Thailand's Extra Virgin launches with 'Truth'

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BANGKOK, Thailand -- Extra Virgin, a new Thai independent film company created by former officials of the Bangkok International Film Festival, launched Wednesday with the announcement of a documentary about a media activist's clash with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Founders Mai Meksawan and Ruengsang Sripaoraya, both with roots in BIFF, are joined in Bangkok-based Extra Virgin by Pimpaka Towira, director of the 2003 thriller "One Night Husband," which played at film festivals including Pusan and Berlin.

Towira will direct two of the four films the company has quickly begun putting together since forming the company in April.

"There's an extreme gap in the film industry in Thailand between big studios and indie filmmakers, with nothing in between," Meksawan said. "We hope to connect these two worlds."

The company's first release is "The Truth Be Told," a documentary directed by Towira about Supinya Klangnarong, a well-known media activist in Thailand, who suggested in a 2003 newspaper editorial that then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was creating policies to benefit his telecommunications film. The company, Shin Corp, slapped Klangnarong with a 400 million baht ($12.5 million) lawsuit that was dropped after the company was sold a couple of years later.

The movie, made using a digital camera for just over $50,000, will premiere next month at the Digital Forum, a digital film festival in Bangkok.

Towira also will direct "The Island Funeral," a $500,000 movie about a young Muslim woman from Bangkok who travels to Thailand's restive south, where more than 2,300 people have been killed since an Islamic insurgency began there several years ago. The film is due for release next year.

"The Island Funeral" is one of 35 projects invited to participate in the 2007 Pusan Promotion Plan, selected from more than 200 submitted entries. The PPP, part of October's Pusan International Film Festival, is a forum intended to help film industry professionals discover and support independent film projects across Asia.

Another Extra Virgin title is "Agrarian Utopia," a fictional documentary by Uruphong Rakasasad about a year in the life of a Thai rice farmer. The project has been awarded grants from the Rotterdam-based Hubert Bals Fund as well as Thailand's Ministry of Culture.
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