In gallery 2, MAAP presents a selection of highlights from the 6th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival (BEFF6).
The festival, titled Raiding the Archives, was first screened in Bangkok in January 2012. The program responds to Walter Benjamin’s idea that “articulating the past historically does not mean recognising it ‘the way it really was’. It means appropriating a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger”. Meditating on memory and nostalgia, the program lines up contemporary cinema against a number of works from the impressive Thai Film Archive, as well as archival features from across Asia, pointing to poignant overlaps in political and personal histories from Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand, for example.
BEFF highlights the expansive context of experimental film in Asia; it’s a smorgasbord of cinema ranging from political documentary, expanded cinema, video art, and amateur film. Since expanding its borders in 2001 to include film from Asia, Europe and North America, the festival has attracted many international curators and partners, including the UK’s LUX. Though foreign film has strong representation in the program, it is the local films that are the festival’s epicentre; it’s not a line-up of international blow-ins, but instead a carefully curated program that selects international work to extend the themes and issues generated by the local cultural and political context.
Thailand has a substantial film industry, however experimental or arthouse films rarely receive a local audience (the same has been said for Thai contemporary artists, like Rirkrit Tiravanija); indeed it is likely this fact impelled international film-festival heavyweight Apichatpong Weerasethakul to support the festival as a public platform in Thailand for the country’s experimental film activities . The festival was first launched in 1997 as the Bangkok International Film Festival, picking up its current moniker in 1999. The organisers claim it is “one of the most significant artistic activities from Thai contemporary art and culture”, connecting artists with professional networks and a viewing public .
Partnered with contemporary art gallery Project 304, the festival has long overlapped with the moving image culture of contemporary art. To some extent it creates a shared context for film and video art in a place where making such distinctions is a less urgent project than the one of freeing artistic expression from government control. In this sense, the festival also has significant political purchase in the Thai art world. Where censorship is a real obstacle for many artists and filmmakers, the festival has unflinchingly presented works that make both veiled and naked criticisms of the highly sensitive government and monarchy.
This is the second time MAAP has presented BEFF for Australian audiences. In 2008, MAAP presented BEFF5, having supported festival curator David Teh under the auspices of an Australia Council for the Arts funded MAAP mentorship to develop the program with the oversight of senior Bangkok curator Gridthiya Gaweewong.
The BEFF6 organisers consist of May Adadol Ingawanij, David Teh, Chalida Uabumrungjit, Mary Pansanga, Pathompong Manakitsombon, George Clark, Brigitte Paulowitz, Richard MacDonald, and Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa.
Many thanks to Mary Pansanga and David Teh for assisting with enabling the tour to MAAP.
BEFF 6 at MAAP SPACE Program
Screening daily in gallery 2:
Poetics of Longing, curated by David Teh
Thai Experimenta, curated by Mary Pansanga
Special screening event program to be announced.