Attending the NY Asian Film festival..."Macabre Case of Prom Pi Ram"

I'm back in NYC, the place I called home before I moved to SF. I came for some personal business, but decided to extend my stay so I could attend two Asian Film festivals: the NY Asian Film festival (June 18-27) and Asian Cinevision's film festival (July 16-24). I had gone to these festivals while living in NY, but had come from a different perspective, as a viewer or patron. I wasn't looking out for structure, organization and if any of these films could potentially be shown in our festival. Now, with a year of festival experience behind me, I had a different agenda in mind. I was going to see how their festivals ran operationally, to network, to publicize NAATA and our festival and to watch films that could potentially be showcased in our festival.

NY ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL: I entered the Anthology Film Archives at 6:15pm (a museum known for preserving and exhibiting films as an art form), and was surprised to find a short line in front of the box office. Usually 15 minutes before showtime, there was a long line outside that wrapped around the building with people anxiously waiting to buy a ticket. On my way up to the 200 seat theatre, I was handed a survey. Inside the theatre, I was again surprised at the low turn out. The first three rows were practically empty and other vacant seats were sporadically spaced here and there. I figured about 70% of the theatre was filled. Usually the shows were sold out and I had to fight for a seat. I reasoned that it was a 6:30pm weeknight showing. Most people in NY didn't get out of work till after 7pm. I also noted that the majority of the crowd seemed to be white. This was evidence of the growing, if not established interest for Asian culture and arts by non-asian folks.

At 6:30pm instead of the movie starting, workers climbed up a tall ladder to fix a hanging drape that would have blocked a corner of the screen. The movie was obviously not going to start on time. My theatre operational mind kicked in and I did a time count. If we started at 6:30pm, the film was 108 minutes long, so it would end at 8:18pm. This did not include the introduction and commerical/ trailer time. Add another 10 minutes. So really, we'd be exiting the theatre around 8:30pm, also the time when the next film was supposed to start. I wondered who did the programming schedule? Usually the rule of thumb to turn around a theatre (exit the people from the theatre, clean the theatre, and fully seat the next screening) is a 1/2 hour.

As I waited, I was vaguely aware of the music video by Full Metal Alchemist playing on screen. I looked around the theatre for any posters or signs of the sponsors. There were two huge hanging posters that said, "Discover the tiger!" I could only guess that it was advertising Tiger beer, their main sponsor.

At 6:36pm, Grady (one of the organizers for the festival) started the show. In an exaggerated, game show host way he:
*welcomed the crowd
*annouced the two sponsors (Tiger Beer & Yesasia.com)
*explained the audience award
*announced last minute changes in schedule and added titles
*read a review of the film festival from The New Yorker
Then came my favorite part. Where he announced the winners of the drawing.
Audience members that dutifully filled out their surveys were automatically entered to win a chance at three prizes--a movie poster, a mask or a dvd. My name was not drawn. Sadly, I was not a winner. This past year at our festival, we also had an audience survey and membership forms that we wanted people to fill out right away. The trick is to give them the incentive to want to do this. I thought the instant gratification, win a prize from a drawing (right now) worked well at the NY Asian Film festival.

Finally the screening started. We sat through two commercials for Tiger beer, 1 commercial for yesasia.com and two movie trailers (both that were not subtitled) before the actual film started. I leaned back in my seat preparing to soak in the movie.

"Macabre Case of Prom Pi Ram," directed by Manop Udomdej is a film that quietly peels away the darkness of the human condition in a small country town. It starts out with two good cops who are determined to solve the mysterious murder of an unknown girl found dead next to the train tracks. Told in a linear fashion with full scenes of flashbacks to what really happened, this is not a complicated story. But as the movie progresses forward, the horror of what this woman had to endure becomes painful to watch. Thoughts of oh no, oh no...not again? Not again! raced through my mind. It would make any woman, passive feminest or activist want to jump into the screen and save this victim from the awful, sick men who seem to have no conscience. The only redemention for the victim is that the cops do solve the case by the end.

I left the theatre in a daze, still thinking about the film, trying to sort out how I really felt about it. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a line wrapped around the building seeming to have no end. It was 8:45pm, and the next screening would soon be underway. I smiled, happy for the crowd that they were about to see an incredible film, "Vibrator" and proud of the NY Asian film festival for attracting such interest on a Monday night.