Thai filmmaker Ratchapoom Boonbunchachoke’s (pictured center) dark comedy film “A Useful Ghost” has scooped the top prize at the Locarno Film Festival’s Open Doors awards ceremony.
This year’s Open Doors co-production forum featured nine projects from Southeast Asia and Mongolia looking for international partners, and also represented the close of the forum’s three-year cycle focusing on that part of the world in particular.
The winning film tells the story of March and Nat, a happily married couple, and their seven-year-old son named Dot. One day, Nat dies of respiratory disease caused by air pollution. Saddened by the death of his wife, March is worried that the same fate will befall his son, who gradually develops similar symptoms. Nat then returns as a ghost haunting the house vacuum cleaner to try and suck up the dust hurting her son.
“This film touches upon current social and political issues in a humorous way. It’s a story rooted in a long cinematic Asian tradition, but told in a contemporary and innovative way,” said the Open Doors jury in a statement. “We’re very excited to discover this quirky film on the big screen very soon.”
Produced by Cattleya Paosrijaroen (pictured right) and Soros Sukhum for Bangkok-based outfit 185 Films Co., “A Useful Ghost” pocketed a production grant of 35,000 Swiss francs ($38,000).
“I would like to thank my fellow countrymen back in Thailand who are still fighting for democracy. Because of them, this film will be possible,” said Boonbunchachoke while accepting the prize.
Elsewhere, Filipino project “Sam” went home with two awards. The most significant was a production grant of 15,000 Swiss francs ($16,270), the second largest at the ceremony. The jury said the prospective film, from director E del Mundo, producer Pamela Reyes and Create Cinema, explores “a main character’s struggles with trauma and its moral intrigue after failing what to do what is right in a harsh society desensitized to violence.” “Sam” also won the Sørfond Award, a prize which allows the project to participate in the Pitching from the South platform of the Norwegian fund Sørfond.
Sein Lyan Tun’s “The Beer Girl In Yangon,” a production from Myanmar which the jury described as having a “modern and innovative proposition in terms of the topics and the point of view,” picked up two awards. The first was a development grant of €8,000 ($9,400) from CNC, the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, and the second was a 10,000 Swiss franc ($10,850) production fund. Producer John Badalu and PS Film Production are behind the film.
The other 10,000 Swiss franc production grant went to Indonesian project “Our Son,” directed by Luhki Herwanayogi and produced by Iqbal Hamdan and Catchlight Pictures.
Thai project “9 Temples To Heaven,” directed by regular Apichatpong Weerasethakul collaborator Sompot Chidgasornpongse, took home the ARTE Kino International Prize, consisting of a €6,000 (around $7,000) grant. The film is produced by Kissada Kamyoung and Kick the Machine Films.
In the Open Doors Lab section, the top FAI Producers’ Grant was awarded to Xuan Trang Nguyen Thi from Vietnam’s Lagi Limited. The producer won a 11,500 Swiss franc ($12,500) scholarship and a further 3,500 ($3,800) for personal career coaching. Second prize went to Ines Sothea, a free producer from Cambodia. She pocketed a 3,500 Swiss franc scholarship and a further 1,500 ($1,630) for coaching.
Earlier on, the Rotterdam Lab Award, which offers one of the Lab participants the opportunity to take part in the training workshop Rotterdam Lab 2022, was given to Benji Lim from Malaysia’s Kinovisuals.
The Moulin d’Andé-CECI Prize, a writing residency offered to an emerging director of full-length features who took part in Open Doors 2019, was handed to Mongolia’s Bat-Amgalan Lkhagvajav for his feature film project “Butcher.”
Open Doors is organized in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), and with the help of various European and international organizations.