Also here: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/ ... of-cannes/
... He has also been politically outspoken in recent years, and his films have taken on subtle political dimensions. When the Thai authorities requested cuts from “Syndromes of a Century,” he helped form an anti-censorship group called the Free Thai Cinema Movement. At his Cannes news conference, where journalists posed questions about the recent clashes between the government and the red-shirt protestors in Bangkok, Mr. Apichatpong did not mince words. “Thailand is a violent country,” he said. “It’s controlled by a group of mafia.”
Speaking in an interview on the lawn of the Grand Hotel here on Saturday, Mr. Apichatpong said it had been unclear if he would even make it to Cannes given the unpredictable situation in Bangkok. Earlier this week, he said, he drove around Bangkok as the city burned, going from one European embassy to another — they were being closed as the violence spread — in the hopes of securing a visa. To get around curfew restrictions, he spent the night before his flight at an airport hotel. “It’s been an adventure getting here,” he said. Excerpts from the conversation follow:
How does “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” fit in with the larger Primitive project?
The whole project started with my urge to discover the northeastern part of Thailand, which is an area where I grew up but haven’t really explored in film. I traveled near the Mekong River, visiting my hometown [Khon Kaen] and visiting the hometowns of my actors, and we ended up at this village Nabua [the site of a deadly battle between the government and communist farmers in 1965]. I was more or less familiar with the history there but not in a deep way. When I decided to work there I talked to people, shooting video and recording voices — it was like an amassing of data. My work is all about memory and I didn’t have a memory of this place. This is why this was different from my other films, which are about my personal attachments. I had to spend time there to build my memory of the place and find the hidden histories that people shared with me.
So the film is not just about Uncle Boonmee’s past lives but also about the past life of a place.
Yes, that’s right. The Uncle Boonmee story comes from a book that was given to me by a monk in the northeast a long time ago about a man who sees his past lives. But the interesting thing is that Boonmee is always reborn in the same region, which is not an easy place to live. The northeast is like an abandoned land. It’s hard for the agricultural community there because the weather and the soil are not good.
Many people have gone to Bangkok or Chiangmai to work. I found a link between Boonmee and Nabua that had to do with memory and the northeast: Boonmee, a guy who can remember so much, and the people in this village who don’t want to remember the cruel past.
To what extent is the film an exploration of your spiritual beliefs?
I don’t believe in reincaranation – I think it’s possible. I will know later when I die – or not. [laughs] It’s more the idea that fascinates me — that death is not the end but more of a transformation phase. It’s a romantic idea of reincarnation but at the same time there is a philosophical slant. You think about your existence here and also about cinema, how it’s a tool to preserve life, to capture something in time.
“Uncle Boonmee” and the Primitive project suggest that your work is becoming more explicitly political.
In recent years in Thailand it’s impossible to deny the political situation. I still make personal films but for me this is a personal issue. The political situation is butting into my personal sphere so naturally I have to express it. It’s part of my landscape. When there’s censorship that says you cannot deal with political issues in film it pushes me to make something that is a political expression.
When we formed the “Free Thai Cinema” movement I had to learn how the government worked, and getting to know the system you find the ugliness inside. And when you look at the people in Nabua you see they don’t have the same privilege as the middle-class city people. Because of the system, there’s such a big gap between rich and poor. I’m glad people have spoken up, even though there’s violence. It’s time for change.
This movie has been banned in Thailand due to 'national security' reason. His previous movies also were banned.
There are some interesting quotes from the director of the Ministry of Culture's Cultural Surveillance Department.
"Nobody goes to see films by Apichatpong. Thai people want to see comedy. We like a laugh."
"the moviegoers in Thailand are "uneducated". "They're not intellectuals, that's why we need ratings."
Official trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jk-EoUb0nvg
(note: the actors speak Lao dialect, not Thai)