I remember how delighted I was years ago to see the first
masterpieces of the Chinese, Japanese and Korean directors in theaters in
Amsterdam. Chen Kaige and ZhangYimou became icons of guiding us into a new
world, a world of color, a world of different dilemmas, of other
Although movies from Asia are not as often on the menu as
Hollywood movies, they can be seen regularly in various cities all over the
world. They were accessible because of English subtitles, not too difficult
for people with a Latin alphabet and more or less related languages.
Arkanachinores, Hon Austrian Consul, Chao Duangduan na Chiangmai, Thomas
Baude, Hon. French Consul, and Andreas Lizt, Charge d’affairs European
Commission at the opening reception of the European Film Festival.
European movies would be an enrichment for Asian
moviegoers as Asian movies were for Europeans. The European Film festival
offers English subtitles. But unfortunately it is not so easy to follow
these easily, when you are not used to the Latin script and in fact your
whole language is in a different league. Movies shown in Thailand should be
made available with Thai subtitles. I know it will cost a lot of money, but
it also brings a lot of goodwill and organizing a film festival where most
interested Thai moviegoers are put off by the difficulty of the language
makes no sense.
And it is worth the effort, because European movies bring
a different perspective on life. Distribution channels are unfortunately
dominated by Hollywood, giving us the wrong illusion that that is because
the audience in general likes Hollywood movies more than others. Of course
there is a certain truth in it: the Hollywood producers are masters in
catering for the taste and needs of a wide audience. They have made great
movies, but produced a lot of junk as well, not unlike the Europeans.
and organizers pose in front of this year’s European Film Festival’s
logo at the Major Cineplex Complex, Central Airport Plaza.
European movies are different in various aspects: most of
the time they don’t have big budgets: no Titanic, no Lord of the Rings, no
big stars either. They therefore need to focus on specific themes, among
which the human individual dealing with the various twists and turns in life
is a popular one. Right and wrong are not always very clear: there is wrong
in right and right in wrong. It is a different approach from Hollywood,
where the message is almost always visible in big capital neon signs.
There are few recent European movies where armies or
individuals go to war to set things right. And Europeans produce amazingly
few “feel good” movies while comedies are most of the time more sour
The opening movie from Luxembourg is a case in point. It
is filmed from the perspective of a teenage girl, looking for a mother who
abandoned her at an early age. The girl suffers a lot from this and even
confronts her caring father for the urge to see her mother again. Their
reunion is the highlight of the movie, but not the way you would expect it
to be. The mother is still not interested at all.
from the Luxembourg move “Norah”.
“Forget it”, she says after ten minutes: “Let it
be. We should not look at the past and excuse me, because I have to go back
to work,” abandoning the girl again. It is a blend of hard-knocks drama
and gentle-tenderness. It is also about the continuous restoration of
balance in life, a general European theme. It is an excellent first major
feature film from director Genevieve Mersch who won the Zenith d’Or at the
Montreal Film festival.
European movies have very few star actresses or actors;
maybe with the exception of the UK and France; the movie industry is simply
not big enough. Maybe it is a shortcoming, but it brings also opportunities
to not so well known actors, like for Marie Kremer, the leading actress in
“I always wanted to be a saint”.
The Irish “Song for a Raggy Boy” was a tough movie to
watch, drab and dark to match the spirit of a horrible catholic reform
school. It was based on a true story, which made it not just another movie
on the terror of the black days of the Catholic Church. Excellent acting,
especially by the children.
“Schultze” from Germany was European comedy at its
best, but most probably very difficult to understand for non-Europeans. I
saw people in the audience laughing till they cried while others seemed to
be puzzled about what was so funny. It won prizes for Best Art Direction and
Production Design, which were well deserved. I have seldom seen a movie
which such an excellent eye for design detail.
Europe can also make movies of poor quality like “The
Root of the Heart” from Portugal. A pretentious and pathetic movie that
ends up in the lower regions of the zero ranking.
We have to thank the organizers, among which is Major
Cineplex, who provided the excellent theatre. The volume could be a bit
lower; not everybody needs to witness the full Star Wars capacity of the
surround system while looking at a psychological drama.
Other irritations? Yes, the woman that entered half an
hour after the opening and opened a king size pack of crisps, noisily
cracking away while on the screen a schoolboy was raped by a priest. But
that certainly is not Major Cineplex’ mistake.
The European film Festival offers a truly wide variety of
recent European cinema. It is an excellent initiative, which deserves much
praise. On the average I counted an audience of 50, with a top of 140 for
“On the other side of the Bridge” from Austria. Most were Europeans and
Americans: 15 percent Thai is my wild guess. Although it is an excellent
opportunity for Europeans to see movies from their part of the world, I
still find it a major challenge to try for an audience of predominantly Thai
The market reigns and we will have our share of Hollywood
in Chiangmai, counting for about 90 percent of the non-Thai movies. But I
have still the idealistic idea that beauty and variety can be promoted, even
if the market forces run against it.
There are still a lot of excellent movies left to be seen, with “Head
On” and “The Son”, certainly as highlights. You have the time until
the 19th of June.