Aditya Assarat, Wonderful Town

Aditya Assarat

Wonderful Town

Overview

April 2008 - Aditya Assarat, 2004-2005 Film Protégé

In early 2008, Aditya Assarat, film protégé in 2004/2005, experienced what is a thrilling moment for any film-maker: his first commercial release. Wonderful Town, his evocative portrayal of a Thai village struggling to recover from the devastating 2004 tsunami, opened in Paris on 28 April 2008 to critical acclaim.

© Rolex / Laurent Teisseire, 2008

© Rolex / Laurent Teisseire, 2008


A singular voice in the making….

Aditya Assarat’s attention to minute detail and ravaged architecture screams Antonioni… but his ability to switch from dreamy to ugly in a heartbeat suggests a singular voice in the making.”

Time Out New York
, 2 April 2008

Since the Paris premiere, the film has been screened in over a dozen theatres throughout France, with subsequent openings in 13 other countries, including Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The film, which Assarat made after his year of mentoring under the guidance of the acclaimed director Mira Nair, was funded in part by Rolex. Assarat plans to shoot his second film in Thailand at the end of 2008 or the beginning of 2009.

Aditya Assarat

Wonderful Town

The film

April 2008 - Aditya Assarat, 2004-2005 Film Protégé

Press Quotes

“The revelation of the Pusan festival, in Wonderful Town from Thai director Aditya Assarat is a real achievement. Employing very little means and a subtle mise-en-scene the film explores successfully multiple directions: innocent romance, passion, portray of a post-tsunami community and its violent reaction towards everything that comes from outside.”
Jeremy Segay, CAHIERS DU CINEMA

“In a festival short on notable discoveries, the Thai director Aditya Assarat has stood out as a name to watch. His first feature, Wonderful Town, a quietly unsettling love story set in a provincial seaside town still recovering from the 2004 tsunami, arrived here after winning top prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival earlier this month.”
Denis Lim, NEW YORK TIMES

Wonderful Town mourns a paradise lost with soulful music and brooding images, encapsulating both sadness and longing in a fleeting interlude of love. A narrative-centered synopsis cannot do justice to describe the fragile beauty of this tone poem.”

Maggie Lee, HOLLYWOOD 
REPORTER

Aditya Assarat

Wonderful Town

Interview

April 2008 - Aditya Assarat, 2004-2005 Film Protégé

Wonderful Town – like your first two shorts, Motorcycle and Waiting – takes place in the countryside. Is that where you come from?
No, I was born and raised in Bangkok, the biggest city in Thailand. When I was 15, I went to study in the United States, and ended up staying there for 10 years. When I finally came back to Thailand I felt as if I were in a foreign country. That’s why I think the first two shorts I made here were almost as if they were seen through the eyes of a foreigner. I found life in the countryside as beautiful as a foreigner would. But, of course, for Thai people the countryside is probably nothing special, with all the heat, and the dust, and the hard work in the fields… Actually, when I go back and watch the shorts I made when I came back to Thailand for the first time, it gives me a pretty good idea of what I was like at that time.

©Rolex / Laurent Teisseire, 2008

©Rolex / Laurent Teisseire, 2008

Would you say you’re like Ton, the character in Wonderful Town – a city man who feels the need to find some peace and quiet?
Yes, of course. The character of Ton is a representation of myself. To put it simply: Ton travels to the south to take a holiday far away from his life as a city-dweller, far from the pressures of the city. At one time I even thought of calling the film Holiday. I think that when city people arrive at a certain state of weariness, the process that drives them to try and slow down for a while is a completely natural one. That’s the time when you try and go far away. But for Ton, it doesn’t turn out quite as he had imagined.

You studied in the United States for some years, and you made films there. What did you get out of this experience?
I didn’t just learn… If you go and live somewhere for a year or two, you can say that you’ve learned something there. But I lived there for more than a decade. That goes beyond a learning experience. I think I am an American. And when I’m in Thailand, I don’t really feel at home. And yet in the United States I feel deeply Thai. This phenomenon, this way of life, is very common these days. It’s grown hard to tell exactly where one is from… Identity is an idea that's become rather vague.

©Rolex / Laurent Teisseire, 2008

©Rolex / Laurent Teisseire, 2008

When did you get the idea for Wonderful Town? Just after the tsunami?
Wonderful Town first came to me in the shape of a love story. I’m always interested in people, their relationships, their love stories, because it’s feelings you always remember most clearly. I never intended to make a film on the tsunami. But as a director I’m very influenced by places – I need to actually go to a place to imagine a story, otherwise I can’t do it. That’s why I went to see Takua Pa, and said to myself “what an interesting place for a love story to develop between two strangers.” There’s something sad about the town. And I thought that the contrast between this sadness and the vitality of a love story would be interesting. That was the main idea. I only added the tsunami background later on.

The actors playing Na and Ton have a certain realistic freshness. Are they professionals?
No, we had a very tight budget, so they’re unknowns. The main actor is a musician in a bar, and the actress is a tourist guide. But I really think they were very good. Being real has nothing to do with whether you’re a professional actor or not.

©Rolex / Laurent Teisseire, 2008

©Rolex / Laurent Teisseire, 2008

An additional treat for Aditya was the presence of fellow protégé Josué Mendez (mentored by Stephen Frears) at the première.

You juxtapose a kissing scene involving the two lovers with a scene showing the sea. Is that the heart of your story? The sea at the centre of everything?
For me, the sea scene is a way of giving the feeling that the tsunami is still present in the young woman’s memory. The story takes place a year after the tragedy, but the memory of it is still imprinted on her mind. It’s always present in some way or another, even if not – or no longer – physically so.

Your film also deals with construction and reconstruction, in a constant dialogue between buildings and people – all of them, buildings and people, scarred.
Yes, I think that’s how I saw things at the start, when I got the idea of making this film. I just thought that the contrast between this old, sad town and the new, young love would be interesting. That was my original idea. And I think that when people see the end result, and use words like “rebirth” and “reconstruction”, they’re trying to express what I felt initially.

You have another project in the pipeline, High Society. Can you tell us about it?
High Society deals with people who don’t feel at home anywhere. The people who find it hard to discover their own identity. They’ve grown up and lived in so many different countries, steeped in such different cultures, that they come from nowhere in particular. You might say they’re at home everywhere or nowhere. It’s an interesting phenomenon, and that is the subject of my film.

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