Event launches despite uncertain atmosphere

The fifth edition of the Bangkok Intl. Film Fest got under way Thursday.

Though there are still plenty of critics around ready to suggest that this may be the fest’s last edition, activities were conducted in an atmosphere approaching normality.

Fest has been buffeted by severe criticism from home and abroad and has suffered from a revolving door team of programmers.

But the first weekend this year saw familiar panoply of screenings, seminars, foreign guests and press conferences. Vietnamese film “The Rebel” drew attention as stars Johnny Tri Nguyen and Ngo Thanh Van put in an appearance. Tabloid scribes perked up when producer Andy Vajna, in an aside during a press conference for fest opener “Children of Glory,” lashed out at Sharon Stone. He described her as “impossible to work with” on “Basic Instinct 2.”

Apart from Vajna, who has become a Bangkok regular, there was a dearth of global stars, owing to the fest’s slashed budget.

But the film lineup — put together in part under the auspices of Kriangsak “Victor” Silakong, who is normally associated with the rival Bangkok World fest — looks to have a more clearly defined Asian and South East Asian flavor. And it is not suffering the boycott from parts of the local Thai industry that previous frames endured.

But whether the troubled fest has succeeded in connecting with a local public remains moot. Held in fabulously modern quarters within the gargantuan CentralWorld shopping complex, the confab appeared at times to be a quaint sideshow on the margins of something much more mercantile and vibrant.

Vajna complained repeatedly that the premiere screening for “Glory” was poorly attended. Other screenings over the weekend were said to be sold out, but in practice theaters were seldom more than 60% full.

Monday’s sesh will see if the fourth running of the Bangkok Film Market can deliver deals.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more