BANGKOK — Thailand’s fest scene is heating up, with the World Film Festival of Bangkok bolstering its recent program as well as good notices for the first Phuket Film Festival.
The fifth edition of the World Film Festival of Bangkok kicked off Oct. 25 with more than 70 films screening, including Cannes winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” plus “Import Export,” “The Man From London,” “Love Songs,” “The Band’s Visit,” arthouse favorites “Phantom Love,” “881,” “Help Me Eros,” plus the recent winner of Pusan’s New Currents Award, “Flower in the Pocket,” whose director Liew Seng-tat took part in the WFF’s Produre Au Sud workshop two years ago.
“We have more partners and it means we have more capacity to continue to grow,” said WFF director Kriangsak Silakong.
What are missing, however, are Thai titles, though Silakong points out that the Bangkok Intl. Film Festival, which he also helped program, had already put together the Thai Panorama section in July.
The future of that fest, which is Thailand’s other main film event, is uncertain at the moment, with the government-sponsored Bangkok Intl. Film Festival’s management being transferred from the Tourism Authority of Thailand to the Department of Export Promotion.
“We have the content and the know-how to make it the city’s No.1 event. What we lack is the money to create the glamour,” said Silakong.
The Nation Multimedia Group is the main organizer of the fest, which runs to Nov. 4 at Esplanade Cineplex, on a budget of around 10 million baht ($300,000).
Meanwhile, on the resort island of Phuket, which was hit hard by the tsunami three years ago, the inaugural Phuket Film Festival served mostly to help unveil a new cinema complex, but has ambitions to expand.
Event was privately funded by the newly unveiled SF Cinema City and Jungceylong Shopping Complex in Patong, the popular Phuket beach dotted with posh hotels and gaudy nightlife venues. While Thai celebrities, loud music and laser beams injected star-studded pizzazz, upgrading the small, locally flavored fest into an international event will need a lot of hard work.
“Phuket is a perfect place to have a film festival and we hope to have support from the Tourism Authority of Thailand next year to expand the scope of it,” said SF’s managing director Suwit Thongrompo.
Observers agree Phuket has the potential to host a key event because of its lively atmosphere and the availability of cinema facilities. The fest screens 40 films, but three-quarters of them are being shown on either DVDs or videotapes. Only the six Thai movies, plus the closing film “Across the Universe” and the soon-to-be released “Surf’s Up,” are projected on 35mm.
The opening gala saw a caravan of Thai movie stars dispatched by big studios. Royal helmer Chatreechalerm Yukol attended the gala along with actors from the “King Naresuan” movies. After an overlong opening ceremony held under a giant canopy in the vast square of Jungceylon, the fest screened the opening film, Spanish comedy “Dance Machine,” on videotape with only half of the theater filled.