Apichatpong Weerasethakul

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Apichatpong Weerasethakul.JPG
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, December 2010
Born (1970-07-16) July 16, 1970 (age 43)
Bangkok, Thailand
Other names Joe, Jei
Alma mater Khon Kaen University
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Occupation Film director, producer & screenwriter
Years active 1993-present
Website
www.kickthemachine.com

Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul (Thai: อภิชาติพงศ์ วีระเศรษฐกุล;[needs IPA] born July 16, 1970)[1] is a Thai independent film director, screenwriter, and film producer. His feature films include Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, winner of the prestigious 2010 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or prize; Tropical Malady, which won a jury prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival; Blissfully Yours, which won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard program at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival;[2] and Syndromes and a Century, which premiered at the 63rd Venice Film Festival and was the first Thai film to be entered in competition there.

Working outside the strict confines of the Thai film studio system, Weerasethakul has directed several features and dozens of short films. Themes reflected in his films (frequently discussed in interviews) include dreams, nature, sexuality (including his own homosexuality),[3] and Western perceptions of Thailand and Asia, and his films display a preference for unconventional narrative structures (like placing titles/credits at the middle of a film) and for working with non-actors. Cinephiles affectionately refer to him as "Joe" (a nickname that he, like many with similarly long Thai names, has adopted out of convenience).

Early life[edit]

Apichatpong Weerasethakul was born in Bangkok, Thailand. His parents were both physicians, and worked in a hospital in Khon Kaen, Thailand.[4] He attended Khon Kaen University and received a bachelor's degree in architecture in 1994. He made his first short film, Bullet, in 1993. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received a master's degree in fine arts in filmmaking in 1997. He is of Chinese ethnic roots.[5]

His feature-length debut, Dokfa nai meuman (Mysterious Object at Noon) blends documentary footage and improvised narrative, and was conceptually based upon the exquisite corpse game invented by surrealists.

He formed his own production company, Kick the Machine, in 1999, through which he produces and promotes his own works, and provides support to other independent filmmakers and experimental film works.

Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady[edit]

Apichatpong's 2002 feature Sud Sanaeha (Blissfully Yours) won the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.[2] His 2004 Sud Pralad (Tropical Malady) won a Jury Prize from the same festival.

Between Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady, Apichatpong co-directed The Adventure of Iron Pussy with artist Michael Shaowanasai, who starred as the main character, a transvestite secret agent. The low-budget, digital movie was a spoof of Thai films of the 1960s and '70s, particularly the musicals and action films of Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat. It was screened at the Berlin Film Festival. Pop singer Krissada Terrence, better known as Noi from Pru, portrayed the male lead.

Along with his features, Apichatpong is known for his short films, videoworks and installations. For the Jeonju International Film Festival he was commissioned in the Three Digital Short Films project, which he shared with two other Asian directors. His film was called Worldly Desires. Shinya Tsukamoto from Japan made Haze and Song Il-gon from South Korea created Magician(s).

In 2005, Apichatpong served as the consultant on the Tsunami Digital Short Films, 13 films commissioned by the Thailand Culture Ministry's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture as a memorial tribute to the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and the resulting tsunami that struck Thailand. His film was called Ghost of Asia.

The Office of Contemporary Art and Culture also honoured Apichatpong with its 2005 Silpathorn Award for Filmmaking. The award, which goes each year to several artists in various disciplines, is given to living contemporary artists.

Syndromes and censorship[edit]

In 2006, Apichatpong released a feature film, Syndromes and a Century, which was commissioned by Peter Sellars for the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. It premiered at the 63rd Venice Film Festival and screened at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival and many other festivals.

The film's Thai release, originally slated for April 19, 2007, was indefinitely delayed after Thai Censorship Board demanded the removal of four scenes. Apichatpong refused to recut the film and said he would withdraw it from domestic circulation.

He explained his reasons for doing so in an article in the Bangkok Post:

I, as a filmmaker, treat my works as I do my own sons or daughters. I don't care if people are fond of them or despise them, as long as I created them with my best intentions and efforts. If these offspring of mine cannot live in their own country for whatever reason, let them be free. There is no reason to mutilate them in fear of the system. Otherwise there is no reason for one to continue making art.[6]

Two of the "sensitive" scenes involve doctors engaging in "inappropriate" conduct (kissing and drinking liquor) in a hospital; the others depict a Buddhist monk playing a guitar and two monks playing with a remote-control flying saucer.[6] The censors refused to return the print unless the requested cuts were made.[7]

Later in 2007, the film was shown twice in privately arranged screenings at the Alliance française in Bangkok.

The censorship of the film came about as a motion picture ratings system was being considered by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly. A replacement for the 1930 film act, the ratings law contained a restrictive ratings structure and retained the government's powers to censor and ban films it deemed would "undermine or disrupt social order and moral decency, or that might impact national security or the pride of the nation". The ratings board would comprise mainly bureaucrats in the Ministry of Culture, as well as members of the Royal Thai Police.[8]

To oppose the draft law, Apichatpong and other directors formed the Free Thai Cinema Movement.

"We disagree with the right of the state to ban films," Apichatpong was quoted as saying. "There already are other laws that cover potential wrongdoings by filmmakers."[9]

Ladda Tangsupachai, director of the Ministry of Culture's Cultural Surveillance Department, said the ratings law was needed because moviegoers in Thailand are "uneducated". "They're not intellectuals, that's why we need ratings," she was quoted as saying.[10]

Ladda also said: "Nobody goes to see films by Apichatpong. Thai people want to see comedy. We like a laugh."[10]

The filmmakers sought a self-regulation approach, with an independent body run by film professionals. "Free from state influence, this agency would be responsible for monitoring and assigning rating, and it would bear direct responsibilities towards the audience, who in turn would monitor the performance of the agency. This way, the film industry will be liberated from the state's shackles and begin to have a dialogue with the public," Apichatpong had written in a commentary earlier in the year.[11]

Protests against the draft ratings law were held outside the Parliament building in Bangkok, with Apichatpong and fellow Thai directors Wisit Sasanatieng and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang taking turns holding banners that read "No Freedom. No Democracy. No Peace"[9][12]

The ratings law, with the cut-and-ban categories left intact, was passed on December 20, 2007.[8]

This first English-language volume on Apichatpong Weerasethakul will be published March 2009. James Quandt, the editor and author of the analytical career overview which introduces the book, is one of the foremost film critics and curators working in North America today. Further contributors include the cultural and political theorist Benedict Anderson, filmmaker Mark Cousins, art curator Karen Newman, critics Tony Rayns and Kong Rithdee, and the Academy Award winning actress and cinephile Tilda Swinton.

The movie was ranked by Film Comment magazine as #4 on "the best films of the decade: an international poll of critics, programmers, academics, filmmakers".[13]

Recent works[edit]

In September 2009 Apichatpong's seven screen installation "Primitive' premiere's in the UK at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology)[14] in Liverpool, UK. The work was commissioned by Haus der Kunst, Munich with FACT, and Animate Projects and was produced by Illuminations Films, London with Kick the Machine, Bangkok.[15] It was first shown at Haus der Kunst in February 2009. In 2011 the New Museum presented the American debut of Apichatpong’s exhibition Primitive (2009), composed of a two-channel video installation, seven single-channel videos, and two giclée prints.[16]

His film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, won the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.[17] It was also selected as the Thai entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards[18] but it didn't make the final shortlist.[19]

In 2012, his film Mekong Hotel was screened in the Special Screenings section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.[20][21]

Recently he received the Sharjah Biennial Prize at the 2013 Sharjah Biennial 11, UAE. He's also a recipient of the Fukuoka Prize, Japan, 2013.

Filmography[edit]

Feature films[edit]

Year English Title Thai Title Notes
2000 Mysterious Object at Noon ดอกฟ้าในมือมาร
2002 Blissfully Yours สุดเสน่หา won the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival
2003 The Adventure of Iron Pussy หัวใจทรนง co-director
2004 Tropical Malady สัตว์ประหลาด won the Prix du Jury at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival
2006 Syndromes and a Century แสงศตวรรษ was nominated for the Leone d'Oro (Golden Lion) at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival
2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ won the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival
2012 Mekong Hotel was screened in the Special Screenings section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival
Cemetery of Kings in development

Short films and installations[edit]

  • Bullet (1993)
  • 0116643225059 (1994)
  • Kitchen and Bedroom (1994)
  • Like the Relentless Fury of the Pounding Waves (1996)
  • Rice Artist Michael Shaowanasai's Performance (1996)
  • 100 Years of Thai Cinema (for Thai Film Foundation, 1997)
  • thirdworld (1998)
  • The Lungara Eating Jell-O (for World Artists for Tibet, 1998)
  • Windows (1999)
  • Malee and the Boy (1999)
  • Boys at Noon (2000)
  • Boys at Noon / Girls at Night (2000)
  • Haunted Houses Project: Thailand (for Istanbul Biennial, 2001)
  • Secret Love Affair (for Tirana) (2001)
  • Narratives: Masumi Is a PC Operator / Fumiyo Is a Designer / I Was Sketching / Swan's Blood (for Intercross Creative Center, 2001)
  • Second Love in Hong Kong, co-director (2002)
  • Golden Ship (for Memlingmuseum, 2002)
  • This and Million More Lights (for 46664, 2003)
  • GRAF: Tong / Love Song / Tone (2004)
  • It Is Possible That Only Your Heart Is Not Enough to Find You a True Love: True Love in Green / True Love in White (for Busan Biennial, 2004)
  • Worldly Desires (for Jeonju International Film Festival, 2004)
  • Ghost of Asia, co-director (for Tsunami Digital Short Films project, 2005)
  • Waterfall (for Solar Cinematic Art Gallery/Curtas Vila do Conde International Film Festival, 2006)
  • Faith (for FACT/Liverpool Biennial, 2006)
  • The Anthem (for LUX/Frieze Art Fair, 2006)
  • Unknown Forces (for REDCAT, 2007)
  • Luminous People (in The State of the World, 2007)
  • Because (2007)
  • My Mother's Garden (for Christian Dior, 2007)
  • Meteorites (for Short Films for the King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 80th Birthday, 2007)
  • The Palace (for National Palace Museum, 2007)
  • Emerald (2007)
  • Vampire (for Louis Vuitton, 2008)
  • Mobile Men (in Stories on Human Rights, 2008)
  • Phantoms of Nabua (for Toronto International Film Festival, 2009)
  • Empire (2010)
  • M Hotel (2011)
  • For Tomorrow For Tonight (2011)
  • The Importance of Telepathy (for Documenta, 2012)
  • Cactus River (for Walker Art Center, 2012)
  • Mekong Hotel (for Arte, 2012)
  • Ashes (2012)
  • Sakda (Rousseau) (2012)
  • Dilbar (at Sharjah Biennial, 2013)

Further reading[edit]

Contributions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pronunciation in Thai (Forvo)
  2. ^ a b "Festival de Cannes: Blissfully Yours". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  3. ^ "Creating His Own Language: An Interview With Apichatpong Weerasethakul", Romers, H. Cineaste, page 34, vol. 30, no. 4, Fall 2005, New York
  4. ^ Rithdee, Kong (July 28, 2006). Everything is illuminated, Bangkok Post (retrieved July 28, 2006).
  5. ^ A Thai Director Earns Acclaim Abroad and Ambivalence at Home
  6. ^ a b Rithdee, Kong. Thai director cancels film's local release, Bangkok Post; retrieved 2008-01-23
  7. ^ Weerasethakul, Apichatpong. September 14, 2007. Who can save my flying saucer?, The Guardian; retrieved 2007-09-15
  8. ^ a b Rithdee, Kong. December 20, 2007. Thailand passes controversial film act, Variety (magazine); retrieved 2008-01-23
  9. ^ a b Rithdee, Kong. November 28, 2007. Directors protest censorship law, Variety (magazine); retrieved 2008-01-23
  10. ^ a b Montlake, Simon. October 11, 2007. Will Thai reforms make censorship worse?, Time (magazine); retrieved 2008-01-23
  11. ^ Weerasethakul, Apichatpong. August 11, 2007. The folly and future of Thai cinema under military dictatorship, Bangkok Post; retrieved via Thai Film Foundation, 2008-01-23
  12. ^ คนรักหนังขอเปลี่ยนม้วน ‘พ.ร.บ.ภาพยนตร์’ ฉบับ โลกแคบ-ใจแคบ, Prachatai; retrieved 2008-01-23 (Thai)
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ http://www.fact.co.uk/whatson/detail/?infoID=4197846597106420065
  15. ^ http://www.animateprojects.org/films/by_project/primitive/primitive
  16. ^ Nash, Aily (Jul–Aug 2011). "WE ARE PRIMITIVE: Apichatpong’s Ineffable Experience of Nabua". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  17. ^ "Hollywood Reporter: Cannes Lineup". hollywoodreporter. Archived from the original on 22 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-16. [dead link]
  18. ^ "And the Hopefuls for Best Foreign Oscar Are ...". thewrap. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  19. ^ "9 Foreign Language Films Continue to Oscar Race". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  20. ^ "2012 Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  21. ^ "Trailer trash at Cannes 2012". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 

External links[edit]