Less bang at Bangkok fest

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The fifth annual Bangkok International Film Festival opens today with 100 features and 30 shorts but minus the frills now considered extravagant in Thailand after the September military coup.

In contrast to last year's event, which saw Oliver Stone, Catherine Deneuve, Willem Dafoe and Terry Gilliam walk the red carpet, this year the BIFF is working with a budget slashed roughly in half to 80 million baht ($2.6 million).

"We are flying people in and putting them up, but no celebrity is being paid to attend this event," said Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, international public relations director at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the festival's organizer.

The fest will focus on more Asian films this year, but a plan to subtitle all films in Thai was scuttled because of budget constraints. Last year, local festivalgoers were annoyed that no films had Thai subtitles. This year, almost half will, Na Ayudhya said.

All festival films will screen at the state-of-the-art SF World Cinema in the recently renovated and expanded CentralWorld shopping complex, located in the heart of the Thai capital.

The opening movie, Krisztina Goda's "Children of Glory," is about the bloody Hungary vs. Russia water polo match at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics that took place as the Hungarian Revolution against the Soviets unfolded. It replaced "Persepolis," a cartoon about Iran's Islamic revolution, which was dropped after organizers heeded a complaint by the Iranian embassy (HR 7/6).

Although no international marquee stars are set to attend, a number of stars whose orbits are more regional will. Hema Malini, a Indian actress in more than 140 films, will walk the red carpet along with Hollywood producer Andrew Vajna ("Total Recall," "Die Hard With a Vengeance").

The British Council will host a reception Friday with Kate Dickie, winner last year of the best actress award at BAFTA Scotland, the British Independent Film Awards and at Montreal's Festival du Nouveau Cinema for her work in the Scottish film "Red Road." A Jury Prize winner at the Festival de Cannes, "Red Road" will screen here this week.

An international jury will award statuettes of the Golden Kinnaree — a graceful half-woman, half-bird from Thai mythology — to the winners of the festivals' three competitions, for best international film, regional film and short film.

Originally planned on a grander scale, the festival was postponed in late January after last year's organizers, Beverly Hills-based Film Festival Management Inc., were paid 20 million baht ($666,000) out of the current budget and dismissed.

The festival closes July 29 with the Thai kickboxing film "Muay Thai Chaiya," directed by Kongkiat Komesiri.
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