An Interview with Nontawat Numbenchapol (Director)
Q: I’ve been to both Thailand and Cambodia so I felt uneasy to see in this film that the two nations are at war. I like both countries and didn’t ever think of dividing them by borders.
Taking the idea of the boundary in mind, it was the difference between the young and old generations in their ideas about death that struck me in this film. What do you think about this divide?
NN: As I myself am still young, I don’t exactly know what an elderly person feels. But it seems natural for a young person to fear death, because death is not something impending. You saw the scene of a bomb blasting in my film—that’s a famous YouTube clip. For the young generation, warfare is something from the movies. Perhaps it was not unusual to die in combat 50 years ago, but that is the past. To insist on clarifying the boundary is an old-fashioned viewpoint—that is how the young people think.
Q: You say that this film began from a “sense of incongruity.” What is this?
NN: It was a sense of disaccord towards the reaction of some of my friends to the eviction of Red Shirt protesters from a Bangkok square. My friends and I were never interested in politics. But on this issue, everyone began to react excessively. I was shocked to see a normally kind-hearted friend writing “That serves you right” on Facebook when 100 deaths were reported in the Red Shirt camp. For urban people, the shutting down of central Bangkok was an immense inconvenience. Even so, my friend’s drastic turnover really confused me.
Around that time, I met Aod. He was originally from the rural areas but took part in the forced eviction of the Red Shirts as a soldier. He can’t disobey orders. But the Red Shirts are a gathering of poor people from the provinces. Aod was also confused. In order to understand the confusion created from this one event, I began my journey.
Q: There are many positions and opinions surrounding this one event, I see.
NN: In fact, we all share the same position fundamentally. For example, though New Year’s is celebrated differently in the city and the rural areas, the idea of celebrating the New Year is the same. Wishing to live in peace, is another idea everyone shares. But by differentiating Red Shirts vs. Yellow Shirts, Life vs. Death, rural vs. urban, the many boundaries make a situation complex. There are over 10 boundaries I can see in my film. The first theme is of course, the national boundary between Thailand and Cambodia.
Q: You spent three years filming and faced many borders. Was your confusion, your sense of disagreement absolved through the filmmaking?
NN: Through the filming I realized that there are many truths in the world. That’s why I didn’t commit myself to any one truth in this film. Truth lies in conversations—the voices of the Thai and the Cambodians. They say different things, but each is their own truth. By confronting many borders, I was able to accept differences. That’s why I now hope, if only people could accept instead of oppose. “I respect you. And you respect me.” If only that worked, war would not happen.
(Compiled by Nagata Kanako)
Interviewers: Nagata Kanako, Nishiyama Ayuka / Interpreter: Takasugi Miwa / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Nomura Yukihiro / Video: Nomura Yukihiro / 2013-10-11