Coming off the back of the second edition of the Thailand International Destination Film Festival (TIDFF) and a good year at the local box office, Thailand prepares for Cannes.
The second TIDFF closed last week. The event is something of a grab bag, including the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge – a Film Raro-style event which invited international students to make what are essentially promos for Thailand; a festival of made in Thailand films old an new, local and international, including Good Morning Vietnam and the less cheery The Killing Fields; a conference programme with invited international guests designed to promote the country’s offer to content creators from elsewhere and even a few awards.The real challenge for the event is that it doesn’t attract – or sponsor to attend – the people a “destination” event needs to engage and excite: international producers and other decision-makers.
The Thai delegation to Cannes will cross paths with a far greater number of international decision-makers than were in Bangkok last week. The delegation will be led by the ubiquitous Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, who regularly supports the country’s film industry at both domestic and international events.
In Cannes she’ll host the Thai Night, Where Films Come Alive. In terms of international recognition, Thailand is still mostly trading on the second film in the Hangover trilogy, which shot there in 2011. Looking back even further, 2000’s The Beach probably remains the most widely-known international title.
At Cannes last year, Nicholas Winding Refn’s Thailand-shot Only God Forgives played in competition to what’s politely called a mixed reaction. A year on a record 67 international productions have spent time in Thailand, but few other than Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman are likely to live long in the memory or local cinema.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the absence of any incentives to encourage inbound production is hurting Thailand – more so since Malaysia got its act together, confirmed a 30% incentive and opened the Pinewood Iskandar studios last year.
Even so, the industry – including domestic and inbound production – added US$2.22 billion to Thailand’s economy last year. The figure is not that far off NZ’s cUS$2.5 billion. The major difference is that in Thailand the spend equates to 86,600 jobs.
Thailand’s domestic industry had an extremely successful 2013. Comedy-horror Pee Mak broke box office records for a local film, taking 30% of the year’s US$34 million earnings for all Thai films and becoming the country’s biggest ever earner.
That US$34 million overall take was up almost 100% on 2012’s take for local titles.
The return of Thailand’s most recognisable and pronouncable actor, Tony Ong Bak Jaa, in Tom Yum Goong 2 (The Protector 2) also helped drive ticket sales for local fare.
For those wanting to wangle an invitation, the Thai party in Cannes is on Saturday 17 May.