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Traveller’s diary: Fantasy and Innovation in Thai film


Traveller’s diary: Fantasy and Innovation in Thai film

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For our report about the Thai Film Industry we headed out to the set of the huge film production on “The Legend of King Naresuan V“. The film set lies in the middle of an active military base. Tourist buses pass soldiers learning how to shoot a mortar or crawling under barbed wire. “There are buffalos, elephants, ships,“ comments Dorsic Stano, a Slovakian cameraman, as if he were 50 years younger and in a fabulous toy shop. “You don´t have to rent anything.“ The large area hosts many TV series. Actors dressed as 17th Century warriors sip ice tea to cool off under the trees.

At the Filmset of “The Legend of King Naresuan”

We met up with the director Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol in his air-conditioned trailer. This is the fifth series in his epic film. The elephant battle scene being shot today would have been finished were it not for a devastating fire which destroyed the previously shot film reels.

Backdrop of the film

The prince asked us not to film the actual scene because it involved mechanical elephants and green screens to assist with the digital post-production. “It is hard to find stuntmen willing to ride a mad elephant,” explains Than Mui (the Prince’s nickname, meaning “your Excellency”).

Cameraman Terry Winn and the main actor Lt. Col. Wanchana Sawasdee

Nontheless, Lt. Col. Wanchana Sawasdee is willing to ride a mad elephant machine. But he is used to tough conditions. He is an active service member in the Royal Thai armed forces. The handsome officer makes a dashing king in the movie, but says acting is just a sideline. “The army is in my blood,” states the officer dressed in a metal-mesh uniform from the 16th Century. In total, more than 5,000 actors and extras participated across the five parts of the historical series.

From the past, we jump into the wild imagination of Kantana Animation Studios.

At Kantana Animation Studios

Behind the innocuous walls of this industrial-like estate is a flurry of fascination and activity. Young Thai animators huddle over their computers surrounded by a virtual shrine of action figures and heroes. Kompin Kemgumnird is a young animation artist who lived and worked in the United States.

Director Kompin Kemgumnird in action

He even worked on the Hollywood film “Ice Age”. “I wanted to come back to Thailand to teach others about my experience,” he says before continuing with a mischievous smile, “Besides, my visa ran out.”
The young studio had its first hit with “Khan Kluay”, the Blue Elephant. Not only a Thai national symbol and respected, revered animal, the elephant in this film is also very cute and cuddly. I can already see little blue elephants among every European child’s horde of stuffed toys.

The crew of Kantana

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