#BanSuphannahong? Thai film awards slammed for excluding indie films

Filmmakers and critics say that Thailand’s annual film awards show has closed the door on art house cinema by enacting rules that disqualify them from even being nominated.

The Suphannahong National Film Awards has come under fire for rules requiring that any film vying for a Golden Swan must have shown at cinemas in five provinces – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Nakhon Si Thammarat. 

The criteria also require eligible films to sell at least 50,000 tickets, equivalent to about THB5 million to THB7 million in box office revenue. Though these rules were enacted just before the pandemic in 2019, their impact became an issue when filmmakers realized a number of artistically important films wouldn’t make the cut this year.

Among them was Anatomy of Time, an internationally acclaimed time-shifting drama which chronicles a woman from rural 1960s Thailand living in the present as the wife of a bed-ridden, disgraced former army general. 

“That’s it? Are we not eligible just because we make movies with a low budget, and we can’t afford to screen at giant cinemas in many provinces in Thailand?” the film’s art director Sarawut Kaewnamyen wrote on social media after learning the film was among 11 movies deemed ineligible under the rules. 

Despite the fact that Anatomy of Time premiered at the Venice Film Festival and brought home awards from Poland and Japan, it was deemed ineligible due to its limited release back home. 

“Today you may judge only our film,” Sarawut added. “But believe me, this is the judgment towards all the non-mainstream films in the industry.”

After this story was published, the people behind breakout 2022 hit One for the Road announced Thursday afternoon that they had withdrawn their movie from competition despite its award buzz.

“As a screenwriter and co-director of One for the Road, I’ve withdrawn my nominations from Suphannahong this year,” Nottapon Boonprakob tweeted Thursday afternoon. “[My withdrawal is effective] until the federation has a consensus on changing the rules and showing that they value Thai movies and people in the industry.”

Nottapon is also a director of Come and See, a documentary about a controversial Buddhist sect, Wat Dhammakaya, and its fugitive abbott accused of massive embezzlement.

Critics of the rules fear they effectively limit recognition only to the most mainstream commercial films. So expect future Golden Swans to go to the likes of Poj Arnon’s cringey comedies and the latest big-budget ghost story remakes.

#BanSuphannahong has trended on Thai Twitter since Thursday morning, where it has been taken up by critics of the 31-year-old national film awards.

The annual ceremony is hosted by the National Federation of Thai Film Associations.

Some in the industry have vowed to no longer participate in the awards or the federation.
“Due to the unfair selection criteria, I urge friends and colleagues to refrain from participating in the Suphannahong Awards to show that we oppose the criteria that benefits only giant movie houses,” wrote Harin Paesongthai, film editor and founder of editing studio Limbix Cut.

“It’s the federation’s duty to promote and empower Thai films, not impose rules that disqualify the films like this. It’s akin to killing the Thai film industry.”


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