Festival kicks off despite political unrest

Unswayed by the country’s political turmoil and warnings to travelers to stay away, the 2008 edition of the Bangkok Film Festival will open on Sept. 23 with Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

“Vicky,” starring Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz, is a last-minute addition to the event’s 80-film lineup.

But the fest will give its official red-carpet treatment to the Thailand premiere of local helmer Nonzee Nimibutr’s “Queen of Langkasuka” on Sept. 26. The gala for “Langkasuka” will also mark the launch of Thailand Entertainment Expo, a marketplace for film, music, animation and television.

Fest, still financed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand but under new management, has also added two competitive sections.

Titles selected for the Southeast Asia competition will include Singaporean Royston Tan’s “12 Lotus”; Woo Ming-jin’s “Days of Turquoise Sky,” from Malaysia; and three pics from the Philippines: Raya Martin’s “Now Showing,” John Torres’ “Years When I Was a Child Outside” and Brillante Mendoza’s “Serbis.”

“We want to put an emphasis on emerging Southeast Asian filmmakers,” says programmer Pimpaka Towira. “Bangkok should play the role of a regional film center more seriously.”

Among the picks in the International Competition, which focuses on first or second films, are Francis Xavier Pasion’s docu “Jay,” from the Philippines; Shivajee Chandrabhushan’s “Frozen,” from India; and Naghi Negmati’s “Those Three,” from Iran.

A noncompetitive World Cinema section will screen Cannes 2008 titles, including “Lorna’s Silence,” “A Christmas Tale,” “24 City” and Cannes 2007 title “The Last Mistress.”

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