Pic features Sorapong Chatree, Nirut Sirichanya

BEIJING — Thailand will send Sarunyu “Tua” Wongkrachang’s “Kon Khon” to Hollywood as its candidate for the foreign-language category in the Oscars, a controversial choice because of the helmer’s political links.

“Kon Khon” features Sorapong Chatree and Nirut Sirichanya, and is a story about conflict with khon mask dance troupes staging rival performances of the Ramakien, Thailand’s version of India’s epic poem, the Ramayana.

The culture ministry backed the movie because it was “unique to Thailand and promotes the kingdom’s arts and culture,” the Nation reported.

Pic was distributed by Sahamongkol Film International, and had a wide release when it opened Aug. 25, but ticket sales were so low the producers were “shocked,” Sarunyu wrote on his Facebook page.

It took $137,115 in its opening weekend, and by Sept. 18 had a cume of $255,058, prompting the helmer to urge his supporters to buy the movie on DVD when it came out.

The Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand choice of “Kon Khon” is controversial because multi-hyphenate Sarunyu has been associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy, or “Yellow Shirts,” a broad alliance of monarchists and Bangkok businesspeople, which occupied Suvarnabhumi airport back in 2007.

The pic was opposed by the “Red Shirts,” supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose sister Yingluck won this year’s election, and they had called for a boycott of the movie.

Pic has been pulled from the multiplexes, but will be screened in around 20 schools around Thailand with the backing of the Culture Ministry.

Film critic Sananjit Bangsapan, a member of FNFAT’s Oscar committee, blogged that the Oscar selection came down to two pics — “Kon Khon” or another pic with strong Thai culture elements, “U Mong Pha Mueang,” by ML Bhandevanop Devakula.

However, as that movie was an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” the committee went with “Kon Khon.”

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