YIDFF 2011 New Asian Currents
A Brief History of Memory
An Interview with Chulayarnnon Siriphol (Director)

By Means of Abstraction

Q: The Q&A for your film was vigorous and the topics included political ones. When you screen this film in Thailand, what political position do people assume you have?

CS: In Thailand political topics are sensitive, so when I receive a political question at a venue I do my best to answer neutrally to avoid danger. I intended to make my position unclear in this film, but when I screened it in Thailand there were audience members who chose a political position for me. I think that’s something unavoidable when you deal with political themes.

Q: As suggested in the title, memory is the main theme of this film. The memory of the mother who lost her child in a political incident is incredibly vivid, but are the tragic memories of most of the Thai public fading? Also, did you expect Thai people to watch this film as a way to look back on those memories?

CS: In a way, yes. By recording the voice of that mother who lost her child in a political incident, I wanted Thai people to not forget the pains they have endured in the process of seeking a full democracy. I made this film because I wanted them in the future to reflect on the events of this short period. I also wanted to record that even the views of a marginal member of society link to large political problems.

Q: How did you come to make this film?

CS: A friend of mine planned a short film about the Nang Lerng community, and I was one of six directors invited to shoot something on that theme.

Q: As 6 directors were working on the same community, were you conscious to strongly show your own colors?

CS: On the contrary, I thought that unlike my work up to that point, I should not include myself when taking up themes of communities and slums. I felt I should expand my field of vision to understand the community. On the other hand, I wanted to stick to my style of expression, so I use an abstract style in this film. I do not refer directly to politics, but rather use metaphors to depict rulers and their subjects. By means of abstraction, I think large and complicated themes become a little softer.

Q: You do many experimental things with images in your editing, using superimpositions and freeze frames. In doing so, did you also intend to soften a strong political message?

CS: The experimental images were first meant to express the sadness of a mother who had lost her son and second to soften a political message. But also they are a metaphor for Thai superstition. In that community, there is a belief that you can communicate with the dead, and the mother believed her son was still alive and that she could speak with him. I wanted to express this in images.

Q: Were there any visual expressions in this film that you adopted for the first time and feel went well?

CS: For the image of the white circles, I used footage from Round Objects (2007), a short experimental film that shows just circles. When you take a picture with a new digital camera, there are times when white circles appear, and last year there was a trend in Thailand where people wondered whether that might be the spirits of the dead. In reality it was just water vapor, but I used it as a technique in this film.

(Compiled by Inoue Masashi)

Interviewers: Inoue Masashi, Keino Yutaro / Interpreter: Takasugi Miwa / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Nihei Tomomi / Video: Endo Nao / 2011-10-07