After a decade of dreaming, Thailand is finally going to have its own international film festival.

The event will take place Feb. 17-28 and is part of a trade fair organized by the Thai Board of Investment in Laem Chabang on Thailand’s eastern seaboard.

More than 50 films will be screened with an emphasis on regional productions.

The main theme of the fest is “Movie Industries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region.” The Mekong sub-region nations – Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), China and Vietnam – are all sending delegations and films. It’s the first time that these neighboring countries’ filmmakers and actors will have the opportunity to come together to discuss their craft.

One unfortunate fact that unites them: For the last three decades they have all struggled to continue making films through war, revolution and civil unrest.

As the major economic power of the sub-region, Thailand is the natural host of the fest. In addition, 1995 is the 50th anniversary of the ascension to the throne of Thailand’s King Bumibol, and the fest will screen documentaries relating to his reign.

The fest is also featuring three pix made by Cambodia’s King Sihanouk, a noted director himself, and the world premiere of his latest film, “Un Paysan et une Paysanne en Detresse.”

One of the fest’s leading lights is Dome Sukwong, who has been collecting, collating, restoring and preserving Thai films as the chief archivist at the National Archives.

Sukwong has recovered the first films ever made of, and in, Siam, dating from 1897 when the Siamese King Chulalongkorn made his first trip to Europe and was captured on film by the French film pioneer Lumiere.

Some other early films rescued by Sukwong will be shown at the fest, including the first film made in Siam by Chulalongkorn’s younger brother, who brought a camera back to Siam after the 1897 trip to Europe. There’s even a vintage clip of Walt Disney on a trip to Siam in the 30s, with a sequence of Mickey Mouse doing some Thai classical dancing.

Fest organizers are three men dubbed the three musketeers of the Thai movie industry: Thavathai Rojanahotikul, president of the KSL Sugar Group and owner of the Vista Cinema Chain; Sorajak Kasemsuvan, a professor of law, an actor and one of the drafters of the new Thai Film Law and Cinema Act; and producer Khun Nakorn.

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