Aditya Assarat playfully asserts that a film-maker should never turn down a job. “Not only can you learn something new every day on the set, but you also never know when the work is going to dry up, leaving you contemplating a mid-career change,” he jokes.
Most young artists are forced to work at least one other job – whether it is waiting tables or making a complete career shift – but Assarat’s credo has led him into a fruitful film career, spanning an enormous variety of projects. Since winning his first award for his graduate thesis film, titled Motorcycle (2000), Assarat continues to write, direct and produce award-winning films at a dizzying speed.
Recently, he added the 2010 Silpathorn Award, given by the Thai Ministry of Culture to honour a film-maker who has made a significant contribution to the art form. He says that it was probably his persistence that won him the award, but adds that he is proud of it, and in good company. He is the seventh recipient in the film category since the award was established in 2004, and he respects and admires those who won it before him.
At any given moment, Aditya Assarat has a bounty of work in motion, each project as impressive as the last.
Assarat’s recently released feature film Hi-So is the story of a young Thai student who has returned home from an extended stay in a foreign country. The actor, much like Assarat himself, finds he doesn’t fit in either at home or abroad.
The film’s title refers to a slang Thai word for high society: the life of the privileged. Thais are typically enthralled by soap operas depicting this lifestyle, but Hi-So is Assarat’s version of the local elite. Growing up in this society, he wanted to reflect his own experience of not quite belonging anywhere and of being separated from the actual culture of his country.
“I thought the predicament of not fitting in would be an interesting story – we are all heading in that direction in the future. National borders don’t define us anymore. You may have more in common with someone in another country than you do with the people down the street.”
Hi-So premiered at the Pusan and Tokyo Film Festivals and will screen at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival. Europe is a larger market for Asian art films than Asia itself and Assarat expects the film to follow a similar trajectory and success of his last feature film, Wonderful Town.
New short films
Assarat has been commissioned by the Thai Ministry of Culture to create two short films: the first to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and the second to foster national reconciliation.
About the film Six to Six, written to honour His Majesty the King, Assarat says, “I’m just a normal person. I’ve never met the King, never even seen him, except on TV. I suspect most Thai people are like me. So I wanted to make a film from the perspective of the small people living in this kingdom. As a man, we may not know His Majesty, but, as a symbol, his presence is felt all around us.”
The second commission has yet to be written.
A few years ago Assarat founded the production company Pop Pictures, to support his work and create all of his films. However, he also takes the time to produce and mentor the work of younger film-makers. He recently acted as producer of a feature film, Eternity. “Eternity is the debut feature film of my assistant director, Sivaroj Kongsakul. I thought it was a good project and that he was ready to make his own film. I was happy with the result as it’s been well received around the world.”
Assarat is writing scripts for two new feature films. One is about the Japanese expat community living in Thailand. “I grew up in an area of Bangkok with lots of Japanese expats, so all my life I’ve seen Japanese housewives walking up and down the street with their kids. I want to tell a story about this group of people,” he explains.
The second new feature film is a continuation of Hi-So. In it, a group of young, privileged and badly behaved Thais make a weekend trip to Khao Yai, which can be described as “the Hamptons of Thailand”, referring to the wealthy resort towns on Long Island, New York.
When asked about his future goals, Aditya Assarat is very clear: “I’d like to make a film that people actually watch. The art world can be very small and insular and sometimes doesn’t have much relationship to the actual public. I’d like to make a film that would be appropriate to a movie theatre and not to a museum, which is what I’ve been making so far. That would be a challenge.”
Given the pace at which Aditya Assarat creates, it won’t be long before his goals are reached.