Thai film dedicated to Rohingya wins best film at Venice Film Festival

A still from “Manta Ray”. Photo: Venice Film Festival
A still from “Manta Ray”. Photo: Venice Film Festival

A Thai film dedicated to the Rohingya people won a top prize at the Venice Film Festival last weekend.

Manta Ray (Kraben Rahu in Thai) won the Orizzonti Award for Best Film on Saturday night at the 75th Venice Film Festival, making it the first Thai movie to win the prestigious award.

The film marks the directorial debut of cinematographer Phuttiphong Aroonpheng. It opens with an introductory statement that reads “For the Rohingyas” and follows a mute Rohingya man who has fled Myanmar by boat and washes up unconscious in a Thai coastal village, where a fisherman with a sinister past rescues him.

“By denying speech to the pivotal character, Aroonpheng draws attention to the powerlessness experienced by Rohingya when attempting to exercise self-determination and have their voices heard,” writes one reviewer in Variety.

The story follows the refugee as the fisherman nurses him to health and then, under dubious and intriguing circumstances, assumes the fisherman’s identity.

The climax of the film takes place in the mangrove forest where the refugee was first rescued. There, he confronts the reality of what befell thousands of other Rohingya who did not survive their escape.

Manta Ray is slotted to appear next at the Toronto and San Sebastián film festivals.

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