By Aldo Padilla
Southeast Asia is a space pretty unknown for the Latin American world. Currently, there’s little idea on what’s happening there, except for some cliches: Duterte and his bizarre presidency in the Philippines, the Asian Switzerland that is Singapore, Thailand living from tourism or the 250 millions of Muslims in Indonesia. If people like Rithy Panh and Joshua Oppenheimer have made a great effort portraying the violation of human rights in the country, very little is known about the complexity of the situation in Thailand. With a coup d’état perpetrated few years ago and with a king that seems to be omnipresent, human rights and protests seem to be rigidly controlled by the actual regime.
The radiography of Thailand that filmmakers Thunska Pansittivorakul and Harik Srikhao have performed, poses the contradictions placed between a strong nationalist discourse and what it really means, setting their focus in their adolescent population, people that act and think in an autonomous way. Among the interviewees, few people really understand the discourse dominated by three pillars: the king, the nation and Buddhist religion. The supposedly idea on defending the nation from an unknown enemy falls apart as soon as they try to identify it, since the Muslim minorities are strongly controlled and terrorized, moving in a space that seems to be alien for them.
The film is represented in chapters, where its first part shows the adolescent intensity and a strange homosexual tension that exists in the environment. This intensity seems to be handled without control and determine the path that the boys seem to take, boys that will become the future army of the country or take another intermediate path such as the Thailand’s boy scouts, that also have an individual chapter and whose commitment with the three pillars named above seems to be more strong that in other countries. This episode is without a doubt one of the most terrifying, because of the evident brainwash that the country realize over its people, where the commitment seems to be above and has some reminiscences on Jesus Camp, because of the fanaticism that their words distill.
It’s interesting to emphasize the pop component, something that has already been seen in the films of Apichatpong Weerasathakul, since this musical style is strongly attached to the Thai culture, and it’s shown with a song that shows the magnificence of a limitless Bangkok, and where the figure of the King appears yet again, with his portrait shown in different sizes, like a form of sacralization of the monarch.
The concequences of the regime are present in some episodes where the state repression is shown, with people missing and constant threats that activists suffer, which are strongly represented by the presence of surveillance cameras that flood the streets of some Thai cities. Also, a drone that appears to constantly surveil the activity on a Muslim mosque draws the attention powerfully. The complex struggle of LGTB activists also seems to be restricted by a society that has a strong sexist component.
Homogeneous, Empty Time talks about the empty time when the King dies and the military junta seems to take the control of a country with a massive population that moves between oriental capitalism, the radical Buddhist tradition and the mix of religions that inhabit the country. Pansittivorakul and Srikhao dose the film with touches of humor, a way of lightening a little bit a situation that is not always denounced in such an explicit way, with a language so far away from being condescending.
Directors: Thunska Pansittivorakul, Harit Srikhao
Producers: Thunska Pansittivorakul, Jürgen Brüning
Sleep of Reason Films, Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion
Cinematography: Harit Srikhao, Harit Srikhao, Watcharapol Paksri, Suppakit Sritrakul, Warat Poonyasiri, Itdhi Phanmanee, Phassarawin Kulsomboon
Editor: Thunska Pansittivorakul
Music: Chom Chumkasian, Gandhi Wasuvitchayagit