Foreign Film Submissions, 2015: How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) (Thailand)

by HFPA December 12, 2015

Part of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s mission is to foster greater understanding through world cinema. This year 72 Foreign Language films were submitted for Golden Globes consideration. Here is an overview of one of them.

Set in earthy Thailand, this feature-length directorial debut of Korean-American filmmaker Josh Kim is adapted from the bestselling and acclaimed 2004 book of short stories of Thai-American author Rattawut Lapcharoensap entitled Sightseeing. Specifically, the film is based on two short stories in the acclaimed collection – “At the Café Lovely” and “Draft Day.”

Set in a small town in Bangkok in the 1990s, it is the coming-of-age story of Oat (Ingkarat Damrongsakkul), an 11-year-old orphaned boy who lives with his aunt (Vatanya Thamdee) in a poverty stricken area. Relying financially on his openly gay older brother Ek (Thira Cutikul), whom he adores and who earns a living at the local bar. Oat faces an uncertain future when Ek must submit to Thailand’s annual military draft lottery for all males turning 21.

When he is unable to convince his older brother to change his fate, Oat tries to help him evade it, taking matters into his hands. That is when Oat becomes exposed to criminal ways, the harsh realities of poverty and patriotism. Aside from seeing the darker side of life, Oat also gets disillusioned when Ek’s affluent boyfriend, Jai (Arthur Navarat), betrays his brother. In the end, a jaded adult Oat (Toni Rakkaen), plagued by nightmares of his troubled youth, looks back at his life from his skyscraper condo and assesses at what cost he arrived at his present station. The film premiered in the Panorama section at the Berlin Film Festival in February and was released in Thailand in July. It is a Thai-U.S.-Indonesia co-production.

In an interview, Kim revealed that he was inspired to do the film because “In 2007, I read the book Sightseeing, (and) it felt as if I had just watched a movie. I remember the vivid sunsets, the sound of motorbikes, the smell of gasoline and all the colors. It was a world I had never seen, yet populated with characters I felt like I knew from my own childhood. It soon became a story I wanted to tell through film.”

Janet R. Nepales