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#IFFR Tigercheck (3):Thai alienation and moving Iranian radio poetry

Sexual abuse, alienation and the emptiness of existence are the ingredients of Motel Mist by Thai debutant Prabda Yoon. A Tiger Award worthy film.

In tightly directed storylines, Yoon gently criticises Thailand's social and political climate. For instance, he refers Motel Mist to the well-known paedophile sex tourism. Moreover, Yoon makes an attempt to sketch the emptiness and alienation of people in this westernised society.

At its centre is a so-called 'love motel' in Bangkok, where the sadistic owner abuses teenage girls. Also staying at Motel Mist is child star Tul. Tul thinks aliens are coming to get him. He is wanted by his mother and the media. Through peepholes in the walls of the rooms, guests are filmed by a handyman with a camera. A little girl is the doorman.

Sexual abuse is not unusual as a subject for a film, but the Thai setting and especially the satirical tone make this film slightly different. A middle-aged man picking up a teenager in school uniform appears to be her father. But he abuses her while driving. An unpleasant feeling takes over. Later, when he ties her up in SM clothes and wants to sadistically work her with vibrators and dildos, she turns out not to be his daughter. The director succeeds in disorienting the viewer.

Tension tilts in Motel Mist when the sadist is tortured by the teenager and her friend herself. The underscore of classical music with waltzes makes it kitsch and comical. Is Yoon trying to say that sex in Thailand is soulless? In any case, it is loveless. The alternating creepy scenes of Tul falling into a dark psychosis only seem to confirm the emptiness of Thai existence.

Radio dreams

The tragicomedy Radio Dreams by director Babak Jalali is a gem shortlisted for the Tiger Award. The setting is certainly original: a day in the life of an Iranian radio station in San Francisco.

Chief producer Royani, once a famous writer in Iran, is totally uncommercial and prefers to read literature on Pars Radio broadcasts. The day promises to be exciting as the first Afghan rock band, 'Kabul Dreams' plays a jam session with the band Metallica.

Most immigrants adapt to their new homeland. They learn the language and try to earn money. Royani, with his wild forest of hair, is a driven loner. Haughtily, he looks down on the lowly arts. Between the poems read aloud, amateur advertisements are broadcast with keyboard sounds. This is an eyesore for Royani. Guest on air are Dr Jim, who removes unwanted hair from women, and America's Iranian Beauty queen (including diadem and swimming costume), who wants to recite Royani's poems. Between interviews, the Kabul Dreams interview is cinematically woven in, as if it were a music documentary. Nice. Radio Dreams with its comic scenes and moving poetic lyrics, is a strong film.

Postscript: Radio Dreams won the Hivos Tiger Award 2016. The special jury award received La última tierra.

Rudolf Hunnik

Rudolf Hunnik is a cultural journalist, trainer and film programmer. For more information visit www.diversityathome.nlView Author posts

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