Thailand hails welcome victory at Cannes film festival

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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions