Film On The Rocks Yao Noi: Nontawat Numbenchapol

Showing at the Thai film festival this weekend, we speak to the director of the competition's winning bid, 'Aurora'

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In December last year, Film on the Rocks Yao Noi invited seven young filmmakers specially selected by Apichatpong Weerasethakul to participate in a lab at the Yao Noi resort in Thailand, called Untamed. They were given the brief to create a proposal for a site-specific video installation related to the fish cages used by the fishermen on the island and the theme 'primordial'. We caught up with young documentary maker, Nontawat Numbenchapol, whose winning proposal, 'Aurora', will be premiered at the Film on the Rocks festival this weekend.

I decided I will have three projectors, one for each primary colour. And the story in those three videos would be about the past, the present, and the future

Dazed Digital: How did you start making films?
Nontawat Numbenchapol:
 The first time I made a film was during a field trip at school. The teacher wanted us to write a report, but I had a video camera with me, so I gave my video, just as I recorded it, without editing. The teacher played it in the classroom, and everyone enjoyed it. Maybe that's the reason I love making films. I always get feedback that is better than my expectations.

DD: In your biography it says that your work is about space - could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Nontawat Numbenchapol:
 My first documentary is about a group of Thai teenagers who love skateboarding. Their lifestyle is a foreign culture here and they have to struggle to find a space in order to do what they love. My second film is about my childhood, my house where I was brought up, and my grandma. The film I'm currently working on is about the Thailand-Cambodia border conflict. The people who live around that border, their cultures and lifestyles mingle, until there is no real line to separate their nations, there is only the border on the map, and the conflict caused from a few rulers that affects about 100,000 people living there.

I also try to look deeper and talk about human's space, the border between children, grownups, elderly people, men, women, love, hatred, birth, and death. my first film is about the search for a space, the second film is about losing a space, this third film concludes point of view towards life.

DD: In December you were invited to Film on the Lab. How did that come about?
Nontawat Numbenchapol:
 We had a group called Thaiindie which was founded by Thunska Pansittivorakul. It was a network of independent and experiment filmmakers. We exchanged our films and screened them at festivals. My first film was supported from this group, and Apichatpong knew me from that. For this project, he chose seven young filmmakers that he was interested in. These are not directors that are already successful, and not some kids that have just finished a movie. They are new blood who make interesting films.

DD: Your untamed proposal Aurora won and has now been installed to be premiered at the festival. Please could you tell us about the piece?

Nontawat Numbenchapol: At the time, my grandma had just passed away for about three days. I was devastated and I couldn't clear my mind or write anything about the works. Later I started to think about the word "primordial" which means the original stage. I happened to see a news piece about aurora. I found out that people in the past thought of aurora as a memorial to the dead. Then I thought about details in light, the origin of light, its primary colours, and when these three overlay, they make new colours, that is a vital basis in film. So I decided I will have three projectors, one for each primary colour. And the story in those three videos would be about the past, the present, and the future.

Aurora also reminded me of people who died at a young ages from the protest against political injustice. I shot some of my footages at Wat Pathum Wanaram, where some of the protestors were killed during the red shirts crackdown two years ago. I dedicate this work not only to my grandma, but to all those who passed away, especially those who died because they fought for justice.

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