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“The Island Funeral” director rings the alarm about Thailand’s state of unrest: “Violence by extremists can happen anywhere in the country”

The Island Funeral

©2015 TIFF

The world premier of Thai film The Island Funeral was held on October 30 as part of the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival’s Asian Future section. Producer, screenplay writer and director Pimpaka Towira was joined by leading actress Heen Sasithorn and actors Aukrit Pornsumpunsuk, Yossawat Sittiwong for a Q & A session about the film held at Tokyo’s TOHO CINEMAS Roppongi Hills.
This is the second long-format work by director Towira, who is also known for her work as a producer and film critic. In the film, a young woman named Laila and her friends travel to one of Thailand’s southernmost provinces, an area deeply rooted in Islamic culture. The group decide to head to an isolated island, and get drawn into strange and mysterious happenings.
Including Pattani, the island with worries about unrest, Towira decided to shoot the film in Thailand’s three most southern provinces. She explained “In Thailand, the majority of people are Buddhist, but of course there are people of other religions too. In the three southern provinces, there are more Muslims than Buddhists.” She said of the gap, “The Muslims in Bangkok and the Muslims in the south are quite different. Not only their lifestyle, but southern Thais also speak a dialect that is closer to Malay.” She continued “The young Muslims in the south don’t want to go to Bangkok or central Thailand. Because it’s [culture and language] different from the south. They’re actually more similar to Malaysia, so even when they continue on to high school, they tend to want to head towards Malaysia instead.”
“Southern Thailand has been in a situation of unrest from about 2004 up until now. There’s been all kinds of troubles,” she said quietly. It was once thought that the southern regions of the country were more extreme but the tides turned when, in 2010, Bangkok department store CentralWorld Center was set on fire as part of anti-government demonstrations. In August of this year, there were also a series of terrorist attacks in the capital.
For Towira, the current state of society sets off alarm bells. “Southern Thailand used to be thought of as more extreme, but I feel like the level of extremism doesn’t change between Bangkok, central Thailand, and the south. She said of filming in Pattani, “Even before this film, many others have shot movies in the area. When I was there the situation had become a lot worse.” “I had a really difficult time when I was trying to find a recording crew to come with me. I had to get insurance and went there knowing that I was shouldering the responsibility of the lives of 20 crew members.”

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KEIRIN.JPThe 28th Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
27th Tokyo International Film Festival(2014)