Questions from Eurounderground/ Answered by Apichatpong Weerasethakul,
Co-curators. Answer#6 and #4 are by Gridthiya Gaweewong, Director.
1) How did BEFF begin and who are the directors?
It started one day in 1996, when Gridthiya and I suddenly realized our similar urge to share our experimental film experience with Thai audience. Back then, Gridthiya had already founded Project 304 to support other radical visual arts in Bangkok. But the gallery had little to do with film/video, and there was no film festival here, none. So it was a very good time to establish one. (Right now, there are around 10 film festivals annually in Bangkok!) Gridthiya serves as a festival director.
2) What else do the directors do besides run BEFF?
As mentioned, Project 304 is a visual art consultant company that has a gallery of its own. We exhibit both well-known and emerging artists (Thais or/and internationals) who produce innovative, radical works, those who sometimes cannot present their ideas at more conservative galleries. We sometimes collaborate with international curators to bring interesting works here. Project 304 also publishes "Bang," a bi-monthly newspaper about contemporary art in Thailand. Gridthiya, the director, has always involved herself in a million things at a time. She is a guest lecturer, a story contributor, a co-organizer, and even a movie producer!
3) The idea behind of BEFF was to educate the Thai people about experimental film and to stimulate young people to make films or video has this been working?
We have started to see a change since our first event in 1997. The number of works produced by the new generation, from film schools and from outsiders, has been on the rise since. Even though many of the works are not in an experimental genre, we notice that they are more comfortable breaking rules. Unfortunately, the film material is beyond reaches here that even film schools don't bother to have their students finish the works on film. So video has become very popular. Interestingly, BEFF has more effect on the art students, more than it has on film student. In Thailand, film study is part of the visual communication department. Students are not encouraged to "experiment" with the medium. So they study film to become advertising executives, music video directors, or Hollywood-type film directors, and other "cool" careers. We see more progress in fine art students with their video arts.
4) What films in the last 2 BEFF have been festival goers favorites?
Art students loved "I Move, So I am," by Gerrit van Dijk from the Netherlands. An experimental classic is also very popular among artists.
5) What films in the Last 2 BEFF has been the organization favorite?
For me, I was fascinated by Dominique Gonzalez' s, Sharon Lockhart's, Shellie Flemming's, and all of the Bruce Baillie's we showed. But all the films in BEFF are our favorites, otherwise we wouldn't have shown them in the first place. We can link with them personally.
6) Tell us a little bit about the 1999 BEFF?
BEFF 2 is different from BIAFF 1 (Bangkok International Art Film Festival) in terms of the scope of the festival. BEFF 2 was put together broader program varies from experimental classic to today's works by living artists/ filmmakers. In short, we showed the works by grandfather and great grandfather at the same festival, which is quite rare. The main reason was that we wanted to introduce the Thai audience about the original idea of experimental film historically, see how they influence and develop in various aspects and contexts. Secondly, we started to work collaboratively with many film festival organizers around the globe, e.g. by you, Eurounderground from Chicago, Sixpack from Vienna, Image Forum from Tokyo, and distributors like Canyon Cinema, Cinema Libre in Canada. This provided a good start for us and our partners to network and share information. We still keep in touch and communicate via email. Currently, we received news and update information from Sixpack quite regularly regarding the political situation in Austria. The most important thing for us is that we could bring many filmmakers to join the festival and share ideas, exchanging thoughts. It is quite stimulating for all of us, as organizers and local filmmakers to have a direct contact with international art scene. At the end of festival, after the discussion with filmmakers, we came up with the idea for the 3rd BEFF, that we definitely need to re-define and re-configure our festival. And if you follow us from the beginning, you will see that it will never be the same. Maybe this is our signature.
7) What do you have planned for BEFF 3 in 2001
We are planing to redefine the experimental genre a bit. We will include more video arts and installation works. It seems like video art and experimental film are turning separate ways in terms of exhibiting venues and audience demographics. We would like to lessen the gap and create more dialogs between the audience and the artists. We hope of finding the right venues that are more accessible (and more fun!), more interactive. We are also discussing about inviting outside curators to bring in alternative perspectives.
8) Tell us an about the history of The Thai film industry. When it started influential filmmakers and when it collapsed. See attached film posters? I better hand this question to www.thaifilm.com.
9) Is there films being produced in Thailand now and what is the direction they are going in. I have noticed a lot of countries simply imitate Hollywood but every once in a while someone goes against the Hollywood idea and make some interesting work. Before the economy crisis, Thailand produced hundreds of films a year. Now the number has come down to around 10 something, from what I know. A good thing is that the film studios are more careful in what they are doing. So in ten films, we often see two or three good films. And that's very good. And they pay more attention to production, and sound (the sync-sound films has become the norm only during the last ten years believe it or not). But as faced by many countries, we cannot escape Hollywood. Personally I love Hollywood films and Gridthiya herself is the queen of American melodrama films. They are super entertaining. After watching so many experimental films, BEFF staff gave themselves a treat by going to a new James Bond film! But when we are working on our film, it is something else. We cannot speak Hollywood language because we don't know how to. In short, it is easier for us to do something different (and cheaper!). But other film studios, like you mentioned, are trying so hard to learn this American vocabulary. In the future we hope to see a Thai's James Bond and hope to enjoy it. Why not? But at that point, there must be some studios that got tired of this and realize that Thai's James Bond cannot sell abroad, and start to look at our own resources. At the moment in 2000, we are hoping to see 2 or 3 films (as usual) that are different from the mainstream.
10) What are you working on right now?
I am doing pre-production for a new untitled feature film.