The latest project from two powers of local art and film.
Ing Kanjanavanit, director of the banned movie Shakespeare Must Die, and the movie’s producer and the owner of Kathmandu Gallery, Manit Sriwanichpoom, are teaming up for a new project, Cinema and Galerie Oasis, a space for independent cinema, art and thought. They’ve also set up Foundation Cinema Oasis, which will use the revenue from ticket sales to fund the space’s educational programs. The gallery will open on Mar 24 with photographer artist Piyatat Hematat’s sculpture exhibition Eden, and the cinema before the end of March.
How did you come up with this project?
Ing: We made a movie called Shakespeare Must Die and it was banned. They said there’s content in there that’s a threat to national security. We have been fighting to get this movie screened since. So we wanted to open a space for people to screen their movies and hold panel discussions focused on social issues.
Manit: Not to mention that all the big cinemas across Thailand are monopolized by only a few families.
Ing: After Shakespeare Must Die, I made a movie called Censor Must Die where I followed Manit around. I sent it to the Ministry of Culture and they said movies that were made from real stories [documentaries] don’t need to be sent for censorship. I thought: that’s really cool. After I finished the movie, they [the Ministry of Culture] threatened to sue any cinema that screened my movie. I know we are crazy to open our cinema, maybe even desperate.
Tell us more about the cinema. How many seats? Who is it for?
Ing: Fort-eight seats with space for two wheelchairs. Tickets will be B160, or B100 for children and the elderly. We are small but central. We want everyone, even the people from the hong taew [working class apartments] to be able to come. Paul Spurrier [of the Friese-Greene Club on Sukhumvit Soi 22 and director of The Forest] was one of the main inspirations for this space. You know, when Manit opened Kathmandu Photo Gallery, he was worried that there wouldn’t be enough exhibitions to showcase, but I said just build it and they will come. And now the place is booked for two years.
Manit: You have to believe that this is your country as much as anyone else’s.
What kind of movies will you be screening?
Ing: I’m really into storytelling. Films that make you think, films that make you feel.
Manit: They don’t have to be a specific genre. Film is art in itself so we don’t want to limit them to being super artsy. But our cinema will always have a theme.
Ing: Kind of like how galleries are run. One thing I’ll have for sure is a stoner movie contest that comes with a talk. Since some movies won’t have been censored, we will have to have members-only programs.
How do you feel about the Thai movie industry?
Ing: We need to end the banning of films for the Thai film industry to bloom.
Manit: I don’t really see the future of it as long as we have censorship—it costs a lot of money to make a movie and you don’t want to risk it if your movie could get banned. At the same time, the cinema business is still a monopoly and we hardly have space for indie movies. Also, with these online streaming platforms, people hardly go to the cinema anymore.
What’s your favorite Thai movie?
Ing: The ‘60s movie Money Money Money by His Royal Highness Prince Anusorn Mongkolkarn [father of Prince Chatrichalerm “Thaan Mui” Yukol, director of all the King Naraesuan movies]. It’s very witty.
Manit: Plae Kao and Monrak Lukthung are also lovely.
How do you feel about Scala/Lido closing?
Manit: It’s sad, but lifestyles are changing. The existence of small cinemas means that there are still people who want to fight. You can see from screenings at random places that people are looking opportunities.
Cinema and Galerie Oasis will open on Sukhumvit Soi 43 in March. Stay tuned to www.facebook.com/cinemaoasis.bk