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Author: Richard Barrow

Eight Free Movies at the River City Bangkok Film Club in June 2017

Eight Free Movies at the River City Bangkok Film Club in June 2017

SATURDAY 3RD JUNE 2017: The opening film “Blood of my Blood” (Portugal) of the RCB Film Club’s June Series has been screened at the top festivals of the world, won nearly 19 Awards, was Portugal’s Oscar nomination in 2011, and is considered by many to be one of the top 10 Portuguese films of all time. It was also the most successful film of the year in Portugal.

It is a tough and moving drama of a family in crisis, led by a strong mother who fights every problem with strength and fortitude (well-known Portuguese actress Rita Blanco won many awards for her masterful performance). Her son sells drugs, her daughter is having an affair with a married man, her sister longs to be loved, and she herself hides a dark secret. The film portrays a multiple range of relationships, with fluctuating moments of pain, passion, tenderness, violence, that are all evened out at the end.

SUNDAY 4TH JUNE 2017: “Villa Touma” is the debut feature film of a renowned Palestine scriptwriter based in Israel, Suha Arraf, who won global fame by scripting the stark and moving human dramas about the Arab-Israel conflict- Lemon Tree, Syrian Bride- which won awards, acclaim, and audiences around the world. Villa Touma was screened at a record 100 film festivals around the world, including top ones like Venice and Toronto.

The story centers around three aristocratic, single Christian women, who lost their land during the 1967 war with Israel, and are left with only a villa. They choose to live in isolation there, refusing to accept the changes happening outside their wall. In many ways, their wall represents the wall of the West Bank. Their home is richly endowed, with nothing out of place, and the sisters live a life of decorum and propriety, even though they each have their secret dreams, desires, desperations. Into this surreal world, enters their orphaned niece Badia , perky, clumsy, nosey. They decide to train her to be a ‘lady’ like them, and after that, to find her a suitor, so that they can continue with their regimented lives. In order to find a suitor, they step out of their house for the first time in many years, and also stun the townsfolk by inviting them to their home. Meanwhile Badia meets Khalil, a young Palestine singer from a refugee camp, falls in love, and even encourages him to visit her at night. The three sisters are aghast, when they find out. They realize that they have to accept the huge change in their lives, and the story ends on a higher note of irony than when it started.

SATURDAY 10TH JUNE 2017:  “Trishna” is a unique film, made by one of Britain’s top contemporary directors Michael Winterbottom, based on the classic British novel Tess of the Durbervilles by Thomas Hardy. But it is exotically set in Rajasthan, India, a country the British director admires, and shot two of his earlier movies in. The romantic leads are played by the lovely Slumdog Millionaire actress Frieda Pinto and well-known Brit-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed, who was recently named by TIME magazine as ‘One of the 100 Most Influential People in the World’. The cameo roles are played by well-known Indian artistes too. Winterbottom, who had earlier translated two of Hardy’s novels into film (Code 46, Jude ) takes liberties with this novel too, the most important being that he amalgamates the two heroes of Tess, into one.

The hero is Jay Singh, the scion of a rich British-Indian family who returns from London to India, in order to run a family-owned hotel in Rajasthan. That’s where he meets the beautiful and gentle Trishna, a hotel-employee who comes from a poor rural family. Jay becomes obsessed with her and soon starts a torrid relationship. He even takes her to Mumbai, where she learns her favourite Bollywood dance-moves, meets many Bollywood film folk ( who play themselves) and they live happily together as a couple. But Jai has to move back to his Rajasthan-hotel, and she meekly follows him there. The boss-employee relationship is re-instated, but he continues to have a torrid relationship with her, behind closed doors. Like Tess in Hardy’s novel, it becomes tough for Trishna to surmount the social barriers, especially in India. The emotional upheavals take its toll too, and she looks for a way out.

SUNDAY 11TH JUNE 2017:  Jan Dara caused a huge stir when it was released, because of its sex-obsessed theme and explicit sexual scenes, which fully tested the bounds of the 1930 Film Act. It was tough to believe that the scandalous story, which has everything from adultery and incest to rape, abortion, lesbianism, was set in the 1930’s, and that the film was based on a novel which many consider to be one of the ‘20 Best Novels of Thailand.’
Infact the film was made by noted director Nonzee Nimibutr, one of the pioneers of the Thai new-wave cinema, and went on to win many of the top local Supannahong awards. The movie was also screened at many festivals around the world, from Toronto to Tokyo, London, Busan, Hawaii (where it won the Art Direction Award). A later version of the story was made in 2012, by another noteworthy director ML Bhandevanop Devakula, with a super-star cast, which had even more graphic scenes of sexuality!

Jan Dara is a social drama about the Thai aristocracy, which is a shocking indictment of their power-hungry and morally depraved lives.
Jan is a young boy who grows up in a dysfunctional family, headed by his father who uses women , from maids to mistresses, purely for his physical pleasure. Jan is himself initiated into the physical games pretty early by the various women in his grand house, and soon becomes both a pawn, and a clone of his father.

SUNDAY 17TH JUNE 2017: “Down the River” is a simple but thought-provoking domestic, moral, sports, psychological drama-call it what you will. It is the debut movie of a talented film-maker from a country that is creating waves on the international festival circuit. The director spent more than four years to write the script, and depended on crowd-funding, to raise money for his new film.

The story of the movie centers around Ali, the coach of a young rowing team in a small town. The team includes his son Ruslan who finds he can’t match his father’s strict standards and can’t connect with him. That’s because Ali is going through a mid-life crisis, where he wants to leave his wife Leyla, and start a new life with his Polish girlfriend Sasha. When an important race comes up, Ali removes his son from the team and opts for another student, which upsets his son very much. Soon after this, a drastic tragedy occurs, which makes Ali totally distraught. The river which was his vocation, now becomes his atonement.

SUNDAY 18TH JUNE 2017: “When Love Comes” is a strong and moving story of a unique Chinese extended family who live together in an old district of Taipei, and run a restaurant below, where many comings and goings happen, from daily gambling to police-bribing. The family has many individuals of different generations – the father who is always drunk, an autistic brother, aged father, a first wife who is infertile, a mistress who is accepted by the first wife, so that he can have children, her two grown kids, including a rebellious daughter, who is the chief protagonist of the movie. In a multi-generation family like this, many clashes and differences of opinion occur. But the diverse family members all go through a painful but enlightening process of change.

SATURDAY 24TH JUNE 2017: Animal Town is part of the ‘Town Trilogy’ of noted Korean director Kyuhwan JEON, the other two movies being Mozart Town before this, and Dance Town, after. They all deal with the isolation of individuals living in big towns.

In this film, the two lead characters are troubled, isolated individuals, living on the edge. Sungchul OH is a convicted pedophile, who is out on parole and still wears an ankle-bracelet on his foot, for the authorities to keep track of him. He tries to work hard and to stay cool and calm, even though he feels disturbed seeing a little girl on the street. Hyeongdo KIM also tries to lead a normal life with his wife, even though they have suffered a terrible tragedy. One day he spots Sungchul OH, recognizes him, and begins to stalk him.

SUNDAY 25TH JUNE 2017: “Queen” is a refreshing and ravishing movie about Rani (which means ‘Queen’ in Hindi), a naive young Indian bride who is devastated when her fiance calls their marriage off. But she suddenly decides to go  on her European honeymoon on her own! It is a journey of self-discovery and self-growth, as she visits Paris and Amsterdam, has many amazing adventures, good and bad, meets many incredible individuals, Indian and foreign, and returns a changed person. That’s when her fiancé re-enters her life.

Trip to Phuket with Happy Yacht Charter

Trip to Phuket with Happy Yacht Charter

The other weekend I was in Phuket at the invitation of Happy Yacht Charter. Boating is one of the popular activities for tourists in Phuket. But it usually involves fast speedboat rides to places like Phi Phi island. Not very enjoyable at the best of times. However, a new experience for me was a couple of day trips aboard a catamaran boat. This kind of thing is becoming more afforadable these days. Particularly if you hire one as a group. And a quick glance around the marina in Phuket will show you that it is becoming very popular with several dozen catamarans in sight.  Just do a google search to find a suitable company for your budget. The following photos were tweeted live during my trip.

Street Food Walking Trip in Bangkok Noi and Thonburi

Street Food Walking Trip in Bangkok Noi and Thonburi

Bangkok street food has been in the news a lot lately. In particular, the stories about the ban on street vendors. However, there’s been a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding in this story. Which is why I decided to go out and see for myself. Along the way I spoke to food vendors and city inspectors. Joining me was my friend Chin, who is a private tour guide and owner of Chili Paste Tour. She takes customers on walking tours of Thonburi and so knows the area well. The following photos were tweeted live during our walk.

Thailand Creative & Design Center is now open on Charoenkrung Road in Bangkok

Thailand Creative & Design Center is now open on Charoenkrung Road in Bangkok

The brand new Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) is now open at The Grand Postal Building on Charoenkrung Road in Bangkok. This new location for TCDC has 5 floors with approximately 9,000 square meters, covering six functional zones; three former zones with the expansion and improvement including Resource Center, Exhibition Gallery, and Creative Co-working Space, and three innovative zones including Creative Business Center, Maker Space, and Material & Design Innovation Center. Additionally, TCDC Bangkok provides more space and seating twice from 120 seats to 300 seats.

The six zones in TCDC Bangkok are as follows:

  1. Resource Center – Thailand’s largest creative and design resource center, containing extensive design and creative books, journals, magazines, multimedia, and database.
  2. Exhibition Gallery – the functional space for exhibiting temporary exhibitions from both domestic and international.
  3. Creative Space – the co-working space area for generating productive works with the creative atmosphere.
  4. Creative Business Center – the business corner for business consulting, exchanging ideas and connection in order to expand business with higher value.
  5. Maker Space – the functional room with a number of tools and specialists, facilitating designers and entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into prototypes.
  6. Material & Design Innovation Center – Thailand largest material and design innovation center, gathering various materials and up-to-date innovation for being a useful good resource for designers and entrepreneurs to develop products.

Those interested can experience the brand new TCDC Bangkok without any entrance fee during May 2017 at The Grand Postal Building, Charoenkrung Road, from 5th May 2017. The opening hours are Tuesday – Sunday (closed Mondays), from 10.30 – 21.00 hrs. For more information, please contact Thailand Creative & Design Center Bangkok (TCDC Bangkok) The Grand Postal Building, 1160 Charoenkrung Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10501, TEL +662 105 7441

Trip to Phetchaburi for the International Kite Festival

Trip to Phetchaburi for the International Kite Festival

A popular beach destination for Thai during weekends is Cha-am in Phetchaburi province. It is about two hours to the south of Bangkok. Most foreign tourists skip Cha-am and head further south to Hua Hin instead. Although Cha-am beach can get very busy during long weekends, it is very quiet during the week. It is worth taking a look. During March of every year, the beach in Cha-am is host to the popular kite festival that attracts fliers from all around the world. These photos are from a two day trip to Phetchaburi province at the weekend. The first day we visited the kite festival and then on the second day we slowly returned to Bangkok stopping at a few attractions.

 

Day 3 of Family Friendly Trip to Pattaya

Day 3 of Family Friendly Trip to Pattaya

For two nights and three days I stayed in Pattaya exploring family friendly attractions. Even though I visited a dozen different attractions, I only scratched the surface. There is enough to do here to keep you busy for several weeks. Click to see where I visited on Day 1 and Day 2 of my trip. I tweeted the following photos live during the third and last day of my trip.

 

Day 2 of Family Friendly Trip to Pattaya

Day 2 of Family Friendly Trip to Pattaya

For three days I am in Pattaya, on the Eastern seaboard of Thailand. I am staying at AVANI Pattaya Resort and Spa. Everyone knows this city as a center for nightlife. But, really there is more to see here than just Walking Street. So, I set myself a challenge to see if I could find alternative tourist attractions that are suitable for families. Click here to see where I visited on Day 1. The pictures on this page were tweeted live during Day 2 of my visit to Pattaya. I hope some of these pictures will encourage you to come and visit Pattaya for a holiday. It is my opinion that there is indeed enough things to do here for families.

 

Day 1 of Family Friendly Trip to Pattaya

Day 1 of Family Friendly Trip to Pattaya

Pattaya has been getting a lot of bad press recently by the international media. The Daily Mirror tabloid proclaimed that Pattaya is the sex capital of the world. They also claimed that there are 27,000 prostitutes here. I am not sure how they came to that number. Did they go around counting them? I am not going to stand here and say that there are no prostitutes in Pattaya. I will leave that to Thailand’s junta leader. However, I do want to say that Pattaya is not just about bar girls and nightlife. It can be family friendly if you know where to go. So, I set myself a challenge to find the other side of Pattaya. I am doing this with the help of my Twitter followers and Facebook friends. With their help I put together this google map of family friendly places. I am now visiting some of the highlights over the next three days.