YIDFF 2009 New Asian Currents
The Convert
An Interview with Panu Aree (Director)

Everyday Life Is Not Dramatic

Q: The film gave us a glimpse into the way June and Ake live, and it gave me a warm feeling. Please tell us about how you came to make this film.

PA: Due to 911 and riots in the south of Thailand, the image of Muslims in Thailand worsened. So my previous film In Between was born from a desire to make a film expressing the feelings of Muslims, as a Muslim filmmaker. It’s about moderate Muslims. Just as I was thinking I hadn’t conveyed as much as I wanted, I learned by chance that June, who was a friend of my co-director Kaweenipon, was to marry a Muslim, and so I decided to make this film.

Q: June is very natural, and when watching the film it creates the illusion that you’re listening to one of your own friends talk.

PA: June was always an open person. Even so, things didn’t go well for about two months. The two of them couldn’t help feeling self-conscious about being filmed. There were also times when they became irritated because they wanted privacy. So after I shot for four months, I gave June a camera, and decided to have June and Ake film each other. By doing so, I was able to capture their candid interaction.

Q: There were no scenes of June and Ake fighting in the film. Why did you decide on a format in which June and Ake tell their own story?

PA: Some viewers in Thailand also said they wanted to see scenes of them fighting. However, I didn’t feel I should shoot that kind of thing. Everyday life is not dramatic. I didn’t want to embellish the film with scenes of them fighting.

Q: I got the impression that June had few reservations about converting to Islam. In Thailand, how is Islamic conversion generally viewed?

PA: Religious conversion is a very special thing in Thailand. June ultimately makes up her mind after receiving advice from her father. I myself was also surprised by her father’s words. June’s father once lived in a Muslim nation. He also has numerous friends who are Muslims. That’s why he was able to say those things. Although urban areas generally richer in information, you could say that places in the countryside, like where June’s family lives, accept Muslims without prejudice.

Q: There weren’t any scenes of June and Ake as Muslims praying five times a day. Are Thai Muslims not so devout? There was a line in the film about failing to fast for Ramadan that said “making an effort is the important thing.”

PA: It depends on the place. Some might say that there aren’t so many devout Muslims in Bangkok. I myself was confused as to why Ake didn’t teach June how to worship. However, as a fellow Muslim it would have been very rude to ask Ake why directly. Ake loves June. This is just a guess, but he might have thought that he shouldn’t expect too much too soon from June, who had a lot to deal with as her lifestyle changed so dramatically.

(Compiled by Tsuchiya Mao)

Interviewers: Tsuchiya Mao, Miura Norishige / Interpreter: Arai Yuka / Translator: Don Brown
Photography: Shiba Katsuhiro / Video: Shiba Katsuhiro / 2009-10-10