By Nicole Brenez
Abandoning her studies in plastic arts to help the Cambodian frontier refugees: an action as such summarizes the attitude of Ing Kanjanavanit, journalist, writer and filmmaker. Quitting the academia because there were more urgent matters to attend was her next action. That’s how art connects directly with the violence of reality and finds itself reconfigured in it, as it is accredited in the work of Ing K, completely consecrated to the political, social, religious, economic and ecological problems of her country Thailand, or, as she calls it “Siam”, according to its anti-fascist name.
Thailand for Sale (1991), Green Menace (1993) and Casino Cambodia (1994) form a triptych consecrated to the ecological and social catastrophes that the government elections generated, developing the tourism industry in a massive scale. Casino Cambodia extends its purpose during time, contemplating how tourism transforms the bloody centers of the Khmère Rouge dictatorship into attraction and vacation spots.
From 1998 to 2008, Ing K develops another slope, one dedicated to religion. After a grotesque, anti-clerical film such as My Teacher Eats Biscuits (1998), Citizen Juling (2008) reconstructs the path of a young woman who falls in a coma after an aggression committed by fanatics. A never seen description of the inter-religious conflicts from north to south Thailand, Citizen Juling confronts the death of her absent protagonist, the search for existence, survival and persistence through all means necessary.
Shakespeare Must Die (2012) represents brilliantly the corrupt and bloody dictatorship that rules in Bangkok, and adaptation between lines of Macbeth. The film censorship, under the pretext of being a “threat of national security”, drove Ing K to document the day to day of all processes realized before the authorities to free Shakespeare Must Die. The Kafkaesque Censors Must Die (2013) was born after this film, a profound summary of the rational and irrational tactics of both parts, a great love film to his protagonist, the producer and photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom. The film is crammed with one of the characteristics of Ing K’s style: the passion for factual precision, capable to poetically collapse the arbitrariness, the obscurantism and the absurd that prevails in the dictatorship. “It’s the cinematographic democracy in action in every obscene and burlesque detail; a somber report of events plagued with a number of farces, to be appreciated as a comedy”.*
Bangkok Joyride 1 and 2 show the circumstantial report of the 2013 manifestations, which took to the streets millions of Thailand’s people claiming for democracy. The descriptive enterprise lets the protesters speak: the two components of Bangkok Joyride describe the oppressed people in the portrayal of its own imagination, of its own and endless expressive capacity, people drunk of energy that legitimizes its right to obtain a democratic constitution. Ing K announces a component titled Singing at Funerals and with this title, we can add her trilogy to the registry of film monuments of democratic learning, joining films such as Pere Portabella’s Rapport Général (1977) and Rui Simões’ Bon Peuple Portugais (1980) two post-dictatorship films that we wish give some closure to the demonstrators of Bangkok and their devoted portraitist.
* « Wherever [Manit] went, amidst political upheaval in a land of fear, a camera followed him, into secret places long hidden from the sun, where witnesses are not welcome. The resulting cinema verite is the living story of a struggle for justice and human dignity, for the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which Thai filmmakers do not have. This is cinematic democracy in action, in all its obscene and heartbreaking details; a dark record of events farcical enough to be enjoyed as a comedy. »