A Lesson to Thai Students Takes Teacher to International Film Festival

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Commercial Films Siam Co. Ltd. announces that the Cinequest Festival in San Jose has selected its Thai film 'The Forest' for its 26th event. Set in rural Thailand, shot in an Isaan dialect and directed by an Englishman, they hail it as a 'masterpiece'.

Poster for 'The Forest'

I was telling my students that with the new digital cameras, you don't need to have a million dollar budget to make a film. You just need a little inspiration and a lot of perspiration. Now I know that it's really true. - Paul Spurrier - Director

Selected from over 3000 entries, 'The Forest' will receive its North American Premiere at the 26th Cinequest Festival in San Jose, commencing 1st March 2016. The Cinequest Festival was recently voted the Best Film Festival in the USA by USA Today readers.

This unique film was shot by husband and wife team Paul and Jiriya Spurrier in the rural northeast of Thailand, using locations never before seen on film, and tells an enchanting story from a forgotten corner of this magical land.

Background:

In 2005, an Englishman, Paul Spurrier, became the first westerner to direct a Thai-language feature film. Titled 'P', it was released in over thirty countries world-wide. Paul was tipped as a rising talent.

Paul subsequently settled in Thailand, and worked as a consultant to Thailand's film office, shot Thai television dramas, and guest lectured at Thai universities.

He married, had a son, and was happy with his life.

In late 2014, he was asked to give an introduction to film-making to the incoming students at the prestigious Kantana Institute film school.

He ended his lecture with a single message – 'Nowadays, anyone with a cheap digital camera can make a movie. There's no excuse not to just go out and tell your story.' He hoped to inspire the students. One student stayed behind and quietly asked him when it was that he had last 'told his story'.

It was a simple question, but one that struck Paul very deeply.

It had been ten years since he had shouted 'Action'. How could his words to the students hold any weight, when he himself had ignored the same advice?

Over the next six months, Paul and his wife Jiriya drove over 6000 kilometres to the furthest reaches of North-East Thailand, carried equipment up mountains, and trekked into deep mosquito-infested jungle.

'The Forest' is the film that resulted. It tells the story of a new teacher who arrives at a small school in the rural north-east 'Isaan' province of Thailand, and finds life very different. He finds that one of his students is a young mute girl, who seems to have no friends. In fact, the girl does one have one friend – a wild boy who lives in the jungle. As the teacher tries to keep her in the world of reality, the boy tries to take her into his fantasy world.

Paul and Jiriya shot the film on a small digital camera. Their entire crew for most of the film was themselves, Jiriya's 14-year old sister who clapped the clapperboard, and their five year old son, Panda.

The two children who star in the film were both discovered at local schools. Paul and Jiriya spent ten days visiting schools in the region.

By the end of the ten days, they had found a young girl – nine-year old Wannasa – to play the part of the girl, but no boys. After their presentation at the last school on the list, they sat, subdued, wondering what to do next, when a young boy came over to them, picked up Paul's mobile phone and asked what model it was, where he had bought it, and how much it cost. His confidence and curiosity were impressive, but why hadn't he come to the presentation? His teacher said that the boy liked to cut class, and was a bit of a rebel. She couldn't possibly recommend him for the project. Paul and Jiriya cast Tanapol on the spot.

But directing the two kids who had never even seen a camera before was not easy.

On the very first day, Paul rehearsed the first scene with Wannasa and Tanapol. Wannasa seemed distracted, couldn't remember her lines, and didn't respond to direction at all. After multiple rehearsals, Paul was dejected.

In desperation, he decided to just try shooting the scene.

As the camera rolled, Wannasa came to life. Every line and move was perfect. Paul was stunned and moved by her performance. But he asked her why she had not done it like that in rehearsal. She answered, 'Why would I? The camera wasn't on.'

For the next month, accompanied by the kids' fathers, who carried the tripod and held the lighting reflectors, this small group climbed 1316m up Phu Kradueng mountain, filmed in remote waterfalls, and walked many kilometres in thick jungle.

For the adult roles, two well-known actors lent their skills. Vithaya Pansringarm had received rave reviews for his performance in Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Only God Forgives'. Asanee Suwan had won awards for his portrayal of the 'Beautiful Boxer'.

Now the film has been selected from over 3000 submissions for the Cinequest Festival, recently voted the Best Film Festival in the USA by USA Today readers.

This tiny film, shot for almost no budget, can hopefully not only inspire Paul's own students, but budding film-makers everywhere.

"Through hauntingly beautiful cinematography and classic storytelling, writer-director Paul Spurrier delivers a masterpiece of good and evil, the weak and the strong. Dark and intense,The Forest is a thoughtful exploration of life and redemption." - Amelia Masters – Cinequest Festival 2016

Screening at Cinequest, San Jose
7.30pm – March 9th
7.00pm – March 11th
2.30pm – March 12th

Images for this article available for download at:
http://bit.ly/Forestimages

Contacts:

Press:
Commercial Films Siam Co., Ltd
paul(at)films(dot)in(dot)th
+66 87 000 0795

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Paul Spurrier