THAILAND / 2008 / Thai / Color / Video / 83 min
Directors, Script: Panu Aree, Kong Rithdee, Kaweenipon Ketprasit
Photography: Kaweenipon Ketprasit, Panu Aree, Thanwadee Hemara, Akapong Hemara
Editing: Kaweenipon Ketprasit
Sound: Pairat Wadee, Akapong Hemara
Music: Akapong Hemara
Cast: Thanwadee Hemara, Akapong Hemara
Producers: Chalida Uabumrungjit, Panu Aree
Source: Walad Dorleen Film
June, a Thai woman working in Bangkok, converted from Buddhism to Islam when she married Ake, a Muslim man living in southern Thailand. Leaving behind her urban life, she begins life with her husband, while learning the teachings of Islam and the deeply rooted customs of her new home. Under the watchful gaze of their very different families, June and Ake overcome misunderstanding and deepen their relationship. What is the significance of marriage? What does it mean to start a family? This gentle, quiet road movie tells the story of the couple’s new life together through their straightforward observations.
[Director’s Statement] Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, being a Muslim has become somewhat of a shortcoming, even a burden, just about everywhere around the world. This is also true in Thailand, where 95 percent of the population is Buddhist. Only three percent are Muslim, and the majority of them live in the country’s southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia. Since 2003, an outbreak of violence committed by separatist movements in the South has plunged the region into chaos, and further strained the image of Thai Muslims.
In 2006, short filmmaker Panu Aree, critic Kong Rithdee, and post-production specialist Kaweenipon Ketprasit co-directed In Between, a 40-minute documentary on the lives of four “moderate” Muslim men living in Bangkok. The idea of The Convert came to us soon after we finished In Between, and the concept crystallized when we met June, a woman who had just gotten married to Ake, a Muslim man from the southern province of Satun. The production of The Convert began in September 2006.
What drove us to explore June’s story is the curiosity of her decision, a life-altering move for a young, fun-loving Bangkok woman who had known next to nothing about Islam but who now embraces not only a new God and a new faith, but also an entirely new lifestyle. All newlyweds must soon encounter the tension of domestic living, and in June’s case, that tension seems to double when she finds herself in a completely new environment, living amongst Ake’s family in the South.
We seek neither to investigate the essence of being a Muslim, nor to counter any preconceptions. We only believe that, through our observant eyes and patience, we can reflect certain values of society through the experience of this individual.
In 2006 the three directors collaborated on a medium-length documentary, In Between, winner of the runner-up prize at the Thai Short Film Festival. The Convert, their first feature documentary, was commercially released at Lido Cinema in November 2008 and was named Thai Film of the Year by Bioscope Magazine, the leading film magazine in Thailand.
Graduated from the film and photography department of Thammasat University in 1995. He began his career as a sound recordist for Thai film productions that year. He has directed a number of short films, including Once Upon a Time (2000, YIDFF 2001).
Writer, columnist, film critic for the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s leading English-language newspaper, for 13 years. He also contributes to various international magazines and film festival catalogues, as well as serving on juries of many film festivals.
Graduated from the department of mass communications of Ramkhamhaeng University. He founded S. Screenhead in 2001. He edited the feature films Three Friends by director Aditya Assarat and True Mom by Mingmongkol Sonakul.