Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang will probably be the first to admit that independent filmmaking in Asia is not a good career move if you want to live in nice houses and drive BMWs. Arthouse films are not exactly commercial hits, and even in the filmmaker’s native country, these types of films only do modest business. Just look at Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Kim Ki-Duk as two prime examples of filmmakers who aren’t necessarily flooded with profits from the local box office. So how do they make a living? In some cases, they turn to making commercials or music videos. Similar to Wong Kar Wai, who shoots ads for Lacoste and Lancôme, Pen-ek does commercials in between acclaimed feature films such as 6IXTYNIN9 and Last Life in the Universe. Pen-ek actually started out in advertising before making his first film, so in many ways looking at his commercials is a good way to understand the progression in his artistry, as well as his acerbic wit.
For the first time ever, Pen-ek’s short films and commercials have been gathered here in one programme. Many of these works have never been shown outside of Thailand, with the director himself having hand-picked the eleven commercials shown here. A special thanks goes out to him for his indispensable help.
Thailand 2006 | 22:00 | 35mm | International Premiere in Thai with English Subtitles
Made with the sponsorship of Nike, this is the first documentary that Pen-ek has ever filmed. Ostensibly about a concrete soccer court underneath a highway and the players who gather there daily (which includes Pen-ek himself), the film slowly turns into an ode to the director’s favourite sport and pastime. Pen-ek also narrates the film, and as usual his quirky humour shines through even in the briefest of soundbites. Warm and masterfully assembled, this is a look into a personal side of the director that we don’t often see.
Commercial Works By Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
Thailand | 9:00 | Digital Video | International Premiere in Thai with English Subtitles
Eleven of Pen-ek’s commercials are featured here, all of them chosen by the director himself. Some have been featured in DvDs such as those by Promax, but otherwise many are seen outside of Thailand for the first time. Pen-ek’s philosophy to these commercials is simple: “TV commercials should be short, clear, and elegant. If they manage to be funny too, that’s even better.”
Thailand 2006 | 32:00 | Digibeta | Toronto Premiere In French, Mandarin, Thai With English Subtitles
Twelve Twenty is a different sort of commission for Pen-ek, as this was part of an omnibus called Talk to Her which was funded by the Jeonju International Film Festival in 2005. A strange reverie of unrequited love during a journey from Thailand to Berlin, this film in some ways is a precursor to the dream-like feature film Ploy, which recently played at the Toronto International Film Festival. Both Ploy and Twelve Twenty start out at the airport, and both star Ananda Everingham. But here is a story based upon Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Beauty and Airplane that features a bizarre Chinese-speaking captain (played by Christopher Doyle, who also co-shot the film) and an Indian air hostess who speaks French. The set also purposefully doesn’t look like a real airplane. As usual, the director is being playful with all of these touches. But you also get the idea that this is ultimately about a small little crush that lasts twelve hours and twenty minutes. Bon voyage!
– Raymond Phathanavirangoon
Pen-ek Ratanaruang was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1962. He spent 1977-1985 in New York City, where he studied at the Pratt Institute, majoring in Art History. Upon returning to Thailand, he was appointed head of art at the Leo Burnett agency. He spent five years as an art director before starting to direct television commercials in Thailand. He made his first film Fun Bar Karaoke in 1997, and it debuted at the Berlin Film Festival and was awarded a Special Jury Prize at the Festival des 3 Continents. His subsequent award-winning films 6IxTYnIn9 (1999), Mon-Rak Transistor (2001), Last Life in ihe Universe (2003), Invisible Waves (2006) and Ploy (2007) all establish him as one of the leading lights of Thai cinema.