We’ve got updates on two Asian Horror films that might interest you. The first is Rinne, which is part of the J-Horror series. The official website for the film by Takashi Shimizu of The Grudge fame is now online with pictures and more (if you can read it). But the movie that should really peak your interest is a Thai film entitled P, which made its world premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival last night! The print shown last night had to be smuggled via Europe in the director’s hand baggage to avoid an export license, which the filmmakers were warned would be impossible to obtain. But the whole story behind this film is quite extraordinary and really worth a read, inside you’ll find the whole deal. I was lucky enough to check out the film, which was really quite a treat- watch for a review soon.
KFC Cinema writes:
“The Thai horror film P will have its U.S. premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival on June 24th (also to screen at Fantasia Film Fest). Thailand produces dozens of low-budget ghost movies for the local market every year. Very few ever travel beyond Thailand’s borders, so why was P selected as one of only 31 films to represent the most original and groundbreaking films from Asia?
Perhaps the most unusual fact is that it is the first ever Thai-language film directed by a Westerner. Paul Spurrier’s previous film Underground played at the Sensations exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and its frank depiction of youth drug abuse in London contributed to the controversy of the event, which attracted the ire of many, including former New York City Mayor Giuliani.
Paul’s latest film is not only an unusual project, but equally controversial. Paul first visited Thailand in 2005, and since then has spent almost three years in Thailand making this film. The first task was to learn to speak Thai, and Paul spent hundreds of hours becoming fluent enough to direct a feature film. He then spent months in the jungles near the Cambodian border, living in small villages, meeting the local witchdoctors and researching the complex and rich spirit world of Thailand.
However, it is not for its depiction of black magic, voodoo and spirit possession that P has created controversy. The story follows the progress of a young girl from the Cambodian border who leaves her home town to find work in Bangkok. She is tricked into working in one of Bangkok’s notorious go-go bars and enters a scary world.
The depiction of underage prostitution and sex-tourism, although indisputably accurate has met with obstacles in Thailand. The government is very keen to clean up Thailand’s image, and play down the image as a center of sex-tourism.
Thus the film had to be produced in secret as a local production, avoiding Thailand’s censorship laws which for foreign films include script submission and approval. The filmmakers have been advised that no distribution company in Thailand will show the film in the current climate.
The print that is being shown at the New York Asian Film Festival had to be smuggled via Europe in the director’s hand baggage to avoid an export license, which the filmmakers were warned would be impossible to obtain.
The film has caused controversy also because one of the main actors is an adult film star, an occupation in Thailand which is illegal. Actors keep a very low profile. By appearing in a major film, the actress risks criminal prosecution and even jail for her previous film roles.
The main actress, Suangporn Jaturaphut, is the niece of a famous Thai soap opera star. Taking on the role as a prostitute while aged only 17, she has been disowned by her aunt, and risks expulsion from University.
Outside Thailand, the blend of fantasy and stark realism has attracted much interest. Winning two awards including the Audience prize at the German Weekend of Fear, and selected for over twelve international film festivals including the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the film has won praise for its sensitive and non-exploitative approach.
Director Paul Spurrier appreciates that Thailand wishes to refresh its image, but felt that this was an important story to produce: Whilst researching the film, I got a lot of assistance from girls who work in the bars and were keen for their stories to be told. And their stories were often tragic, including rape, teenage pregnancy, drugs, and the absolute poverty of their families. Sadly two of the girls who allowed me to interview them made the ultimate sacrifice, dying of AIDS. I am more determined than ever that this film should be shown; not only to those Westerners who have no understanding of the tragedy behind the sexy go-go bar image, but also to Thai audiences who seldom get to see stories like this.”