Here’s what we loved (and hated) about Thailand's film industry over the past 12 months.
Our top picks for upcoming indie films here.
Best Motion Picture
In telling the story of Bangkok’s notorious 1950s gangster culture, Antapal was always going to have a tough time escaping the shadow cast by 2499 (1998), Nonzee Nimibutr’s celebrated action film. But director Kongkiat Khomsiri’s fresh take on the genre shoots straight in its portrayal of a Thai society struggling to come to grips with rapid progress, meaning Antapal successfully and beautifully side-steps any remake pitfalls to become the must-watch movie of the year.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
PENPAK SIRIKUL (It Gets Better)
We never doubted the acting brilliance of Penpak Sirikul, but faced with the challenge of convincing us she’s a male-to-female transgender in It Gets Better, the silver-screen veteran put in possibly the most convincing performance of her career. Hats off to director Thanwarin Sukhaphisit for a wonderfully believable script, too.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
KRISSADA SUKOSOL CLAPP (Antapal)
As George, the best mate of legendary gangster Daeng Bireley, Krissada “Noi” Sukosol is superb in what quickly grows to be the lead role in Antapal. With his cool, calm and collected demeanor throughout, Krissada helps to strip away the image of the classic, reckless gangster and is one of the crucial factors behind the runaway success of Kongkiat Khomsiri’s film.
Best Supporting Actor
DAVID ASSAVANOND (Countdown)
Without a doubt, GTH’s Countdown was one of the biggest surprises of the year. Finally taking a break from the tired teenage rom-coms, the film studio delivered a more-than-solid dark thriller, even if it wasn’t quite the finished article. What really impressed us though was David Assavanond, starring in the role of a mysterious marijuana seller named Jesus. Stealing every scene he appeared in, the Tom Yam Goong star plays the ultimate uninvited guest: you can’t help but love him, even when he's at his most frightening.
Best Supporting Actress
PIYATHIDA “POK” WORAMUSIK (Together)
Piyathida “Pok” Woramusik followed up her stand-out performance in 2011’s Ladda Land with another star-turn in Together. Here, she bravely plays the role of Nuan, the mother of a young daughter who stands by her husband as he grows increasingly erratic after suffering an accident that renders him blind.
PREECHAYA “ICE” PONGTHANANIKORN (ATM)
Even though GTH’s rom-com adopts the Korean penchant for overacting, first-timer Ice Preechaya still manages to impress us with her assured character acting—no mean feat.
P-047 and 36
It’s hard to split these two arty films, both of which pose more questions than they look to answer. Kongdej Jaturanrasamee’s first indie production, P-047, plays with the concept of personal identity, blurring the line between imagination and reality and leaving it to the audience to figure things out for themselves. Meanwhile, 36, by Third Class Citizens founder Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, interestingly raises the question of whether memory still exists in this era of analogue and digital recordings. Two mind-bending but ultimately rewarding scripts.
KONGKIAT KHOMSIRI (Antapal)
The Best Film and Best Director awards don’t always go hand-in-hand, but we simply love Kongkiat’s ability to give a whole new perspective on a story that’s already been told (and told very well, indeed). And unlike many other Thai directors, he doesn’t feel the need to over-moralize, exploring the changing face of the Thai gangster in a rapidly evolving society with a skilled eye. Oh, and the way he intersperses the story with real footage adds a whole new level of signifigance.
You might think it’s weird that our Best Director, Kongkiat Khomsiri, is also the one who wrote the script for our Worst Film, but, well, have you seen 407? If you have, please accept our utmost commiserations. If not, all you need to know is that it’s about a haunted plane. No, there’s nothing more to the plot. 407 is just like watching a group of people run around acting scared without any real reason. Kongkiat, what were you thinking?
Hi guys, we’re making a film featuring two of Thailand’s biggest film stars, Ananda Everingham and Sunny Suwanmethanon, and we’re going to shoot it amid the stunning glacier-tipped mountains of Tibet. What could possibly go wrong? Let us count the ways: a shallow plot and a director unable to make the tense situation between Wut (Sunny) and Tin (Ananda) in any way plausible, for starters. Unfortunately, what we ended up with was just another TAT-sponsored road movie (for the wrong country) instead of the best Thai film in history.
The ‘Almost There’ Picture
Directed and written by Chukiat “Madiew” Sakveerakul (Love of Siam), Home boasts a catchy original soundtrack and impressive acting from Penpak Sirikul and Pitch Wiwisit. Yet it still reeks of three short films forced together rather than organically bonded. Sure, each segment provides a heart-warming look at love across three generations, but Chukiat seems to be copying straight from the ‘How to Make The Audience Cry’ guidebook rather than offering up the sincere scenes we were treated to in Love of Siam.
JAN DARA: THE BEGINNING
Mom Noi strikes again. Last year, the remake of his Rashomon in The Outrage won this gong. Now we would like to bestow the title of Worst Remake/Adaptation on Jan Dara: The Beginning. Proving that bigger is not better, this erotic period piece is heavy on the gratuitous sex scenes and light on plot detail, character development and pretty much everything else that makes a good film. A dishonorable mention must go to young Mario Maurer, who is unable to transcend his innocent looks to inject any sort of real emotion into his portrayal of the pained Jan. The worst thing? There’s a sequel. Read our review of Jan Dara: Epilogue in +film, page 32.
Best Original Soundtrack
PRA YOK BOK LAO (Shambhala)
While Shambhala was a massive disappointment, its original soundtrack from Lek Trakulpadejkrai aka Greasy Café very nearly makes up for it. Here, Lek delivers another of his signature emotional power-ballads. The lyrics of “Pra Yok Bok Lao” cleverly touch on the themes of the film, all atop some soaring guitar and marching drums that trump the film for grandeur—and hint at what might have been.
Best Thai Animation (Ever)
Six years after Khan Kluay, it seems we’re finally producing full-length animations we can honestly call world class (OK, not consistently, as Echo Planet sadly reminded us). Yak’s production, courtesy of Workpoint Entertainment, is simply masterful, transporting the ancient Ramayana epic to the world of the robots. A great adventure for all.
Most Annoying Repeat Actor
ARAK “PAE” AMORNSUPASIRI
Despite quitting his super stylish Brit-pop band Slur to devote his time to his solo Bob Dylan-inspired project, Arak and the Peesaj Band, Pae still found the time to feature in three major films last year. Please Pae, don’t become the next Ananda.
THE CHEER AMBASSADORS
Directed by long-term expat Luke Cassady-Dorian, The Cheer Ambassadors is a behind-the-scenes look at the Thai cheerleading team and their struggles to win the World Cheerleading Championship. This documentary impressively delivers and, despite dealing with some tough moments, is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Best Indie Flick
By winning the New Currents Award at the 2012 Busan International Film Festival and screening at this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s first full-length, 36, has wowed international audiences. And yet the film only got a limited local screening last year. Thankfully, the DVD can be purchased at House RCA and FA Cinematique at BACC. See our interview with the director, this page.
Most Annoying Repeat Actress
OK, Koh Tee is technically a “him,” but in most of the films in which he stars –Valentines Sweety, Plon Na Ya, Hor Teaw Tak and Khun Nai Ho—he’s cast in the female role. And we say: enough is enough!
The Eye Candy Award
The pop sensation stars in the film’s final story, “42.195,” as a mysterious young man who tries to bring a lady he just met (Sukwan Bulakul) back to life through marathon-running. There’s really not much to his performance and we feel a little uncomfortable every time Nichkhun mumbles his words. But we forgive him—it is his first time on screen after all and he looks just as lovely as ever.
Best Feel Good Movie
Its advanced animation is not the only good thing about Yak. The story, the brainchild of writer, composer, thinker and co-founder of WorkPoint Entertainment, Prapas Cholsaranon, transforms the Ramayana epic into a heartwarming look at the relationship between sworn enemies, Ram and Tosakanth.