Pushing the envelope

The 4th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival promises to be an eye-opener

Kong Rithdee

This Friday afternoon, a different type of crowd will flock downtown to form a mass gathering at the auditorium of Lumpini Park. Having been secured as a temporary headquarters for resentful citizens, who've in the past months followed the prophetic oration of the close-cropped Pied Piper Sondhi Limtongkul, the lush park this weekend is ready for another democratic assembly, and though PM-bashing is not prominently flaunted as the prime-time attraction, it's safe to assume that the event is sure to discourage government lackeys sticking the conservative badge on their sweaty foreheads.

So to cut to the chase: From Dec 23 to 25 at Lumpini Park, the coalition of Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Project 304, Kick the Machine, Thai Film Foundation and Duck Unit will stage "Bangkok Democrazy: 4th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival (BEFF)". Since there should be no art whose essence is not political, and since the anti-government tirades of Sondhi will travel through the chilly whiffs to the close-by screening area, "Bangkok Democrazy" - with its aim of advocating freedom of _expression and throwing hard questions against self-righteous social norms - is likely to attain the fearless flavour of Truth-or-Dare.

In brief, experimental filmmaking is a form of artistic _expression that attempts to transcend boundaries and commercial concerns, and the result can include everything from a cheeky twist of the narrative straightjacket to a banshee's wail of extreme cinema. Love and money, politics and trivialities, pretentiously cerebral gigs and shamelessly visceral kicks, porn and vomit, revelry and repulsion - "Bangkok Democrazy" promises to serve up all of those and more.

Project 304, led by curator Gridthiya Gaweewong, launched the BEFF in 1997, when experimental film was still a nascent concept among local video artists and filmmakers. In 1999 the festival showed 100 movies and began to make headway among the art-conscious audience. In 2001, the BEFF organised an international collaboration and featured 200 movies from Thai and European artists under the theme "Digital Orgy".

This year, the festival is screening 340 titles on its 10 big projector screens, categorised into several mouth-watering programmes by Gridthiya and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. To manifest the idea of "Democrazy", the organisers have announced an open call for filmmakers and enthusiasts, Thai and international, to submit their works, and the festival will screen everything that is sent in to them. Strong emphasis will be given, however, to exploring the relationship between the movie medium and other arts - thus artists in different fields have been invited to make experimental films to investigate this idea.

"The idea is to provide a forum for the arts and film community to expand their artistic perspectives of contemporary society via experimental film and share them with the general public," says Gridthiya. "We have run a network of filmmakers in many countries, and this year we will have movies from Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, as well as from European mainstays."

The 4th BEFF is also part of the campaign to whip up support for the Bangkok Art Museum, which has been long mapped out and the construction of which has been even longer delayed by successive Bangkok administrations. Under the incumbent governor the project, more than ever, is buoyed by official promises and likely to be materialised soon at Pathumwan intersection. The BEFF is a biennial event that, hopefully, will be attached to the museum once it comes into existence.

For now, the highlights of the upcoming "Bangkok Democrazy" are as follows.

Bangkok Utopia

Experimental films by artists and non-artists that explore their idea of "utopia" in the Bangkok urban context.

Thai Experiment

Films made by students and young artists or video/filmmakers.

Extreme Films

Movies which challenge social values and norms. This programme will be organised in conjunction with discussion sessions with filmmakers and experts.

(Due to its extreme content, the Extreme Films session will be showing at the Oct 14 Memorial, Ratchadamnoen Road, on Saturday Dec 24 at 2pm).

Anna Sanders Retrospective Programme

Anna Sanders is a Paris-based production house that supports progressive-thinking artists in various fields. This programme will feature a selection of films by Sanders, consisting of artists and filmmakers who explore the line between art and film.

Tsunami Films

The section will screen short films by Thai and international filmmakers who reflect on the aftermath of last year's tsunami disaster.

Special Mention

Recent works by renowned local and international video artists/filmmakers.


In addition, the BEFF will feature such disparate programmes as Current Affairs, Experimental Narrative, Experimental Documentary, Travelogue and Animation. Seminars and filmmakers' discussions are also part of the three-day event.

The 4th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival: "Bangkok Democrazy" will be held at the auditorium and surrounding lawns of Lumpini Park from 5-9pm, from Friday Dec 23-Sunday Dec 25 (enter from the gate opposite U-Chu-Liang Building). The Extreme Programme, however, will be screened at the Oct 14 Memorial on Ratchadamnoen Road on Dec 24, from 2pm onwards. For details visit www.bangkokartcentre.net, or www.thaiindie.com.




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