting from one remembrance to another. I think it is important to accentuate this drifting when the root of the film is about reincarnation, about wandering spirits.”
Some of the medical equipment in Uncle Boonmee’s room recalls your late father’s deathbed and you’ve talked a lot about reincarnation. Is your father guiding you in this film?
“I’m not too certain about these matters. How could I be? But in the course of researching this movie, these things kept creeping up: cases of people who remember their past lives, with documents and witnesses, so I don’t deny it. I just think it’s fascinating, whether it’s true or false.”
Since your film deals with the supernatural and with past lives, do you use any kind of special effects to achieve this on film?
“We try to do this using a mixture of video graphics and classical effects, but still I don’t think you can tell we used the computer because it’s really like what an old film does, you know, dissolve and, for something like a ghost, we use a mirror. This film is very old fashioned in a way … because it is a tribute to my memory of the old cinema I grew up with.”
Is there a moral to the story you’re telling in the film?
“I’m really not sure what the audience will get because normally I don’t like to have a message of my work. I think film is more than that. It should be more open to many different interpretations because we approach it from so many different backgrounds. Especially for this film, which has six reels, each one different in location and style. With me, there’s a lot of talk about life as nonsense. It just goes on. So it is with cinema, too.”
A Dutch colleague asks him whether people – because of its diffuse nature and mysterious events – sometime come up with strange interpretations of his movies.
“I’m completely open to the possibility of multiple interpretation regarding the meaning of my movies, as well as the role of my actors. I adopt useful suggestions. And often keep on writing, improving, puzzling with my script until the very last minute before shooting. Every film that I make I encounter a different, interesting interpretation, and I’m looking forward to it.” Though he admits, “People are different, you cannot force them, and there’s gonna be people who shut off and there’s gonna be people who share the sentiment. And for me too, sometimes when I watch a commercial movie, I don’t understand. ”
Not that he is wholly adverse to working within genre film-making himself. When asked if there are any particular plans for a next feature-project, he enthusiastically replies, “I would like to explore the genre of Science fiction”. He continues: “I drew up one project called Utopia, and it’s about this snow landscape, it’s in a nondescript time and it involved the Starship Enterprise, the Star Trek ship, that gets abandoned in the snow. And I want to use the old generation female science fiction actresses to experience this landscape.” Apichatpong cites Brigitte Bardot as one such actress of his choice.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul remains undetermined as to whether the kind of multiple lives experienced by Uncle Boonmee are an accurate reflection of real-world existence. “It’s a possibility,” he remarks, “but I cannot say 100% until there’s another layer of scientific proof.” He proceeds, “I think we don’t know much about the workings of the mind at the moment. Who am I to judge about the validity or plausibility of other people’s metaphysical experiences? What is the difference of having a true vision or dream, and experiencing illusionary mental projections? The ones are seen as a natural byproduct of a healthy but creative brain. In the other case, one would label those visions the delusions of a mentally disturbed person. Meanwhile both persons were exposed to exactly the same flow of visual impulses. Induced by similar neurotransmitters, through the same kind of synapses. After Einstein’s’ amazing explorations into the realm of advanced physics, I think we are now ready to move on and discover remarkable things in other realms as well. What actually do we know about the workings of the mind at the moment? Not a whole lot, really. Some of these occurances or visions of past lifes that Uncle Boonmee had during his later days, might in future times perhaps become quite obvious to understand. For the moment, we can only speculate about it, believe in it or deny it. That is not a very scientific way of dealing with that matter, I think. From the laws of gravity to the principles of levitation. That would be a logical road to follow, no? I think after the science of the graviton the science of the mind will be the next great thing to discover.”
Speaking of other filmmakers, is he able to offer the names of any who he derives inspiration from?
He smiles. “A lot. I answer differently every time. People like Andy Warhol – Empire, you know this movie?” Everyone nods in vaguely non-committal fashion, being aware of the notorious eight-hour film of the Empire State Building’s exterior, without ever having felt any burning desire to actually seek out and sit through the damn thing. Apichatpong also name-checks Pedro Almodóvar, as well as a fellow Cannes 2010 competitor, Abbas Kiarostami, director of Certified Copy. And what about actors he might like to collaborate with in the future? “I’d like to work with Tilda Swinton. We have been emailing a little bit about trying to make a movie together.”
The conversation shifts to the Uncle Boonmee shoot and how smoothly it all went. Admits the director, “The hardship was working with the actors, non-professional actors [neither Thanapat Saisaymar, who plays Uncle Boonmee, or Natthakarn Aphaiwonk, who appears as Boonmee’s ghost wife, are actors by trade], trying to explain to them what I want. And not only actors – the crew members. Because, if you notice in this film, it’s pretty smooth in a way but it divides into six reels. And each reel has a different tone, has a different style of lighting, different acting style, different camera style. So to explain that and to achieve that it is quite complicated. To tell the actors, ‘Okay, be natural, but not natural’.”
The majority of the performers in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives also grew up in the north-east of Thailand, where the movie is set. It is a rural area depicted as possessing a certain natural serenity, which is linked to the dense forests and rugged mountains which give the region such a striking appearance. Says Apichatpong: “I grew up there and it’s a place that is pretty harsh for people. For the agricultural community, the soil and the weather is not so good, so many people migrate to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket to work as labour force. So people tend to look down on the poor people because in Thailand there is a big class divide and that contributes to the unrest that’s going on now. The area is under-represented in a way, so this movie is quite unique.”
“Everyone from Thailand has grown up with this idea of the transfer of souls between humans and animals. And even nowadays, many Thai people still believe in ghosts. I wanted to seize on this childhood fantasy and connect it with the idea of death. As for the depiction of ghosts in my movie I was inspired by television series and comic books from my childhood. I also remembered a friend who had told me that his house was haunted by ghosts with red eyes. That image stayed with me.”
“I kind of believe in the transmigration of souls between humans, plants, animals, and ghosts. The idea that in principle we are all one – stemming from the same original nucleus before it all exploded into time. Uncle Boonmee’s story shows the relationship between man and animal and at the same time destroys the line dividing them. When the events are represented through cinema, they become shared memories of the crew, the cast, and the public. A new layer of simulated memory is augmented in the audience’s experience. In this regard, filmmaking is not unlike creating synthetic past lives. I am interested in exploring the innards of this time machine. There might be some mysterious forces waiting to be revealed just as certain things that used to be called black magic have been shown to be scientific facts. For me, filmmaking remains an incredible source of artistic imagination all of whose energy we haven’t properly utilised yet. In the same way – yes, yes, as I’ve said before – that we have not thoroughly explained the inner workings of the mind.”
”Additionally, I have become interested in the destruction and extinction processes of cultures and of species. For the past few years in Thailand, nationalism, fueled by the military coups, brought about a confrontation of two opposing social classes. There is now a state agency that acts as a moral policeman to ban ‘inappropriate’ activities and to destroy their contents. It is impossible not to relate the story of Uncle Boonmee and his belief to this. He is an emblem of something that is about to disappear, something that erodes like the old kind of cinemas, theatres, the old acting styles that have no place in our contemporary landscape.”
And what is his own assessment of that unrest, on which the world’s eyes had been fixed in the days immediately preceding this interview, and which had almost prevented him from travelling to Cannes?
“It’s a class war, and it’s very complicated because it’s not only about underprivileged people voicing their concern but, with the red shirts [the supporters of deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra], there are also tycoons and politicians involved. It’s not as easy as the poor and the rich, it’s more about power. It’s very hard for me to fathom now because it shows how we’ve been manipulated by the media since we were young and this situation forced us to rethink our belief, our judgement and our morals, and how do we stand.”
Does the evolution of the crisis in Bangkok at this very moment startle you?
“I think it’s part of the cycle, but what’s interesting is that I think this is one of the biggest clashes of class, focused on the underprivileged. Before, it was more a clash between the army and the middle class, but now it’s about the poor. At the same time, it’s a different kind of war, because there’s the Internet and many new tactics come into play. More than ever, you can see clearly just how Thailand is really shaped by the media and how the place has become a propaganda machine. But before long, people will start to notice when their web sites disappear.”
“Has your work become more explicitly political over the years, given the worsening situation?”
“In recent years in Thailand it’s impossible to deny the political situation. I still make personal films but for me this is a personal issue. The political situation is butting into my personal sphere so naturally I have to express it. It’s part of my landscape. When there’s censorship that says you cannot deal with political issues in film it pushes me to make something that is a political expression. When we formed the “Free Thai Cinema” movement I had to learn how the government worked, and getting to know the system you find the ugliness inside. And when you look at the people in Nabua you see they don’t have the same privilege as the middle-class city people. Because of the system, there’s such a big gap between rich and poor. I’m glad people have spoken up, even though there’s violence. It’s time for change.”
As indicated by the wild swirls of applause rolling thunderously through the Grand Theatre Lumière and its abiding theatre of the Salle Debussy, where the international press gathered to watch the broadcast of the awards ceremony, Apichatpong Weerasethakul is a critical darling in certain influential quarters, beginning with those with a long allegiance to the high-art Rotterdam Film Festival under the leadership of Simon Field, who was the lead producer on “Uncle Boonmee.” Still, to many it remains a big question whether Apichatpong Weerasethakul can, after his recent triumph in Cannes, structurally emerge from his characteristically intimate and humble approach, to work on a bigger canvas and connect with a wider audience. And, even if he can succeed in this huge task, how far is he willing to go without loosing his calm and easy touch of magic? What are the concessions he is willing to make, in order to go big?
Regarding this issue Joe himself seems remarkably disattached: ”I don’t worry at all about the accessibility of my movies. I think that usually they are pretty universal, and I always believe that not every film is for everyone. If you worry about that, you shouldn’t make films.”
official trailer of the movie
Filmmuseum Synema Publikationen Vol. 12
Edited by James Quandt, Vienna 2009
256 pages, with 245 colour illustrations. In English
Price: 20,00 €
Apichatpong Weerasethakul lives and works in Chiangmai, Thailand. He is currently preparing his next project on the filmmaker and celebrated author Donald Richie.
Charlotte Gainsbourg hands over la Palme d’Or to Apichatpong Weerasethakul (23.05.10)
video van deze scene tijdens de slotceremonie in Cannes:
2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat)
2006 Syndromes and a Century (Sang Sattawat)
2004 Tropical Malady (Sud Pralad)
2003 The Adventure of Iron Pussy (Huajai Toranong)
2002 Blissfully Yours (Sud Sanaeha)
2000 Mysterious Object at Noon (Dokfar Nai Meu Marn)
2009 A Letter to Uncle Boonmee
2008 Vampire/ Mobile Men
2007 Luminous People
2006 The Anthem
2005 Worldly Desires
2009 Primitive/Phantoms of Nabua*
2007 Morakot (Emerald)/ The Palace/ Unknown Forces
2005 Ghost of Asia
AND FOR THE REST… WHAT’S ON WITH JOE
in JUNE AND JULY 2010
The short film
Phantoms of Nabua (2009), Apichatpong Weerasethakul
10:40 minutes / Digital, 16:9, Dolby 5.1 / Colour
Since this film was specially commissioned for the website of Animate Projects – as part of PRIMITIVE – it can be viewed at www.animateprojects.org
The art exhibition
14 May 2010 – 3 Jul 2010
BFI GALLERY, LONDON UK
A spacious art project of the same name, Phantoms of Nabua, is currently on exposure in London, where Apichatpong Weerasethakul has a solo exhibition at the prestigeous BFI Southbank Gallery showing from 14 May – 3 July. The visual installation at BFI is described by the artist as ‘a portrait of home […] a communication of lights, the lights that exude, on the one hand the comfort of home and, on the other, of destruction’. In the work teenagers play football at night illuminated by a rear projection of lightning and fireworks and a recreation of a fluorescent light pole from the artist’s hometown. Even though these lights make the skin look pale, even dead, for Weerasethakul they also relate to home, to being home.
The installation creates a real-time, yet hypnotic and other-worldly experience. Like many of the artist’s feature films, it rejects conventional narrative film language in favour of an open ended structure, highlighting hidden histories and capturing real human experience. Focusing on concepts of remembrance and extinction, the atmospheric single screen projection transforms the BFI Gallery in a haunting, mysterious space.
The installation at BFI is part of Primitive, a the multi-platform project which includes gallery works,an artist’s book (Cujo), a music video, a short film, an online piece and the feature film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives that won the Palme d’Or at the Filmfestival of Cannes last May.
Phantoms of Nabua, installation by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
THE BFI SOUTHBANK GALLERY LONDON
Belvedere Road, South Bank, London SE1 8XT, United Kingdom
Opening times: Tue – Sun, 11am-8pm (plus bank holidays)
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