New Emissary

Apichatpong’s Year

A film shot in the jungles of Thailand with a budget under $700,000 has garnered major acclaim this year.

I recently touched on Asian film-of-the-moment Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives—a fantastical comedy about a dying man and his encounters with ghosts—which was included in the line-up at last month’s prestigious New York Film Festival.

It’s amazing how much international acclaim and interest the film, shot in the jungles and on farms in Thailand with amateur actors and with a budget of less than $700,000, has garnered this year.

Taking the top prize at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival certainly helped, as did its being screened at the Toronto Film Festival at the tail-end of the summer. And now the film is set to scale even greater heights of recognition with the announcement today that it has been nominated as an Asian entry to the best foreign film category for the 2011 Academy Awards.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is directed by Thai filmmaker Weerasethakul Apichatpong, who has been profiled and interviewed by hundreds of media outlets. The 40-year-old director has recently revealed that his next film will be quite a departure from Uncle Boonmee, focusing on life and politics in the turbulent north-eastern part of Thailand, stating, ‘with the political situation going crazy now, it’s impossible to ignore.’

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His determination comes despite him having received death threats for some of his publicly stated positions on this year’s uprisings. However, he’s also said in an interview that he’s interested in making a sci-fi disaster film that would ‘feature the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek and also numerous female characters from sci-fi, including Star Trek’s Uhura and Jane Fonda’s title femme from Barbarella.’

How serious was he being? Regardless, it seems fans of the director’s more unconventional works can rest assured that Apichatpong will be mixing things up for a while yet.