The screening is followed by a talk with Kong Rithdee, moderated by Lisabona Rahman
Rattana Pestonji, Thailand 1958, 27 min. English without subtitles
Kotot Sukardi, Indonesia 1958, 24 min. English without subtitles
Blinded by the light
Chanasorn Chaikitiporn, Thailand 2021, 22 min. Thai with English subtitles
These three very different films address issues of film archives, public memories, and the question of agency. The first two films are propositions to see a country’s identity through its art - more specifically, its dances. In lieu of sending a troupe of dancers on an international tour, both films introduce the culture of each country while at the same time announcing: “Look, this is how we break away from the colonial Western gaze. We can represent ourselves now.” Diamond Finger, directed by so-called “father of modern Thai cinema” Rattana Pestonji (restored by Thai Film Archive), beautifully depicts an excerpt from Ramayana, one of Southeast Asian common folk heritage (originated from North Indian Brahmic caste hierarchy). The black and white Indonesien Tanzt features three modern interpretations of traditional dances from different Indonesian regions. Prior to independence, only palace dancers were permitted; yet in these pieces, separated from feudal rules surrounding the creation of traditional dances, a dancer born as a commoner is being respected for her dance, representing her nation. The third film, commissioned by Thai Film Archive, exposes the exploitation and narratives behind “heritage” and rightfully moves the conversation beyond the politics of representation.
Kong Rithdee is a writer, translator and critic on film. He has written about films for nearly 19 years with the Bangkok Post and other publications. He is one of the most prominent writers on cinema in the region. Rithdee is also Deputy Director of Thai Film Archive.