The Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday evening with the screening of “One Second” Zhang Yimou’s homage to cinema and veiled critique of China’s Cultural Revolution.
The festival runs Dec 8-13 and is one of the first major cultural showcases to take place in person after Thailand has opened its borders to welcome visitors. Fully-vaccinated international visitors to Thailand no longer needs to go through quarantine, though they are required to have a PCR test upon arrival.
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Coincidentally, it is taking place in the week that film trade show and convention CineAsia was to have taken place in the city. CineAsia was canceled due to the uncertainty of Thailand’s COVID response and anticipated travel difficulties.
The non-competitive feature film part of the program includes: the Locarno-winning “Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash” by Indonesian director Edwin; Cambodian Kavich Neang’s Venice entry “White Building”; Toronto’s Platform winner “Yuni” by Indonesia’s Kamila Andini; Tan Bee Thiam’s “Tiong Bahru Social Club” from Singapore; Lav Diaz’s “Genus Pan”; Tan Chui Mui’s “Barbarian Invasion”; and Thailand’s arthouse title “The Edge of Daybreak” by Taiki Sakpisit.
There is also a competition section for Southeast Asian short films, with the main prize worth $2,000.
The festival also runs seminars and workshops, in collaboration with Purin Pictures. An online pitching session called SEA Pitch was completed before the festival began, with seven projects selected from over 50 submissions. The winners will be announced on Dec. 13.
The festival is a misnomer. While it has backing from Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, it is not otherwise affiliated with the inter-governmental Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Nor are South Korea, Japan, China and India ASEAN members.
“The inclusion of films from China, India, South Korea and Japan is to expand the scope of the festival and to create a cultural dialogue between Southeast Asia and Asia as a whole,” said Pimpaka Towira, filmmaker and the festival’s program director.