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Film On The Rocks Yao Noi

The new film festival curated by Tilda Swinton and director Apichatpong Weerasethakul launches this March featuring both Thai and international entries

Imagine a Never Never Land; a place far away where films are projected onto limestone rocks jutting out of a startling blue ocean. Film on the Rocks is the dream child of Chomwan Weeraworawit, Nat Sarasas and award-winning independent film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul who is co-curating this year’s festival alongside the illustrious Tilda Swinton. From the 9th-13th March, the picturesque Yao Noi, on the Thai island of Koh Yao Noi, will host the first in an annual celebration of cinema.

The programme, loosely brought together under the theme Primordial includes screenings of Thai and international films, old and new, panel discussions, specially commissioned artworks and installations and workshops. In advance of the festival, we caught up with Chomwan and Nat to find out more.

Dazed Digital: How did Film on the Rocks come about?
Chomwan Weeraworawit:
It started with this crazy idea of us projecting films on the rocks near Nat’s property. Thailand is often used as a backdrop and we thought actually we can be a source of inspiration too. The whole thing is about allowing worlds to converge and collide. Tilda refers to it as a feast because it’s about film, yet there are all these other elements that create that world, so we are having screenings, collaborations and contributions from our guests.

Nat Sarasas: And we wanted to create a different kind of surroundings than people would usually be; a more relaxed, innocent atmosphere.

DD: People usually experience cinema and art in urban environments; cinemas and galleries, whilst here it is entirely submerged and entangled in nature.
Nat Sarasas:
 It links back to our main theme for the festival, which is Primordial. We really believe that bringing people very close to nature they will be more receptive to whatever we will be showcasing.

Chomwan Weeraworawit: You are so far removed here. You have this community of fishermen, rubber planters, its 100% Muslim community, it’s very small and the more we looked, the more we felt you go back to nature when you are here. You surrender all those needs and desires you have otherwise in these big urban metropolises.

DD: How has that environment informed the content of the festival?
Chomwan Weeraworawit:
I think we would say on three or four levels. The first is that the films we have selected are inspired by their surroundings and where they will be screened is totally site specific- the beach, the paddies, the raft and the rocks. And then on another level it’s also been about working with the community. Lucrecia Martel spent time here on a residency, truly immersing herself within this really close-knit community, out of which came the film that we will be premiering at the festival. And the third is the collaborations. We’ve let our collaborators loose and they’ve used what they’ve found on the island and that has manifested itself in all kinds of ways.

DD: What are some of the collaborations you are particularly excited about?
Nat Sarasas:
I’m particularly excited about Arto [Lindsay] and Rikrit’s [Tiravanija] installation. Rikrit is going to do something at the Big Tree, which is 2 or 3000 years old. He is projecting Andy Warhol’s Empire as though Empire rose from the big tree and Arto Lindsay will provide the score.

Chomwan Weeraworawit: Rikrit is also doing something called the inVisible world. He is intervening into the hotel’s TV system so for 24 hours a day for 4 days there is channel 18, which is going to be a Rikrit program in the festival. I’m also excited about Ole Scheeren’s floating auditorium, Archipelago Cinema, inspired by the local fishermen’s lobster raft. This will be the first built non-building work since he started his own studio.

We’re excited about Pratchaya Phinthong who is in an exhibition at the New Museum in NYC at the moment. Waris is doing a Batik workshop with the local ladies. It’s going to be a 1m by 4m batik cloth and over the 4 days we all get to learn how to paint on it and on the last day they will finish the cloth for us and on the last day we will do a little ceremony where we will cut it and distribute it amongst us as scarves.

DD: You are also in the process of setting up the Film on the Rocks Yao Noi Foundation. What is it and how does it relate to the festival?
Chomwan Weeraworawit:
 The foundation is the umbrella. The festival is the awareness, showcase piece- it’s our biennale. There is the partnership with the Thai Film Foundation and Film Archive, so it’s a very holistic relationship- they need funding, we work together, we also create content together.

DD: Finally, what comes to mind when you both think of primordial?
Nat Sarasas:
For me primordial is like before time, before humans, before art and then we have nature and we learn something from that. Nature and the first light.

Chomwan Weeraworawit: For me caves automatically come to mind- that we were once cavemen and the first cinema was in caves. Apichatpong talks of Plato and all those phantoms of cinema and how those cave drawings were their way of telling stories. It’s about connecting with that origin and not only connecting with it but also using it to move forward. I think its not about just embracing the past but we want to know what it is about and know where we stand to be able to move forward.