Hollywood's overrated. Ahead of the 90th Academy Awards on Mar 4, here's what we loved and hated about Thai film from the past year.

Best Picture

Malila: The Farewell Flower
Dir: Anucha Boonyawatana 
Don’t let the trailer fool you, this isn’t a Thai Call Me By Your Name. While suffering from a terminal illness, Pitch (Anuchit Sapanpong) reunites with his former lover Shane (Sukollawat Kanarot) as he grapples with his daughter’s death. Director Anucha Boonyawatana’s existential musings go beyond the touching and quietly queer romance into an investigation of death. Yes, capturing life’s ephemerality here requires long, still shots of nature and, inevitably, a storyline involving monkhood, but the tropes are deftly manipulated in the hands of this up-and-coming director and made uniquely Thai through metaphors like crafting bai sri ornaments. The result is a rich, affecting film that sees its two protagonists journeying on alone, but not without hope.

Best Actor

Sukollawat Kanarot 
Malila: The Farewell Flower
We know, we went with the favorite, but Sukollawat's big-screen debut as grieving father Shane shows a delicate balance of desire and disaffection, loss and release. Sukollawat deserves the award for the way his miserable eyes speak directly to Shane's inner soul, a guy who is trying to detach himself from the suffering past.

Best Documentary

Phantom of Illumination
Dir: Wattanapume Laisuwanchai
This unique debut documentary explores the life of an unemployed film projectionist, Sumrith “Rith” Praprakone, after the theater where he worked for 30 years closes down. The movie impresses with its spectacular blend of two realities: the perspective of Rith himself, and the director’s point of view of Rith’s situation. Through impactful, almost abstract, long takes that are heavy with symbolism, Wattanapume captures Rith's feelings of abandonment and directionless in an empathetic light, while also providing fresh insight into the harsh realities facing the working class in Bangkok.

Best Actress

Chermarn “Ploy” Boonyasak 
Samui Song
After falling from media consciousness, Ploy returns to take Thai audiences by surprise in Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s comeback move (see 6). In a little twist of irony, Ploy plays Vi, a mainstream star who longs for an indie makeover. And while we all like to take swipes at hi-sos from time to time, Ploy’s character here goes the opposite route, humanizing the over-privileged without having us sympathize with them.

Best Coming of Age Flick

Dir: Nontawat Numbenchapol
These true stories of 100 teenagers in the midst of gender identity discovery blur the line between fiction and documentary. Nontawat’s highly involved approach sees scenes narrated by the director himself, while others feature voiceovers from people who themselves have gone through the experiences being fictionalized on screen.

Best Comeback 

Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
Samui Song
Five years after Paradoxocracy and seven years after his last fiction feature, Pen-Ek returns with a neo-noir drama about island cults, rape and murder. For all the dodgy acting and somewhat heavy-handed morality, there’s also that old Pen-Ek knack for atmosphere and storytelling, while Vithaya Pansringarm puts in a turn as a nasty guru that rivals his Only God Forgives performance.

The Makes Us Want to Travel Award

Railway Sleepers
Dir: Sompot Chidgasornpongse 
Sompot and his assistant, Peem Aumari, take an eight-year journey to record the experiences of lives on trains across the country (and without making it appear like a TAT promo). Don’t think you’re in for sweeping scenery and the romance of travel—the film communicates real states and emotions, which sometimes includes repetition and monotony. 

The WTF Award

A Gas Station
Dir: Tanwarin Sukkhapisit
Set in a remote area of Thailand where everyone dresses as a cowboy, the story focuses on the disappearance of gas station owner Mhan’s newlywed wife. As he waits for her return, two more women try desperately to pursue him. This love triangle revolves in an offbeat and surreal cycle as the movie toys with notion of sadness.

Biggest  Letdown Award

The Promise
Dir: Sophon Sakdaphisit
A horror film set in Sathorn’s “Ghost Tower”? Of course we were going to watch it. Sadly, this dull and cliched affair was the kind of garbage that gives Thailand’s film industry a bad name. And worm-riddled apples: not that scary.

The Enough Already Award

Ghost House
Dir: Rich Ragsdale
An Aryan poster-couple holidaying in rural Thailand steal something they shouldn’t before this film devolves into pop-up scares, smeared blood and a woman running, endlessly. The real horror is that director Rich Ragsdale has managed in 1.5 hours to both resurrect yellow peril and clumsily appropriate a Thai ghost story.

The Bad Ending Award

Bad Genius
Dir: Nattawut Poonpiriya
Thailand's biggest grossing film of 2017 made waves all the way to Hong Kong and the U.S. with its depiction of corruption in the education system. We get the hype, but can’t help feeling a little cheated ourselves. We won’t reveal it for you, but what begins as a story of social justice ultimately ends up reaffirming the values of corruption and privilege.

The Misses its Own Point Award

Oversize Cops
Dir: Phuwanit Pholdee, Chanon Yingyong
Four overweight policemen are ordered to lose weight or lose their jobs. Beneath the film’s slapstick premise is a real message about body-consciousness and prejudice. Mostly though, the humor’s forced and the fat shaming is real instead of ironic.

The So Bad it’s Good Award

Premika Parab 
Director Siwakorn Jarupongsa combines karaoke camp with the tropes of generic, Asian slashers featuring schoolgirls in a master-class of Thailand’s uniquely macabre humor last perfected in 2013’s runaway hit, Pee Mak.

Best Screenplay

Die Tomorrow
Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
The Mary is Happy and 36 director is back to his mind-bending best with this low-budget film delving into our acceptance of death. Separated into two main parts—one telling six short stories about people who have one day left to live, the other showing anonymous interviews and recorded voices—Die Tomorrow is the definition of non-narrative cinema, but in Nawapol’s capable hands, the grisly subject matter is rendered almost uplifting.

International Scene Stealer

Sayombhu “Song” Mukdeeprom
The long-time Apichatpong Weerasethakul collaborator is the cinematographer behind Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, which could claim up to four gongs at this week’s Oscars, including Best Picture. His warm depiction of an '80s Italian summer—all sun-dappled countryside and pastel hues—is credited with adding a gentle poignancy to the coming-of-age romance. Excitingly, Song and Guadagnino have two more projects in the pipeline. Read our interview here.


After winning a seven-year battle for screening permission with the Ministry of Culture, director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit’s 2010 critical success, Insects in the Backyard, finally made it to House RCA in 2017. The story examines the life of Tanya, a 35-year-old transgender woman, and her two teenage siblings, Johnny and Jennifer. As conflicts arise in their lives, the protagonists reveal a strong message about domestic disturbance, prostitution and social convention.

Career Moves

Who’s going places in Thai film? And who could the industry do without? 

Wattanapume “Best” Laisuwanchai 
After his directorial debut, the documentarian behind Phantom of Illumination (see Best Documentary) is up for the Suphannahong National Film Awards’ Best Cinematography category.
Kanyapak “Pie” Wuttara 
Also known as the vocalist of indie-folk-rock band My Life As Ali Thomas, Pie proved to everyone with her big screen appearance in Die Tomorrow that her place is not only behind the mic. 
Arnon “Poj” Mingkwanta
Thailand’s answer to Tommy Wiseau, Poj has probably the worst knack for casting and plot-writing in the business. 
Petchtai “Mhum“ Wongkamlao
News flash: making dirty jokes about pretty women hasn’t been funny since… ever. How is this guy still around?