Thailand hails welcome victory at Cannes film festival
Monday 24 May 2010
Thailand on Monday hailed Apichatpong Weerasethakul's surprise win at the Cannes film festival as a much-needed boost for a nation that has been rocked by a deadly political crisis.
"It's brilliant. I deeply hoped that his film would win," said Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch, promising the avant garde film-maker a hero's welcome when he returns to Thailand.
"This kind of victory is what we really need at this time of crisis," he said, as the kingdom emerged from the worst civil unrest in modern history which has left 86 people dead and 1,900 injured since March.
Anti-government protesters were forcibly evicted last week from their protest encampment in the heart of Bangkok, ending two months of street rallies punctuated by deadly clashes between "Red Shirts" and security forces.
Apichatpong, 39, works outside the confines of Thailand's action-film studio system to make movies such as his victorious "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives", a dreamlike reincarnation tale.
The two-hour movie tells the story of a dying man, Boonmee, who meets spirits of the dead. Among the surprises, his son appears as a giant monkey and an old-world princess has watery sex with a talking catfish.
Apichatpong said after receiving the award from festival jury president Tim Burton that he wanted to thank "the spirits in Thailand that surrounded us" while making the film.
Winning the top prize, the Palme d'Or, was "like another world for me... this is surreal," he said.
The director last week denounced his country's tough censorship rules, but the culture minister was full of praise for his work and said the government had given financial support for the movie's post-production.
"The film's content is very good, it's about Thai belief and traditions," he said.
Songyos Sugmakanan, chairman of the Thai Film Directors' Association, said the morale-boosting impact of Apichartpong's win could be limited because he does not have a big following in his home country.
"But for me as a director, as a Thai person, I am very glad. His award has cheered my heart after feeling so sad in the past few weeks over what has been going on in Thailand," he told AFP.
Thai cinema-goers however mostly prefer Western blockbusters, action flicks and Asian horror films, and Apichatpong is better known in international arthouse circles than he is in his home country.
Ordinary citizens interviewed in Bangkok Monday, where the city was getting back to business after the mayhem of last week, were thrilled at the news of the honour - even if many had never had heard of Apichatpong before.
"Apitchatpong? I don't know him. Oh - he won a prize? I'm happy because he is Thai!" said Pawana Vejanurak, a suited 55-year-old woman on her way to work at a finance company.
Nattamon Issaradharm, a 56-year-old retiree who had heard of the film-maker but not seen any of his work, said the win was "good news" and would help repair Thailand's battered international reputation.
"After last week, this will help people boost their morale and bring unity," he said. "It shows young people we can do anything if we want to, that if we aim to develop the country, everything is possible."
Peech Pimarnpran, a trendily dressed 21-year-old student and a fan of Apichartpong's films, was thrilled at the recognition but conceded he might never find a mainstream audience.
"He is a good movie-maker because he uses no professional actors, it looks real, he can present real life and he shows how people can survive in Thai society," he said.
"He has his own style, it is quite serious, it's not commercial," he said. "He is an artist and normal people may not understand his movies."
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 2 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove