With incredible food, the world’s finest hotels and a growing film scene, it’s hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t want to visit Bangkok for its international film festival. Now, the Tourism Authority of Thailand is making sure the world film industry gets the message by bringing in the team that recently ran the Palm Springs film festival and adding a three-day film market.
Exec director Craig Prater and director of programming Jennifer Stark, along with Stark’s entire programming team from Palm Springs, hired on to the Bangkok event just a few months ago with a mandate to increase the profile of the 5-year-old fest. Skedded for Jan. 22 to Feb. 2, the sixth edition will add competitive categories and sections highlighting both regional and international films. The region is “an emerging source of film talent,” says Stark, who is programming several sections of film from the 10 countries in Southeast Asia, including features, docs, shorts and animation. Programming an international fest is easier, says Stark, because distributors are not concerned about U.S. release dates.
Fest will program upward of 140 features, stage a dramatic competition for about 10 international films, and bestow a Crystal Kinaree for cinematography and three lifetime achievement awards. Bangkok also will reprise Palm Springs’ cinematography day, focusing on lensers and their work.
With almost no artfilm exhibition in Thailand, audiences there are very hungry, says Stark. “They have access to all the media about these films, but they don’t get an opportunity to see them.”
Production activity is steady in the area, however, and at least a half-dozen film schools operate in Thailand as well as a large animation studio.
There’s an influx of international interest in the festival, says Prater, who thinks ticket sales for the first year under the revamped structure could top 100,000. Fest’s hotel HQ is the luxurious Shangri-La hotel on the Chao Praya river, while screenings will be held in some of Bangkok’s state-of-the-art theaters, some of which feature leather vibrating seats and full meal service.
The fest is teaming with the Federation of Thai Film and the Thai Film Foundation to invite sales agents, buyers and bankers to the first edition of the Bangkok Film Market, which runs Jan. 27, 28 and 29. PriceWaterhousecoopers will conduct a finance seminar for mart attendees, and market screenings will be on video at the Shangri-La.