THAILAND, THE NETHERLANDS / 2010 / Nyanja, English, Thai / Color, B&W / Blu-ray (SD) / 70 min
Director, Script, Editing: Jakrawal Nilthamrong
Co-Writer, Co-Director: Juan Watson Mututa
Photography: Chatchai Chaiyont
Producer: Pimpaka Towira
Associate Producer: Mai Maksawan
World Sales (except Benelux and Africa): Extra Virgin
A mystic tale set in an “African forest” in which a shaman guides a father and his sick son to a waterfall, written by Thai director Nilthamrong and shot by a Zambian director. In parallel with the making-of documentary for this fiction film, in Unreal Forest, Nilthamrong reflects on the days when Europeans arrived in Thailand and Zambia and the colonial history that both the Asian and African continents have in common. The structure of this film (from a project of the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the former imperial country), in which a fiction film is contained, becomes a mirror reflecting cultural colonialism today.
[Director’s Statement] At the beginning of 2009, I was invited to participate in the Forget Africa project commissioned by the International Film Festival Rotterdam with Unreal Forest. The organizers invited 12 filmmakers from all over the world to travel to Africa and make a film there. Of the 12 films, mine is the only feature-length one, due to the positive feedback during the brainstorming process, in which all parties involved agreed to expand the work into a feature.
I traveled to Zambia with my team to make this film in September 2009, an experience that brought me in touch with the incredible viewpoint of people from such a faraway continent. Africa feels so distant for most Asians, me included. I found, however, that the poverty, disorder, and lack of hygiene that are parts of everyday life in Zambia are waiting to be addressed using know-how from the West.
We used to believe that the age of colonization is already behind us. But the leading force from the West of new cultural imperialism is becoming more and more prevalent everywhere. Even though for Thais, myself included, the sense of colony may not be felt as clearly as in nearby countries with a long colonized past, we still cannot wholly say we have never experienced it. How can we be sure that the western force has never really penetrated Thai sovereignty?
I intend for this film to bring about a new outlook on modern colonization, where new technology and modern communications are employed. I hope also that this exploration of the relationship of two continents, through comparable ancient folklores, will help us look back at our own cultures, which are facing the complexity of ongoing cultural hegemony.
Nilthamrong graduated from Silpakorn University’s faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts in Bangkok in 2000 and studied filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dripping (2004) won a prize at the Thai Short Film and Video Festival in Bangkok, and his thesis film, Patterns of Transcendence (2006), an experimental narrative about reincarnation of a Hindu god, was screened at many international venues.
Nilthamrong received the MFA Fellowship 2006 Award from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2007 he was selected to the Artist-in-Residence program at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. Nilthamrong’s short film A Voyage of Foreteller (2007) screened at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and other festivals. A feature-length project of this title is currently in preparation.
His latest short films include Orchestra (2008) and Man and Gravity (2009). Unreal Forest is his first feature-length film.