สนับสนุนโดย สำนักงานศิลปวัฒนธรรมร่วมสมัย กระทรวงวัฒนธรรม Supported by Office of Contemporary Art And Culture ,Ministry Of Culture

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Crying Tiger


Anchalee Chaiworaporn                           25 July 2005


Claimed as Thailands first so-called reality film, Crying Tigers is a bold attempt by a young, new director, Santi Taephanich, to try to do something different from most Thai mainstream works. But the directors lack of experience and insufficient script preparations turn the film into a labyrinth of character details and story fragments, all tied up with an unsavoury exploitation of Ong Bak and Tom Yam Goongs Tony Jaa fame to boost the films international prospects.

Rushing to see the films press screening before my departure for Delhi s Cinefan Film Festival last Monday, I was bewildered by the films abundant leading characters. Yes, I was given the press kit, but I prefer not to read those before the first viewing, so that I will have a similar experience to general audiences who are not offered any such information in advance. So perhaps this is why I spent more than 45 minutes of the film convinced that this is the story of four people. Crying Tigers details the lives of four real northeasterners aka Isan people who leave home to work in Bangkok. Some succeed but others do not. The five characters are pop folksinger Pornsak Songsaeng, stuntman Nate Inseelek, who dreams of having thesame fame and fortune as Tony Jaa, female taxi-driver, and a restaurant tout Man Huapla. This is just too many. Some characters receive only very minor treatment; the story of the female cab driver is told in less than twenty minutes throughout and offers no special insight into her life.

The directors methods make it tough to follow each of these five characters stories. Shooting for more than one year with over 300-hours of digital footage, the director laboured to achieve his two-hour wrap-up by mingling all the details of each character into one collective story and then dividing it into segments by the use of theme or in fact merely pulling a cool phrase or quote from the following sequences or dialogues. This fragments the film and unfortunately makes it awkward and confusing. Each time a new character cut in, I had to re-tune myself and try to understand whose life the segment belonged to. Believe me, these problems will be even worse for foreign audiences as the characters will all look identical to those who are not used to Thai faces. Sometimes the life of Man Huapla can be confused with that of the stuntman Nate Inseelek. Even I, as a local, found it difficult to differentiate them.

The best part of the movie is the story of superstar singer Pornsak Songsaeng. It illuminates his conflicting lifestyle. This superstar always lives in a cheap, crappy hotel despite his fame. Apparently he decided not to rent or buy a big house because he knows in the end he will return home and live with his family. For Pornsak, Bangkok is only a temporary shelter.

Crying Tiger is merely a film of good attempt. But to appreciate everything, one has to see it more than once. The director still has a chance, however. Since he still has so much footage to hand, it might be better if he re-edited the movie into a new version, with the emphasis on three characters: stuntman Net Inseelek, restaurant worker Man Huapla and superstar Pornsak Songsaeng. They all share a common theme the northeastern dream of becoming a star. In this way, there might be enough reason to include the scenes from Ong Bak and Tom Yam Goong, which are used unwisely in the present version.



  Sorradithep Supachanya                             25 July 2005

Santi Taepanichs Crying Tigers is a kind of movie that can easily slip out of Thailands public mind because it will flop at the domestic box office (not commercialized enough) and may not win any local award (not mainstream enough). It may not even get international distribution because the film requires an extraordinary knowledge of Thai society. If that actually happens, it is quite a shame. Crying Tigers is a rare gem in Thai cinema. It strikes the perfect balance to portray lifes hardship with enough optimism and humor to keep the film pleasant but still with enough seriousness to honor the films heroes and to inspire others to keep pursuing their dreams.

Billed itself as the first Thai documentary film ever to be shown in cinema, Crying Tigers documents four people from the rural northeastern Thailand (a region known in Thai as Isan) and their struggles to be somebody in Bangkok . One is an aspiring standup comedian who was willing to do mind-numbing tasks and wear silly costumes in order to join a well-known comedy troupe. Another is a stuntman who was willing to run through glass walls and set himself on fire with the hope that one day he would get to work alongside stuntman-turned-superstar Tony Jaa of Ong-Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong fame. Another is a taxi driver whose greatest dream was just to drive a long-distance heavy truck so that she could visit her parents more often. The last is a country singer coping with his life and career after his heyday.

Predictably, Crying Tigers is full of tear-jerking moments. Yet, it stops short of being a chick flick that forces viewers to cry. There is no acting, no plotted tragedy, and no background music that try to squeeze tears of the audience. Everything on film is real and some of the most heartbreaking scenes include that with the stuntman emotionally breaking down and wanting to quit and that with the aspiring comedian singing a song attributing to his struggling life.

At the same time, this film refuses to be preachy. Although dreams were achieved (in the end, the comedian became a permanent member of a comedy troupe, the stuntman collaborated with Tony Jaa in the upcoming Tom-Yum-Goong, and the taxi driver traded her cab for a heavy delivery truck), the film does not present a na?ve outlook that everyone with enough perseverance will reach their goals.

What I love most about Crying Tigers is that it is a reassurance for anyone who feels like giving up pursuing their dreams. As these four people have shown, life is a continuous struggle, whether on the way to achieve ones dream or, in the country singers case, on the way down from the height of ones career. A dream needs not be grand (as in the taxi drivers case) but a dream with enough passion can turn ones life extraordinary.

Other critics may call this film unoriginal and predictable. I agree. Other than being the first Thai documentary to be shown in local movie houses, the content and presentation of this film are not very different from other documentaries or movies with northeasterners making a living in Bangkok . However, I do not believe that the point of this film is to be innovatively insightful but to be another tale of inspiration. Plus, how original can a documentary with the theme so universal as the pursuits of dreams in a big city be?

My problem with this documentary, then, is not so much about its originality but about the choice of the four leading characters. Three of them work in the entertainment business (stuntman, comedian, and country singer). I wish the characters would be more diverseperhaps a boxer aspiring to compete in the Olympic Games, a chef dreaming to open his own restaurant, or a poor but brilliant student winning a government scholarship to study abroad.

Despite its shortcomings, I strongly recommend seeking an opportunity to see this film. Like the Isan grilled beef dish after which the film is named, Crying Tigers is a satisfying serving that stimulates the senses and makes you crave for more Isan delicacies.



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