Arts - Entertainment
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

South East Asian Film Festival

Han-Nah Son, pianist extraordinaire!!

Chicken Soup for the Soul

 

South East Asian Film Festival

At Payap University

By Mark Gernpy

The South East Asian Institute of Global Studies at Payap University presents “Lifescapes” – a festival running from February 3 to 6 at Payap University.

Opening and closing receptions, film screenings, discussion panels, and presentations will take place on the Payap University main campus. All films will be subtitled in English and Thai. All activities are free and open to the public.

The organizers write that Lifescapes will screen contemporary films – documentary, docu-drama, dramatic – to showcase thoughtful work with a social conscience. They hopes to raise awareness while celebrating the film culture and filmmakers of Southeast Asia who make meaningful social commentary with their work – showing the “beautiful” without flinching from “grim reality.”

They go on to say they hope to show films that explore regional issues and human rights struggles within mainland Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The festival will screen films and give audiences and directors the opportunity for discussion. Directors and film-makers are invited to speak, and representatives from NGO’s will host a cross-country forum.

Website for the festival: http://filmfestival.payap.ac.th/?page_id=56

Wise Kwai: Uruphong Raksasad’s Agrarian Utopia and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives are the opening and closing films of the Lifescapes South East Asian Film Festival at Payap University in Chiang Mai from February 3 to 6.

The fest focuses on regional issues and human-rights struggles with films from Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Other Thai films include Kon Jon Poo Ying Yai (คนจนผู้ยิ่งใหญ่), an unreleased work by Sueb Boonsong Nakphoo that “explores the people in rural Thailand, living in the hardest place at the hardest time”, and shorts from Rung Uan, a Chiang Rai NGO that trains young filmmakers.

Other highlights include Bradley Cox’s documentary Who Killed Chea Vichea?, about the death of the Cambodian labor leader; Only Love, the latest feature by Laotian director Anousone Sirsackda; The Prison Where I Live, on the jailed Burmese comedian Zarganar; and The Most Secret Place on Earth, a documentary looking at the lingering aftermath of the CIA’s “secret war” in Laos.

Aside from film screenings, there’s talks, among them a panel discussion on censorship featuring Tanwarin Sukhaphisit, director of the banned Insects in the Backyard.

The closing film, which will take place at the Major Cineplex Airport Plaza, will be the Chiang Mai premiere of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which despite having been shown around Thailand in limited theatrical engagements last year, missed Apichatpong’s adopted hometown.

The not-to-be-missed event in my opinion is the showing of this film: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Sun. 6 February, 7:00 pm at Major Cineplex Airport Plaza, Cinema 7

By Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thai, Comedy/ Fantasy – 1 hr 54 mins – Suffering from acute kidney failure, Uncle Boonmee has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long lost son returns home in a non-human form. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave – the birthplace of his first life.

This may be your only chance in Chiang Mai to see this mysterious film which won the Palme d’Or at the last Cannes Festival.

Tickets for the showing are priced at 100 baht (normal seat); 120 baht (honeymoon seat); and 300 baht (Opera Chair – 2 persons). Tickets are available for purchase now at the following places: Payap University, Mae Khao Campus, Pentecost Building, Room 115. Raan Lao Bookshop, Nimanhaemin Rd, near Soi 2. Cup A Book Café, Nimanhaemin Rd, opposite Soi 13. DVD Film & Music, Wing 41 T-junction (off Suthep Rd.)

South East Asian Film Festival Program at Payap University, Chiang Mai

Day 1 Thurs 3 February (Opening Day):

17:00-18:00 Opening Ceremony

18:00-21:00 Agrarian Utopia by Uruphong Raksasad [Thailand, 120 min, Thai, English subtitles] In Dr. Boontong Auditorium

Followed by Q&A with director, Uruphong Raksasad

Facing seizure of their own lands, two families found themselves farming together on the same field, hoping to get through just another rice-farming season like every year. But no matter how much the world is evolving, how much the country is going through economic, political and social changes, they still cannot grasp that ideology of happiness.

How can we dream of utopia while our stomach is still grumbling?

2100 ~ Opening Night After Party @ MUMU Arthouse, Nimanhaemin Rd, Soi 7

Day 2 Fri 4 February

10:00-11:00 Music and Film with Thorsten Wollmann

Presentation, In the Singtoh Changtrakul Room

This presentation will describe the importance of music in film, its function and role, as well as filmmaker expectations regarding the work of their film score composers. What music can do, cannot do, should do, and should not do in a movie, will be explored.

11:00-11:45 Burma In Pieces written and directed by Arun Sharma [Burma/ Myanmar, 45 min, Burmese, English subtitles] In the Weera Kitjathorn Room

Shot illegally and often covertly in Burma and Thailand over 2 years, Burma In Pieces is a poetic sound and visual metaphor of life under a military dictatorship, pieced together from 150 hours of original material, interviews and archive footage. Filmed on bustling city streets and in remote mountain villages, in trains and markets, guerrilla resistance compounds in the landmine infested Burmese jungle, refugee camps on the Thai border, Buddhist temples, schools and kick boxing tournaments, the film offers intimate and unique observations of life in Burma under the shadow of the military dictatorship that controls it. For decades, the horrific human rights violations and political oppression in Burma has gone untold and unnoticed by the world, and while this situation has changed in recent years, Burma is still a closed society and its people remain distant statistics in a world desensitized by the horrors of conflict. Burma In Pieces therefore attempts to offer a detailed, nuanced human perspective of the nature of fear and oppression by bringing the audience into the lives, homes and environments of the Burmese people, thus experiencing their warmth, struggle and sacrifice.

Written by Arun Sharma

11:45-12:30 Love Man Love Woman by Trinh Thi Nguyen

[Vietnam, 50 min, Vietnamese, English subtitles] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room

For centuries, Vietnam’s Dao Mau (Mother Goddess Religion) temples have been the one place where homosexuals are able to flourish in the predominantly homophobic country. In these traditional temples, where attendance is surprisingly mixed, they’re able to express their sexuality and femininity, blurring the distinctions between genders.

This documentary takes a heartening look at this group of ’dong co’ – meaning ‘princess spirit’s mediums’, a term originated from the indigenous religion that has come to be used generally in Vietnam to refer to effeminate and gay men – forging their own community, culture and rituals together. The filmmaker follows Master Luu Ngoc Duc, one of the most prominent spirit mediums in Hanoi, and his vibrant community through their rituals and everyday life. The film also examines the impacts of globalization on the lifestyle and identities of homosexuals in Vietnam’s urban areas.

12:00-13:00 lunch break

13:00-14:15 Purpose of Film: Beauty, Entertainment, and a Social Conscience? Panel Discussion, In the Singtoh Changtrakul Room with Gridthiya Gaweewong, Artistic Director, Jim Thompson Art Center, Uruphong Raksasad, Director, Agrarian Utopia, Detlev F. Neufert, Filmmaker, Author, President of German Thai Media Association, Moderator: Sutthirat Suppaparinya

14:30-16:15 In the Middle of the Bridge by Karin Dürr and Carolin Röckelein  [Burma/Myanmar, 60 min, Burmese, English] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room. Followed by discussion with Ashin Sophaka

Shortly after the defeat of the September Revolution in 2007, hundreds of monks tried to flee to foreign countries. Some of the leaders landed in Mae Sot in Thailand, a trading center on the border of Burma, where they remained hidden underground.

The starting point for our film is based on the consequences of the Safron Revolution that each of our protagonists has experienced in a different way. We focus on the one hand on the personalities and motivation of these men, who take responsibility for one of the biggest democratic movements of our times. On the other hand we try to find out more about the situation and life in Burma, a country that because of its closed border policy does not allow any access to show the reality. One year later: We meet the monks at JFK airport in New York. A further getaway into a world that couldn’t be stranger, torn out of context.

16:30-17:30 The Wanderers by Christine Bouteiller [Cambodia, 58 min, Khmer, English subtitles]

In the Pipat Trangra-tapit Room

“Our children don’t believe us. They’re too young to know. In 1975, many of us were too young to understand when the Khmer Rouges revolutionaries, managed by Pol Pot, took over our country. War, Khmer rouges, landmines: we should have died. But instead we went astray.

We’re not dead. Today, we live in Cambodia. We’ve lived in the village of Chamkar Samrong for the last 15 years, or ra-ther in a couple of rows of houses away from the village, a place better known as ” the camp.”

We are Cambodian. We always have been. And yet, it was slightly accidental that we ended up here.”

After surviving 30 years of war and being refugees for 15 years, 380 000 Cambodians were repatriated in 1992 to their homeland from the Thai borders refugee camps. Some of them were resettled in villages built for them by the United Nations.

How can a society rebuild itself after such a traumatic scattering ? Those who never left were suspicious and saw the massive arrival of these exiled families as a threat to their land and equilibrium. The villagers gave to these former refugees a nickname still used today: the wanderers.

In a world of 26 millions of displaced people, the Wanderers try in their own way – slowly but surely – to survive and to reintegrate while fighting for their children’s future. This film is a tribute to their resiliency. “ We didn’t die, we live in a few rows of houses at the outskirt of the village, a place known as “the camp”. We are the Wanderers, those who have lost their path.”

17:30-18:30 dinner break

18:30-19:00 4 Shorts From the Factories [Cambodia, 4 x 8 min, Khmer, English subtitles] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room

Cambodia’s garment industry a major pillar of the country’s post-war economy. In 2007, garment factories employed more than 350,000 workers and generated exports worth around US$3.7 billion. Most factories produce for well known US and European brands including Gap, Adidas, Levis and H&M. In 2009 the global economic crisis has led to to more than 70.000 workers being laid off. Most of them are young women from rural areas with limited education, who support an average of three to five family members. Through their remittances these women often crucially contribute to their family’s survival and to the education of their siblings. Migrating from rural areas to big cities they find themselves displaced from their origins.

Four Shorts From the Factories look at the economic downturn viewed through the prism of workers, a female Cambodian manager, union representatives, entrepreneurs and small businesses surrounding the factories.

The films A Day at the Factory, A Day Around the Factories, A Day Off From the Factory and A Weekend With the Manager have been produced by international filmmakers and Cambodian media students under the roof of the “Media Education and Training Academy” (M.E.T.A.), supported by Better Factories Cambodia/ILO and Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation (FES) Singapore.

Students participating in the research and production of Four Shorts From the Factories were Sao Sopheak (28), Borei Sylyvann (25), Lim Seang Heng (21) and Ream Chamrouen (18). The films were directed by US filmmaker Mark Hammond (“L’Amour Cache”) and “Meta House”-founder Nico Mesterharm from Germany.

19:00-21:15 Kon Jon Poo Ying Yai by Boonsong Nakphoo [Thailand, 90 min, Thai, English subtitles] In the Kaew Nettayotin Room

Followed by Q&A with director, Sueb Boonsong Nakphoo

The film explores the people in rural Thailand, living in the hardest place at the hardest time. For the main character, he has no job, no money and no hope. Everything in his life seems worse than ever: his son was captured by the police, his land vested in debt, and his ex-wife has gone away to Bangkok – the land he swears to himself that he would never go back to again. Without help from the government or anyone, he tries to survive through his life struggles.

This film has not yet been released and the director, Sueb Boonsong Nakphoo, will join us for the screening and post-discussion (offered in Thai & English).

Day 3 Sat 5 February

In the Pipat Trangratapit Room

10:00-12:00 Looking For Reconciliation [Burma/Myanmar, 83 min] English,

Followed by discussion with the Democratic Voice of Burma

The military leaders of Myanmar (Burma) have promised general elections late 2010 and the start of a reconciliation process. Although one can have serious doubts about the intentions of the junta, reconciliation is endorsed by most people in Burma and the international community. It will be crucial to change Burma into a democracy. But what kind of reconciliation is possible in Burma, and can we learn from similar processes of unification in other countries?

These are the questions that drive the young Burmese camporter ‘Z’ to fly around the world and visit five former dictatorships. This documentary follows him on his journey. Armed with a small DV camera he visits five countries that experienced regime change after a dictatorship: Indonesia, South-Africa, Iraq, the Czech Republic, and Cambodia. He interviews prominent human rights activists, like Desmond Tutu, visits places where history was made and tries to understand why the generals in Indonesia still rule the country, why the Kurds in Iraq don’t care about reconciliation and why the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia still deny their genocide.

The story of Z’s journey is intertwined with his personal story. We learn about his past, his struggle, his present situation, and his plans for the future. All these ingredients lead to an exciting journey through the recent history of regime change and reconciliation, through the mind of a young exile camporter and through the process of making documentaries on a shoe string.

Kay Lie is the alias of a European director who’s recently specialized in documentaries about South East Asia and specifically about Burma. The European director in question made over a hundred documentaries and short features and won ten international festival prizes.

12:00-12:30 Across the Sea of Dust by Tiffany Chung [Vietnam, 23 min, Vietnamese, English subtitles]

Across the Sea of Dust tranquilly reflects the complex emotion and experience of a new generation of young ‘global citizens’ who no longer feel at home anywhere. As globalization and migration have increasingly prevailed, these modern-day nomads live in and between cultures, places, and times. The psychosis of contemporary culture is melancholically provoked as the male protagonist, who suffers severe mental disorders and is nearly amnesiac, sleep-walking us through the recovering of his childhood memory; as the narrator taking a train ride across the visual and mental landscape of her time and generation, which serves as the backdrop for stories of other characters. Featuring young Asian actors who hail from Norway, Japan and Vietnam, Across the Sea of Dust presents our ever-changing world full of beauty, loss, and loneliness.

“Across the Sea of Dust is scripted based on interviews conducted on a number of young people who identify with the overall theme of the film, in which some of them ended up playing their own roles. The narrator’s story is from my interviews with several Japanese women who keep moving from one place to another, sharing their life experiences as well as witnessing spatial and cultural changes in many countries that they have lived. The male protagonist is played by a young Vietnamese-Norwegian man, who grew up in Norway and is now living in Vietnam; his character’s mental disorders and childhood memories are based on a real life story. The female singer’s role is played by one of the most successful Vietnamese singers who I’ve been working with in some of my performance projects. Although playing minor roles, the aspiring teenage dancers represent a new generation of youths who would dance and sing their hearts out in search for success in the new Vietnam.”

Tiffany Chung holds an MFA from University of California, Santa Barbara (2000) and a BFA from California State University, Long Beach (1998). She characterizes her work as “stinging satire on the building of candy-colored utopia as a veneer for dystopic realities of traumatized topographies.”

12:30-13:00 Chronicle of a Tape Recorded Over by Trinh Thi Nguyen [Vietnam, 28 min, Vietnamese, English subtitles]

Using ‘exquisite corpse’, a method by which a collection of stories and images is collectively assembled, Nguyen Trinh Thi began her journey over the Vietnam War’s notorious Ho Chi Minh Trail. The filmmaker asked local villagers to contribute their tales, merging reality with fiction in her search for the meaning of collective cultural memory and its relationship to ideas of space and sight.

Nguyen Trinh Thi is a Hanoi-based independent documentary filmmaker and video artist. She studied journalism and photography at the University of Iowa, and Southeast Asian studies and ethnographic film at University of California, San Diego. Her documentary and experimental films have been screened at festivals and exhibitions in the USA, Europe, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Cambodia. Festivals include San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, Vesoul Asian Film Festival, Jean Rouch International Film Festival, Yunnan Multi Culture Visual Festival, and the Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF).

In 2009, she founded Hanoi DOCLAB, a center for documentary filmmaking and video art in Hanoi.

In the Weera Kitjathorn Room

10:00-13:00 Lending Lenses shorts made possible by training organizations in SE Asia

This program will screen short films submitted by The Yangon Film School, Meta House, and Rung Uan. The program will continue with an afternoon panel presentation.

M.E.T.A. House

The M.E.T.A program aims at strengthening the Cambodian documentary film scene. It is implemented by Cambodia’s first art and media center “Meta House” in cooperation with the Goethe Institute.

The Pepperfields (2010 / 23 min) – A hundred years ago, the region of Kampot in Cambodia was well known across Europe as an agricultural province, producing “the best pepper in the world.” Due to Cambodia’s civil war and the Khmer Rouge genocide, Kampot Pepper was lost to the culinary world for almost 40 years. Today, former low-ranking Khmer Rouge soldiers are turning into entrepreneurs. Globalization provides greater export opportunities and small-scale pepper-farmers are taking advantage, determined to conquer international food markets. Politicians, NGOs and foreign businessmen are supporting Kampotดs pepper comeback. The filmmakers are Sao Sopheak (28), Pich Seyha (23), Ouen Dalin (23), Khin Sina (23) and Hem Vanna (26) – all Cambodian film students from the M.E.T.A. film school in Phnom Penh. The Pepperfields: From Genocide to Globalization was made possible through funding by the German political foundation “Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation” (FNS).

Smot (2009 / 14 min) – This documentary presents the art of Smot, a traditional Cambodian form of poetry that is recited at funerals and a variety of Buddhist ceremonies. Smot is a traditional art form that has existed since ancient times in Cambodia among people of all classes and backgrounds. Nowadays, however, the tradition of Smot recitation is facing near extinction due to years of war and the subsequent loss of culture. Additionally, because many young Cambodians have little knowledge and appreciation of Smot, they have come to fear and dislike it when they hear Smot chanted. Thus, the number of Cambodians who still teach and recite this art form is still very small.

Things are beginning to change, however. With the support of Cambodia Living Arts, an organization promoting arts revival and education for young Cambodians, elderly Smot masters in the province of Kampong Speu have the opportunity to teach young Cambodians this unique art form. Master teachers, students, and members of the Cambodian Living Arts community understand that this precious art form will be lost forever if it is not supported and transmitted to youth in the present.

The filmmaker is Kavich Neang, a native of Phnom Penh, Cambodia and currently a second-year student at Limkokwing University majoring in Digital Film and Television. Currently 23 years old, Kavich was first exposed to traditional Khmer arts through the Cambodian Living Arts organization and has studied folk and classical Khmer dance over the past seven years. From October, 2009 until January-2010, Kavich was selected as a film student in Meta Film School and produced his documentary, “SMOT.”

Yangon Film School: A Bright Future

Our Forests Our Future (2009 / 23 min) – Since 1995, the Myanmar Forestry Department has awarded renewable thirty-year community forestry permits to local communities which enable local people to manage and benefit from their forests and protect the forests for future generations. So far, the Forestry Department has handed over 40,900 hectares of land to locals. In gentle yet heartfelt tones, U Kam Shawng, of Wainemaw Township in Kachin State, describes why his community has decided to put a stop to the systematic depletion of their forests and use their permit to promote sustainable timber farming. This film was directed by Zin Myo Sett and was made by Yangon Film Services and Productions, a Myanmar-based film production organization dedicated to the creation of a diverse media culture in Myanmar.

Stigmatize This! (2009 / 23 min) – In 2008, the UN Secretary-General launched UN Cares, the UN system wide workplace pro-gramme on HIV. In Myanmar the UN Cares team began a two-day training programme for UN staff at 35 sites around the country. The aim of these workshops was to increase HIV awareness and reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination among the 2,200 strong workforce. Following three trainers to sites in Chin State and the Ayeyerawaddy Delta, this short documentary intervweaves surprisingly frank interview material with often moving scenes filmed during workshop sessions to provide a warm and authentic record of a valuable programme.

My Positive Life (2008 / 20 min) – When 51-year-old U Chit Ko Ko learned six years ago that he was HIV-positive he thought his life was over. A friend encouraged him to visit the NGO “FXB” where counselling helped him to overcome his fear and depression. The warm, funny and remarkably open U Chit has since become an assistant social worker for this NGO, where he coordinates a Sunday Empowerment Group to provide valuable support to a growing but often stigmatised section of the population. The director, Yangon University art graduate Wai Mar Nyunt, was an assistant art teacher at a private school in Yangon before joining the Yangon Film School workshops in 2007.

Rung Uan:
Grandma Niad
Vow!
12:00-13:00 lunch break
13:00-14:15 Lending Lenses: Building Skill and Capability In SE Asia

Panel Presentation, In the Singtoh Changtrakul Room

This panel presentation includes representatives involved with organizations around Southeast Asia. These organizations provide opportunity for local filmmakers to learn the skills necessary to tell their stories through film. Many of these organizations receive support and funding from the Goethe Institute. With Wai Mar Nyunt, Director, My Positive Life, Yangon Film School, Myanmar, Nico Mesterharm, Founder, Meta House, Ponsak Sukongkarattanakul, Trainer, Rung Uan.

14:30-15:45 Bleeps, Blurs, and Bans - Film Censorship in Southeast Asia

Panel Presentation, In the Kaew Nettayotin Room with Tanwarin Sukhaphisit, Director, Insects in the Backyard, Amporn Jirattikorn, Dept of Social Sciences & Development, CMU, Thusanai Sethaseree, Faculty of Media Arts & Design, CMU, Moderator: Sirote Klampaiboon

16:00-17:30 Who Killed Chea Vichea? by Bradley Cox [Cambodia, 55 min, Khmer, English subtitles] In the Kaew Net-tayotin Room

In 1999, Cambodian garment workers demanding decent wages and working conditions found their leader in Chea Vichea. As president of Cambodia’s free trade union, he stood with them despite beatings and death threats. Until a sunny morning in 2004. As Vichea read the paper at a sidewalk newsstand, three bullets silenced him forever. Under intense international pressure, the police arrested two men and extracted a confession. They were sentenced to 20 years each. But did they have anything to do with the crime? What seems at first to be justice done starts to look like a frame-up. And the implications reach far beyond the police station and the courtroom: to the headquarters of the ruling party and to the garment trade that is Cambodia’s economic lifeblood.

Director Bradley Cox shot Who Killed Chea Vichea? over five years, covering events as they happened and tracking down wit-nesses in a country where knowing too much can cost you your life. Since the completion of the film in 2010, the police in Cambodia have stopped two attempts to screen it and the Cambodian authorities announced that it is “forbidden” to screen it publicly there.

Who Killed Chea Vichea? is a highly charged murder mystery, a political thriller, and a documentary like no other.

17:30-18:30 dinner break

18:30-21:15 Only Love by Anousone Srisackda [Lao, 126 min, Lao, English subtitles] In the Kaew Nettayotin Room

After completing his university degree in Vientiane, Souvanh returns home determined to improve his agrarian village’s quality of life by reopening their Community Learning Center and by constructing a sustainable irrigation system. His efforts are supported by his childhood sweetheart, Duongchai, who agrees to postpone their wedding until after the center is stable.

When Namphet, the son of the owners of the village’s farming supply company, arrives from the city to collect on Duongchai’s family’s extensive debt, he falls in love with Duongchai and devises a plan for winning her heart which involves ‘rescuing’ her from a staged nighttime mugging in which Duongchai’s is nearly assaulted. At the same time, Namphet tries to sabotage Souvanh’s efforts to rebuild the community center.

The entire village places tremendous hope on Souvanh’s plans for the center. However, when the center fails to qualify for an important bank loan, many of the villagers lose faith in Souvanh choosing to take on high-interest loans from Namphet’s family. A sudden storm destroys much of the village’s crop yield, and Doungchai’s father breaks his leg. Namphet’s family takes Duongchai and her father to Vientiane for medical care, and Namphet tries to take advantage of Duongchai.

Souvanh becomes depressed and abandons the center. However, his father offers him advice and Souvanh resolves to continue to fight for the community center. Duongchai returns from the capital and forgives Souvanh. The center secures a loan from a second bank, and the villagers rally around the community center.

21:30 ~ After Party @ Sangdee Gallery, Sirimangkalajarn Soi 5

Day 4 Sun 6 February

10:00-12:00 This Prison Where I Live by Rex Bloomstein
[Burma/ Myanmar, 90 min, Burmese, English, German] In the Kaew Nettayotin Room
Followed by Q&A with line producer, Justin Temple
Two men, joined by comedy, separated by repression.

This Prison Where I Live is a feature length documentary about two comedians. Maung Thura, better known as Zarganar, is Burma’s greatest living comic. Relentlessly victimized by the Burmese military junta, he is now in prison. Michael Mittermeier, in stark contrast, is free to practice his art of humor and provocation as one of Germany’s leading stand up comedians.

In 2007, Zarganar was interviewed by the British documentary filmmaker, Rex Bloomstein, despite being banned from all forms of artistic activity and talking to foreign media. This footage remained unseen. Two years later, hearing that Zarganar had been sentenced to 35 years in jail, Bloomstein teamed up with Michael Mittermeier and together they travelled secretly to Burma to make a film about this courageous man, who describes himself as the “loudspeaker” for the Burmese people, and to investigate humor under dictatorship.

12:00-13:00 lunch break

12:00-12:30 The Floating Tomatoes by Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi [Burma/Myanmar, 30 min, Burmese, English subtitles] In the Weera Kitjathorn Room

The Irrawaddy, Lawi Weng [July 2010]: Burmese filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi planned to shoot a documentary about the beauty of Inle Lake, but after seeing the environmental damage the once-pristine lake has incurred in recent years, he decided to use the film to educate the public about the degradation of one of his country’s natural wonders.

Inle Lake, Burma’s second largest inland body of water, is located in Taunggyi Township, the capital of Shan State. Encircled by mountains, the lake and its surroundings provide as beautiful a setting as you will find in Burma. Inle Lake is most famous for its floating houses and gardens and its local fisherman, who stand in their wooden boats, wrap one leg around an oar, and row by swinging their leg wide while dragging the oar through the water.

But as Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi’s documentary shows, the livelihood of these fisherman is now in jeopardy, partly due to the impact of farming practices used in the floating gardens and partly as a result of drought and deforestation in Shan State. The 30-minute documentary, titled “The Floating Tomatoes,” includes interviews with Inle Lake tomato farmers who have experienced health problems after years of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The water level recently at Inle Lake.

More than 100,000 people earn their livelihood by growing tomatoes in Inle Lake’s floating gardens. They use fertilizers and pesticides to produce higher yields, but most are unaware of the negative effect these chemicals have on their health and on the lake. They do know, however, that the water from the lake is no longer safe for drinking and cooking. “The people use more chemical fertilizers and pesticides than they need, and they don’t use anything to protect their health. They spray a lot of pesticides on their tomato gardens and those pesticides go directly into the water,” Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi told The Irrawaddy. Chemicals have also greatly reduced the fish population in the lake. This creates a vicious circle, because when people can’t fish for a living, they turn to tomato farming, resulting in even more chemicals being dumped into the lake.

The adverse effects of these practices are not limited to those who live around the lake. The tomatoes are sold as far afield as Mandalay and Rangoon, so the contaminants are “not only dangerous for the people who live on Inle Lake, but also for everyone who eats tomatoes in Burma,” said Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi.

The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is not the only cause of Inle Lake’s environmental decline. Both drought and deforestation—which increases the impact of drought by causing silt to build up in the lake—have also played a large role. Burmese environmentalists have found that the climate and biodiversity in the lake have changed to the point that this unique floating world may vanish forever. “People in Shan State don’t know how to maintain the forest,” said U Ohn. “There is so much logging that it has become deforested. This impacts the people who live on Inle Lake. The water level is getting low and the lake is threatened with extinction in the future. I am worried that the people are going to lose their natural way of life if no one helps them.”

According to a 2007 report by the University of Tokyo’s Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science, Inle Lake has decreased in size by more than one-third in the past 65 years, from 69 square km to just over 46 square km. The report blames the expansion of the lake’s famous floating gardens for 93 percent of the recent loss of water.

It’s not just the lake, but also its surroundings, that have been hard hit by changes in the climate. As water levels fall, temperatures are rising, reaching as high as 42 degrees Celsius this April, resulting in severe water shortages in many parts of the country, including Inle Lake.

12:30-13:30 Hanoi DOCLAB Shorts [Vietnam, 60 min] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room

Hanoi DOCLAB is a center/lab for documentary filmmaking and video art which opened in 2009 and which is based at the Goethe Institute in Hanoi. Four filmmakers are featured. Two other films in this series come from Hanoi DOCLAB: 1/ Love Man Love Woman by Nguyen Trinh Thi; and 2/ Chronicle of a Tape Recorded Over by Nguyen Trinh Thi

The four films and filmmakers shown here are:

The Garden by Doan Hoang Kien. The director is a graduate of the Hanoi Fine Arts University, and has had a number of painting exhibitions and installations throughout Vietnam. Doan Hoang Kien graduated from the Vietnam National Circus School and the Moscow Circus School, and he has performed as a circus artist in Russia, Thailand, Lao, France, and Japan.

Friendgrandma by Pham Mai Phuong. Born 1985 in Hanoi, Pham Mai Phuong graduated from Hanoi National University and majored in Oriental Studies. He has participated in some Hanoi-DOCLAB courses studying documentary filmmaking, and is currently a student of the Film Studies Program, sponsored by the Ford Foundation. Friendgrandma (2010) is Phuong’s first step to becoming a documentary filmmaker.

Underneath It All by Do Van Hoang. A student of cinema art at Hanoi academy of theatre and cinema, Do Van Hoang scripted two films including The Heart of City and The Way of Ant (2009). He has directed two documentary films entitled Underneath it All, and At Water’s Edge,

Section Number 8 by Pham Thu Hằng. A cultural history major, Phm Thu Hng has created many projects about culture, environment, and education for ethnic minority communities in Vietnam. Since Oct 2009, Phm Thu Hng has trained in Hanoi DOCLAB in the fields of documentary film and video art. Section Number 8 is a film in the Long Bien project hosted by the British Council and shown in the “Long Bien Picture Show” exhibition.

13:00-14:15 People Living With Stories by Paul Zetter [Vietnam, 33 min, Vietnamese, English subtitles] In the Kaew Nettayotin Room; Followed by Q&A with Ian Bromage

People Living with Stories is a unique film project featuring eight people from a cross section of Vietnamese society specially commissioned for World AIDS Day 2010. In a series of short cameos, the eight participants reveal intimate moments about their lives such as love, bereavement, a first kiss, a wedding day, a memory of a lost love or a friend’s loyalty.

The central theme of the film is one of universal humanity – by telling their stories the participants reveal that we all share similar experiences. Thus the film attempts to tackle stigma and discrimination by defining people according to the stories that they tell and not through the labels that people give them.

The screening of People Living with Stories will be followed by a post-Q&A session with Ian Bromage, a VSO Volunteer currently working in Vietnam with the Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP), as an organization development advisor. Although his background is in project management, he is an enthusiastic supporter and great fan of films and the cinema.

The idea for People Living with Stories was conceived as a way to use the medium of film to tackle the stigma and discrimina-tion faced by people living with HIV. The concept was to move away from the conventional documentary format that focuses upon stigma and discrimination, to one that presented people’s experiences and stories without the association of HIV. Its aim was to show people first, and HIV last, and thereby show the general public that people living with HIV share the same expe-riences as everyone else in their communities and thus should not be treated differently.

14:30-15:45 The Most Secret Place On Earth by Marc Eberle [Lao, 77 min, English] In the Pipat Trangratapit Room

The Vietnam War was the most intensely televised war ever. However, next door in neighboring Laos, the longest and largest air war in human history was underway, which eventually made Laos the most bombed country on earth. The Secret War was the largest operation ever conducted by the CIA, yet to this day, hardly anyone knows anything about it. Critics call it the biggest war crime of the Vietnam War era and point to striking similarities to the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; similarities that were tested and set in motion back in Laos in the 1960s. In The Most Secret Place On Earth, key players of the Secret War– former CIA agents, American pilots, Laotian fighters and war reporters – take us on a journey into the physical heart of the conflict: Top secret Long Cheng, where the CIA built its headquarters in 1962. It was from this base that the Secret War was largely planned and executed. As the war dragged on, Long Cheng became the busiest airbase in the world and a major center for the global opium and heroin trade. As we journey into Long Cheng for the first time – the site has been off limits to the outside world since the end of the war in 1975 – the film reconstructs the gripping story of the operation and illustrates its relevance to current American conflicts.

16:00-19:00 dinner break & travel time

19:00-21:00 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives / ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ
by Apichatpong Weerasethakul [Thailand, 120 min, Thai, English subtitles] Major Cineplex Chiang Mai, 4th Fl., Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport, Cinema 7

21:00 ~ Closing Night After Party @ The 2nd Floor Gallery & Café, Ratwithi & Ratchapakinai intersection (above Ko-dak Store).

 

Han-Nah Son, pianist extraordinaire!!

By Jai Pee 

Over the weekend of January 14th and 15th, Korean-born pianist Han-Nah Son visited Chiang Mai as a guest of the Friends of the Chiang Mai Music Festival. On this occasion, the recitals were not held at Baan Wangtan in the Murase home as has been the usual practice, but at Santi Saengthong’s wonderful Music School on Soi 5 Sirimanglkanjan. The delightful Han-Nah, who performed at Payap University about six months ago, gave two recitals (repeats of one another on consecutive nights) and a master-class on Saturday morning January 15th. Her recitals on the Friday and Saturday nights were both oversubscribed and she played to a full house.

Han Nah Son performed for the Friends of Chiang Mai this month, delighting the group with her skilled performance.

This relatively young pianist, who has studied in St Petersburg, Russia, and in Freiburg, Germany, has just completed her Master’s Degree at Mahidol University. Her two performances were quite incredible. She opened with one of Beethoven’s last Piano Sonatas, No 31, Opus 110. She had played the same at Payap last year but this was neither the same Han-Nah nor the same sonata. This time she was in total control of this symphonic-style piece of mature writing by Beethoven and she positively excelled. From the opening tender lyrical first few phrases to the stormy central passages, Han-Nah captured the very essence of the music and gave a performance nothing short of masterful. Her expression, her command of the keyboard and her deep understanding of the angst inherent in this magnificent work shone through from beginning to end. Her performance was as faultless as it was inspiring. In the opening movement there are some very tricky passages with which to cope, culminating in dramatic climaxes. I have never before heard these reached in such a forceful and stirring manner – this was pure musical poetry of the highest order. Han-Nah had even better to come – she then launched into one of Franz Liszt’s great piano fantasies, the Spanish Rhapsody. Liszt was born two hundred years ago and this spirited piece is a great composition full of energy and vigour. It was made even greater by the powerful performance Han-nah created. Her fingers sped across the keyboard like some Olympic ice-skater aiming for gold – the melodies were made to sparkle like diamonds. Han-Nah took the piece at breakneck pace but never once lost control of either the melodies or the intensively difficult runs and arpeggios – her performance was stunning and the members of the audience rose to their feet at the end in rapturous applause. This was an electrifying performance worthy of being heard in the great concert halls of the world, such was the quality of Han-Nah’s playing. After a short break Han-Nah then performed Three Dances from Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka, arranged for the piano by no less a figure than Artur Rubenstein in 1921. Once gain she excelled and gave the audience a fiery and wonderfully rhythmic performance of this exciting piece. Throughout she was powerful and steadfast.

Overall this was a dazzling display of pianistic skills of the highest order. Han-Nah has a great future ahead of her if she keeps up this kind of performance and momentum. I wrote earlier that this was not the same Han-Nah as I heard last year – her technique, her ability to connect instantly with the audience and her lightness of touch combined with her total immersion in the music have all improved to make her a rising star to be watched. We wish her every success in her future career which will hopefully take to her to the USA to pursue her studies to Doctorate level later this year.


Chicken Soup for the Soul

By Jai Pee

If ever a recital deserved the title above, it is the wonderful playing of the string quartet whose recital at the Four Seasons hotel and resort in Mae Rim on Saturday January 22nd was an unqualified success. Four highly distinguished musicians, Tasana Nagavajara and Siripon Tiptan on violins, Kittikhun Sodprasert on cello and His Excellency Mom Luang Usni Pramoj on viola, gave a magical performance of Haydn’s mature and challenging String Quartet in F major, his last completed string quartet, Opus 77 No 2, originally dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz and written in 1799. The second half consisted of Usni Pramoj’s recently written String Quartet No 1, composed during and after the Thai nation faced its worst crisis in recent years last April and May. All the proceeds from this thirteenth charity performance are being sent to the Vieng Ping Children’s Home, and the audience was delighted to see half a dozen of the young children dressed in gloriously evocative flying insect costumes grace the auditorium after the main recital.

His Excellency M.L. Usni Pramoj was joined by Tasana Nagavajara and Siripon Tiptan on violins, and Kittikhun Sodprasert on cello at the charity performance at the Four Seasons Resort and Hotel.

This was truly a night to remember. The recital followed a cocktail reception in the Rachawadee Residence on the candle-lit hillside in a spacious, beautifully decorated reception hall with excellent acoustics. From the opening notes of the remarkable Haydn quartet, the audience was treated to musicianship of the highest order – fiery and crystalline, the two violins carried melody and counterpoint ecstatically with marvelous support from cello and viola, played with sensitivity and perception. The quartet itself is one of Haydn’s finest works written at a time of tremendous creativity from the 67-year old composer, following the great Lord Nelson and Theresa Masses and his magnificent oratorio The Creation. The slow third movement of the quartet is surely one of the gems of the eighteenth century, full of rich melodies and tones with an extended and very beautiful cello part in which Kittikhun excelled. The work is immensely difficult to play with changing rhythms and scampering arpeggios, yet Tasana and his fellow musicians gave us a noble and rich performance in which master-musicianship became the hallmark of a very high quality performance.

The second half, devoted to the new string quartet of Usni Pramoj, was just as exciting a music excursion as the first half had been but in a very different way. Usni had captured with remarkable clarity the angst and fear of the people of Thailand as the nation was plunged into crisis last year. Strident chords, slight dissonances and fierce-some pizzicato playing resounded throughout the hall, not to be outdone by snatches of melody that reminded us all of the deeper feelings of so many Thai people at that time – the most remarkable point coming in the final movement when a luscious melody full of serenity and feeling took centre-stage with the hope that the nation would come together again and move forward in harmony and peace. This remarkable and moving work, inspired entirely by national events, deserves to be heard throughout the land as it is an anthem for reconciliation coming from the soul itself.

The audience was rapturous in its applause and the satisfaction and pleasure that showed on the faces of those present was beautifully matched by the innocence and smiles of the young children from Vieng Ping. Proceeds from this outstanding event are going to help the Children’s Home build a new drying room for their clothes. How proud Haydn would have been, and how happy M. L. Usni must be in the knowledge that their creativity and sensitivity has led to such a worthy outcome for the benefit of the next generation.