Sleep-watching Weerasethakul

Updated: 2011-11-27 08:17

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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 Sleep-watching Weerasethakul

The movie Tropical Malady won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize in 2004. Provided to China Daily

Sleep-watching Weerasethakul

Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is known for his shape-shifting tales. Many of his films, like Tropical Malady and Syndromes of a Century, seem to start over midway through, as if revitalized by some unseen energy.

For Tomorrow For Tonight, a film exhibition which starts today and will run until Dec 10 at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) Art Cinema, pays tribute to this independent filmmaker, the first Thai director to make waves internationally.

It is a retrospective of his 20 films, including 1994's experimental short film, 0116643225059, Tropical Malady, which won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize in 2004, and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or in 2010.

Weerasethakul will also be on hand to discuss and share his movie-making experiences.

Born in Bangkok in 1970, Weerasethakul received a degree in architecture from Hon Kaen University and an MFA from the Chicago Institute of Art.

He has been making films since 1994 with a radical re-invention of fictional feature infused with warmth and humor, and a striking visual style.

He often uses dreams and supernatural forces such as ghosts and speaking animals, based on Thai myths, in his works.

"I want the audiences to float and dream in their own memories while watching my films," says the director in an interview, referring to the surreal film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, in which the title character dreams about time travel and a future city.

"I always say that they can or should sleep while watching my films. I sometimes do."

"Like the cinema, and food, dreams are what we need. It's a liberation of a fixed pattern of thinking and living. We are all prisoners and we need to dream to be out of our cells," he says.

"I grew up in the reality of ghosts and many fantastic creatures. So it is not hard to imagine, or to bring them back."

His parents were both doctors who worked in a hospital in Khon Kaen, Thailand. The hospital was his playground then and the transformation of the places and people around him fascinated the filmmaker.

"I always wonder how the cities will be in the future. So I dig so much into the past," he says.

The unique Thailand landscape and social changes inspired him.

"Replicating, transforming, righteous" are the three words he uses to describe the Thai film industry.

"I grew up in a small town that underwent rapid transformation in the '80s to '90s.

"We used to live in a wooden house with lots of trees and insects and we had big theaters. They were all wiped out in 10 years," the director says.

You may contact the writer at chennan@chinadaily.com.cn.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/27/2011 page15)