Sun, Feb 01, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Bangkok aims to be center of Southeast Asian moviemaking


In its second year, the Bangkok International Film Festival is taking strides to present itself as a major film festival-to-be, with a stronger line-up of movies, especially Thai films, and a newly launched domestic market for films to oil the wheels of movie businesses at the festival.

At the Siam Center, a large shopping mall and multiplex in the middle of Bangkok, locals and international guests praised Thai films such as Overture and Okay Baytung.

And in the outskirts of Bangkok, at shabby noodle shops, giant movie posters of Thai films such as Wusan are posted outside the shops, just next to a poster of Tom Cruise starring in The Last Samurai. The signs are that Thai movies are getting better and the Thai film industry is in a healthy state.

"We are trying to elevate ourselves to the more sophisticated level of an international film festival," said Craig Prater, executive director of the 2004 Bangkok International Film Festival. According to Prater, the total number of films entered has increased from 120 to 164 films this year.

The competition section of the film festival has expanded from one to three competition categories. They are International Competition, which has 13 Oscar-level international movies running for the Kinnaree Award; the ASEAN Competition, with 15 films from the Association of South East Asian Countries that are competing for the Best ASEAN Film; and the ASEAN Shorts and Docs Competition.

The ASEAN competition will be judged by the FIPRESCI jury, which is composed of the Federation de la Presse Cinemagraphique Internationale.

The FIPRESCI award is a regular award given at major film festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Venice.

This year the festival also launches the first Bangkok Film Market, a new section to create film business deal-making platform in Southeast Asia and form strategic partnerships to take advantage of growing international interests in Asian cinema.

There are 130 companies from 23 countries participating in the market and the results are solid. According to Prater, when the market finishes next Friday, he expects at least three big deals to be signed.

Three Thai films have been acquired by US based international distributors, including the well-received movie Overture, a drama about a Thai musical legend 100 years ago.

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