Though Thailand’s cinematic history extends back to 1923, it’s only been in last ten years or so that Thai films began cropping up in festivals and theaters worldwide. Even at home, directors were mostly churning out populist fare, catering to the masses with low-budget genre productions. In the 1970s there was a brief period of socially critical films, which stemmed from the student uprisings of 1973 and 1976. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that Thai cinema found acceptance and acclaim in the west, and it began when newcomer Pen-Ek Ratanaraung’s debut feature, FUN BAR KARAOKE, had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. Considered the birth of New Thai Cinema, it paved the way for a handful of directors working both within genres (Prachya Pinkaew, ONG BAK) and strictly arthouse (Aphichatpong Weerasethakul, SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY). Yet what separates Ratanaraung from most of his peers is the international success he’s found from audiences both high and low.
Scene from TRIAD ELECTION
Just in time for the dog days of summer, Sundance Channel is gearing up to launch the sixth season of Asia Extreme, which features thirteen incredibly cool films to dive into beginning August 1 free on demand. Just as past seasons brought an eclectic mix of cutting edge Asian cinema from visionary directors breathing new life into (and in some cases subverting) such genres as horror (ONE MISSED CALL), thriller (A BITTERSWEET LIFE), action (SAVE THE GREEN PLANET), or science-fiction (NATURAL CITY), so too does the new lineup offer fresh takes on familiar forms.