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Thai director and Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul has embarked on a two-month trip trough Colombia to research his next film, which he intends to shoot in the South American country.
Frustrated by censorship and a suppressive political climate in his native Thailand, which remains under military rule, Apichatpong set off on March 7 on a research trip through Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Choco? for inspiration.
“I’ve been really obsessed with Latin America for quite a while,” the filmmaker told The Hollywood Reporter at the recent Cartagena Film Festival, where he presented a retrospective of his work.
“When I was young, I was really in love with adventure stories in Thailand, which deal with jungle animals and all those sorts of things,” said Apichatpong. “But when you look at the source, it’s all from the West: Europeans and Americans who came with the colonization and romanticized the Amazon jungle. And then, Thai people and Thai novelists, were influenced by this; and then cinema, too, was influenced by this jungle romance.”
Thailand’s military junta overthrew the country’s democratically elected government in May 2014. Apichatpong says the country’s censorship system was tough on filmmakers before the coup, but at least the government had a fairly clear stance on what issues were deemed sensitive. “We couldn’t touch religion, monarchy and military authority,” he said. But since the takeover, the lines have blurred, making the creation of art all the more perilous.
“There is this issue about not being able to present reality, because we are still under the control of the government, which views film as propaganda,” he said. “Sometimes you do something and they just charge you. For example, two theater performers were in prison for two years, because they did something the government deemed an insult to the monarchy — it’s all about interpretation. It’s really like 1984.”
The renowned filmmaker’s latest outlet, then, is researching the histories of countries other than his own — such as Colombia. “I’ve been wanting to know about all the violence that happened here, and the history of colonization — in a way, to reflect on my country,” said Apichatpong. “At the same time, I imagine it’s impossible to make a film that’s authentically local. So I don’t believe I can present that — it will be about these foreign eyes, looking.”
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