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The inaugural HuaHin Film Festival — Jan. 26-29 — has already pulled off a major coup in its first year with some serious star power, including Michelle Yeoh and Luc Besson, both due to attend and present their biopic The Lady at a closing night finale on Jan. 29. Ryan Gosling, who has been filming the Thai boxing movie Only God Forbids in Bangkok, is also scheduled to attend.
Organizers are already discussing long-term goals.
“There are many ways we can expand the scope of the festival, and a film market is certainly one option,” Festival director Jareuk Kaljareuk told The Hollywood Reporter. “While there is no film market, we certainly recognize the value of a film festival in supporting the local film industry. Our aim is for Thailand to become the film hub of the ASEAN (Association Of South East Asian Nations) region, and to combine the strengths of the member nations to create a strong, united film community.”
In the first instance this is to be done through a very active seminar program which will bring in not just ASEAN filmmakers but those further afield.
The main seminar runs over two days — Jan. 27 and 28 — and will lead with country reports from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
In a festival that is very much looking to the future, the highlight of these talks could be “The Way Ahead” on Jan. 28. Covering filmmaker support, international co-production and copyright protection, the seminar will detail the support MPA gives to local filmmakers to complete their projects.
Elsewhere, a speaker from Korea Copyright Center (KCC) will offer a presentation on copyright protection of films being screened in cinemas.
Besides being a useful industry forum there is a strong emphasis on public participation. Some 50 films drawn from 15 countries are being shown and seats are being made available at a reduced rate of 60 baht ($1.92) per showing.
Kicking off the Festival is It Gets Better from director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit. This is seen as bold move as her most recent film, Insects in the Backyard was not released in Thailand due to its controversial sexual subject matter.
It Gets Better is said to be lighter, although it mines similarly taboo themes in its story of a transsexual falling in love with a man. Also being offered are much more mainstream titles such as The Unreasonable Man – the directorial debut of Somchai Kemglad, a well-known Thai action star.
Films will be shown at four screens at the Major Cineplex in Hua Hin and an at an open-air theatre at the Centennial Park. Organizers are expecting to have audiences of up to 15,000 to watch films there.
There will be an audience award for best film, said Kaljareuk. “Score cards will be distributed at each screening, and our audiences will determine the winners.”
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