Interview - Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s life and work are entangled within the specifics of living in his home country, Thailand, and cinema has always played a central role in his understanding of the place. “Film was my escape as a kid growing up in small town Thailand. Back then there was nothing [in Khon Kaen] except the school and a hospital.” “Fortunately there were all kinds of films, from Hong Kong, Hollywood, India, and Thai films.”
As an adult returning home, he’s noticed a transformation from a cinemagoing population towards a filmmaking one. “There are quite a number of independent filmmakers. We have a small market in this small country with it’s unique language, but I am optimistic for the future of Thai independent film as it is easier than ever to make a film, and more distribution channels are becoming available too.”

After eight features and countless shorts and installations Apichatpong has built a formidable career for himself. Recently he has ventured towards live performance, though filmmaking remains his preferred method of self-expression. “Filmmaking requires a lot of confrontation, but it’s the only medium so far that I feel I can translate my emotions. At the heart is this line between illusion and reality, something that I have always been wanting to define through my Buddhist philosophy.”

This performance piece, his most recent work, is still a variation of cinema, if not in the form generally expected. “I am still very much a filmmaker. I call that piece Fever Room, a projection-performance for the lack of better term. It is an amazing experience for me to be able to sculpt the light. Still, it is moving-image, another kind of cinema.” “I love all moving-image forms and cannot choose one over another.”

Yet, his relationship with his own country is more complicated, something that has fed into his own filmmaking process. “The experience of living here inspires me to make the films that I have made. From the outside, Thailand seems like a free country but there are actually so many rules.” His latest feature Cemetery of Splendour channels this sense of conflict most directly. “This film channels a mixed feeling of living at this time of military dictatorship. I yearn to escape from this seemingly peaceful place where the army wants to jail all of its opponents. At the same time I feel a love for this town full of memories.”

Apichatpong has said before that Cemetery of Splendour will be the last film he makes in Thailand, that he is no longer able to work under such stifling conditions. “I used to think that my films and my action could make a change. But that’s too lofty. People’s attitude and logic cannot be changed that easily. Now the most important thing is just to make works in which I don’t have to censor myself.” However, this doesn’t mean that he is defeated, it just seems that a change of scenery may be called for. “Dreams keep one going. I am fascinated by observing my own transformation alongside the shifting of local politics.” “For the past few years I have been very interested in the act of sleeping and dreaming. I look forward to exploring other territories other than Thailand. I want to learn from different memories, and to see how this effects my dreams.”

“I do, however, love Thailand’s heat.”

Originally published on Shooting People's Blog

Show Comments