Session #12: Screening of Tongpan (Euthana Mukdasanit, Surachai Janthimathorn, 1977) with introduction and discussion

Photo © 1977 Euthana Mukdasanit/Surachai Janthimathorn

Thursday 30 March 2017

Birkbeck Cinema,  43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

3:30–5:30 | [Free event: Book here]

Tongpan will be introduced and discussed by May Adadol Ingawanij (Westminster), Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn (Queen Mary London)

An exemplary work of collective filmmaking, Tongpan is a re-staging of a seminar which took place in Isan, North East Thailand. The seminar was initiated to discuss the proposed construction of the Pa-Mong Dam along the Mekong river in 1975, two years after the Thai popular uprising in 1973. The seminar was attended by government officials, well known intellectuals such as Sulak Siwalak and Sane Jammarik, local farmers, students, and foreign experts, and it was held at Thammasat University, a space closely associated with leftist student activism. The footage of the re-staged seminar is interwoven with sequences of the daily life of Tongpan, a farmer whose land had been lost due to the construction of a previous hydroelectric dam. The film juxtaposes the event of the seminar with Tongpan being approached by students who try to convince him to tell his story and to join their struggle. Shot in 16mm with a largely non-professional cast, Tongpan fragments and disrupts our sense of realism to present the distance between the intelligentsia and the lives of the rural peasants. The film was created by a group known as the Isan Film Collective, whose student members had emerged from the mid-70s moment when leftist Thai counter cultural activists had inspired several uprisings and student activists continued to promote socialist ideals and support the pro-democracy movement.

“Filmed in the direct manner of the early Soviet silent cinema, the reconstruction of this simple incident has a quiet, unexpected force.”
(David Robinson, The Times)

Tongpan, Euthana Mukdasanit, Surachai Janthimathorn, Thailand 1977, 63 mins, ProRes, Thai with English subtitles.

With thanks to Euthana Mukdasanit, Paijong Laisakul, Pathompong Manakitsomboon, and the Thai Film Archive.