Jurors for the New Currents award at South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) described firsttime Thai director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s 36 as ‘‘breathtaking’’ while praising the ‘‘extraordinary sympathy’’ co-winner director Maryam Najafi drew from her audience throughout her entry Kayan.
Both productions receive US$30,000 (920,000 baht) for the award, which offers two first prizes and is open to first- or second-time Asian filmmakers.
Nawapol’s film — made for just $20,000 (615,000 baht) — is set around 36 static images and tells the story of a young female film-location scout who enters into a relationship with an art director. A year later, the art director has left her and the only keepsake she has of their time together is a portable hard drive filled with photos.
When the hard drive crashes, she tries to relive those lost moments.
‘‘The first time I screened this film it was in a conference room for about 20 people so I was honoured to be invited to Busan,’’ Nawapol said. ‘‘My story’s about how many different ways there are to look at the way we live our lives.’’
The New Currents jury, headed by the veteran Hungarian director Bela Tarr, celebrated Nawapol’s work for creating his ‘‘own film language’’.
‘‘The jury found especially that the writing was breathtaking, artful, economic, and never included an unnecessary word,’’ they said in a statement. Nawapol eschewed the conventional channel of movie theatres and screened the 68-minute long 36 at a room he rented at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.
He also made use of social media to get the word out about his film, including a particularly strong presence on Facebook.
‘‘Facebook is free, and that’s all I have to promote my film,’’ Nawapol told the Bangkok Post in an interview in June. ‘‘It’s hard work though, since
I have to monitor the film’s page and update the activity all day every day.’’
Nawapol also served as an executive producer on 36, with support from GTH, independent director Aditya Assarat’s Pop Pictures and A Day Magazine.
While 36 was made on a shoestring budget, Nawapol has also cowritten a few mainstream hits, including the hugely successful Rot Faifa Maha Na Ther (Bangkok Traffic Love Story), Top Secret Wairoon Pun Lan and Home.
‘‘I try to staddle the two extremes,’’ Nawapol said. ‘‘When I write a script for a ‘mass-market’ movie, I know what I have to do. And when I do very personal films, I can basically do what I want. But to take this middle path is not easy.