Independent filmmaker Thunska Pansittivorakul knows too well the long-rooted stereotypes about Thailand and Thai films -- the beach, the sex industry, the lush countryside and the beautiful images of ancient grandeur.
People don't seem to care about what real people, especially young people, are like in the country. In his new film Happy Berry the Bangkok-based director decides to tell the truth.
"I want to film real people and real life in Bangkok, [people's] lifestyles, their troubles and obsessions and their dreams," Pansittivorakul said yesterday during his visit to Taipei for the Taiwan International Documentary Festival (TIDF).
Happy Berry is Pansittivorakul's second film and was selected for screening in the festival's Asian Vision section of the the competition.
The film follows the lives of five young people and their collectively-owned fashion boutique called Happy Berry, located in Siam Square in Bangkok, a trendy spot for young people.
The film is in a way a Thai version of reality TV, but with less posing and more of the director's desire to strip away the allure of his country's sugar-coated pop culture.
A girl named Koi and the handsome Nicky are a couple. Gack is a curly haired girl with great ambition. Joe is a sharp-tongued guy who's open about his gay identity but who once dated Koi. And Third is a girl who's puzzled about her sexuality. The five of them decide to open a fashion store after graduating from college.
They design their own clothes and have their own mini-factory to produced the designs. Their products range from T-shirts and jeans, to bags and bandanas. The business grows and they get orders for clothes from Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea.
But the group has an unfulfilled dream -- to become pop singers and be on TV. At the same time, the gang of five, who live in the same apartment, experience growing tensions between them.
Pansittivorakul said the five characters in the film are, in fact, his college classmates.
"I was not close with them at university, but I was intrigued by their lifestyles. They are optimistic and relatively good-looking. But they have also their dark sides and anxiety," he said.
One of the impressive parts of the film is the chat among Thai young people, which is constantly taunting and full of sexual jokes and swear words
"Another thing I find interesting is their obsession for being a star. They have such an urge to express themselves in public that they have to become stars. Also, despite their complicated sex lives, each of them, men and women, are looking for a perfect boyfriend or girlfriend," Pansittivorakul said.
In the film, Nicky had been fervently promoting his nude photo album and has succeed in becoming an actor because of it. The two girls Koi and Gack have been talking about saving money for breast-enlargement surgery. After the film was made, Pansittivorakul said, they both went through with the surgery and intend to do more.
Showing the real life of Thai young people is still a daring ambition in Thailand, because of strong censorship. "It is still not allowed to have your characters raising their legs onto a table, not to mention showing sex scenes or talking about drug use in the film," Pansittivorakul said.
Happy Berry had only one small-scale screening in Bangkok, letting people from the local film scene see it.