With an influence as commanding as his presence, Somsak Techaratanaprasert has catapulted Sahamongkolfilm Intl. from a humble distributor of Hong Kong chopsocky pics in the late 1970s to Thailand’s biggest studio.
It not only dictates the pulse of the domestic box office but is also eying foreign territories with increasing fervor.
The most prolific of Thailand’s studios — churning out an average of 15 films in each of the past five years — Sahamongkol is the largest exporter of Siamese titles to overseas markets.
In 2003, Techaratanaprasert got his big international break with the smash hit “Ong-Bak,” a film that propelled his action hero Tony Jaa to stardom and revived Thai action films.
Every year the Sahamongkol booth is the busiest among Thai exhibitors at Cannes, and this year, Techaratanaprasert has been doing brisk business with new titles including “Ong-Bak 2,” samurai-inspired actioner “Yamada,” bloody slasher “Sick Nurses” and Nonzee Nimibutr’s pirate epic “Queen of Lankasuka,” Sahamongkol’s biggest production this year.
Techaratanaprasert’s gung-ho style has earned him admirers and detractors alike. From 2004 to 2006 he was president of the Federation of National Film Assns. of Thailand, when he was unarguably the most powerful figure in the Thai film industry.
He fell out with Hong Kong sales agent Golden Network in early 2006; since then he’s run international sales with the help of his right-hand man, Gilbert Lim.
Even as his three daughters look set to take up the baton, Techaratanaprasert remains a towering influence and Sahamongkol the indicator of the health of the commercial Thai film industry.