We look back at the inaugural Thai film festival, curated by Tilda Swinton and Apichatpong Weerasethakul
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on”, declares Prospero in Shakespeare’s Tempest. And so we were, as we cast away for the inaugural edition of Film on the Rocks Yao Noi; a celebration of cinema, set amongst and inspired by nature. It is often said that cinema is the language of dreams and since the beginning of time, we have shared our dreams in order to better understand something of ourselves.
Founded and hosted by Nat Sarasas and Chomwan Weeraworawit, our guides on this voyage of discovery were Tilda Swinton and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who curated this year’s program. This included screenings, a batik workshop led by Waris Ahluwalia, a presentation by Tom Sachs, and various panel discussions by guests including Jefferson Hack with Rirkrit Tiravanija, Tom Sachs, and Ole Scheeren.
On the first day we set out by boat to view Rirkrit Tiravanija and Arto Lindsay’s performance “no fire no ash”, at Big Tree; an important marker on the island and lifeline which goes back 2-3000 years. Nestled within the jungle we discovered a portable pull down screen, a 16mm projector with a reel of Andy Warhol’s ‘Empire’, a guitar and an amp. It was as if we had stumbled across artifacts abandoned to nature by another civilization. The film was never screened and the guitar not played, instead we stood contemplating the tree with natural sounds captured by Lindsay played at a heightened volume, competing with the violent whirring of a generator. "Empire itself as an idea and as a film, in my opinion was about the confrontation with spectacle, not as an object but as time,” explained Rikrit. "I think that both the large tree and the film… would give us a sense of the monumentality of time. I suppose for me the next step would be to make a film of the tree and bring it back to New York to be projected next to the Empire State building!"
As a supernaturally red sun set over the limestone teeth across the sea’s horizon, guests were invited to view Nontawat Numbenchapol’s installation ‘Aurora’. This was followed by a selection of short films screened on the beach, including Len Lye’s abstract work ‘Free Radicals’, ‘Portrait of Ga’ by Margaret Tait, Helen Levitt’s reportage footage of 40’s Spanish Harlem ‘ In the Street’, and The House is Black, by Iranian poet and filmmaker Forough Farrokhzad.
In advance of the festival, Film on the Rocks Yao Noi’s artist in resident Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, produced several short films with the local youth. On the second night the island’s residents congregated with guests for the grand premiere in a rice paddy that had been set up in the tradition of a temple party for the evening.
On the last night guests set out once again across the ocean, sparkling with bioluminescent plankton and stars, to the Archipelago cinema; a fantastical feat designed by renowned architect Ole Scheeren. Surrounded by rocks forming a natural theatre, we reclined on modular rafts held together like a cluster of islands. And with the undulating waves under us, and the stars above, we returned to a state of naivete and wonder to Herbert Brenon’s Peter Pan, accompanied by a magnificent live score performed by Simon Fischer Turner.
Photos by Doug Bruce and Piyatat Hemmatat