สุญกาล Soon-ya kal (2017)
Country: Thailand, Germany
Producers: Thunska Pansittivorakul, Jürgen Brüning
Production Company: Sleep of Reason Films, Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion
Sales: Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion
Cinematography: Harit Srikhao, Watcharapol Paksri, Suppakit Sritrakul, Warat Poonyasiri, Itdhi Phanmanee, Phassarawin Kulsomboon
Editor: Thunska Pansittivorakul
Music: Chom Chumkasian, Gandhi Wasuvitchayagit
The 47th International Film Festival Rotterdam
The 11th Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival
Asian Vision The 28th Singapore International Film Festival, Singapore
In Documentary Competition @Queer LISBOA 21, Portugal
The 14 th Beijing Independent Film Festival, China
This documentary film explores the spread of nationalism according to the concept of “Homogeneous, Empty Time” by Walter Benjamin, a German Jewish philosopher and cultural critic. The theory as referenced in the book Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson stated that nationalistic ideologies originated from emptiness within an area where people have homogenous consciousness. This film, therefore, explores people in a variety of communities in Thailand, such as high school students, religious people, nationalistic right-wingers, military cadets, and people in the Southern border, in an attempt to find what foundation the Thai nation is formed upon. The film was shot during a time when Thailand was at its most nationalistic, with the military regime and coup leaders in power. It was also a time of great risk as the junta held absolute power in controlling the citizens by means of withholding and manipulating information, controlling people’s behavior and restricting rights, mental and psychological brainwashing, as well as widespread suppression and punishment of any anti-government voices. This left the country with a great number of political prisoners as well as those who have fled in exile.
I have personally known Benedict Anderson, a professor who specialized in Southeast Asian history, since 2005. Among many suggestions that he has given me was “why don’t you make a film on the Southern border conflict?” since I originally came from that region and my hometown was just 30 minutes away from the border. I have touched upon the issue before, although quite superficially, in my previous works like This Area is Under Quarantine (2008) and The Terrorists (2011) which tells of incidents that took place not far from the problematic area. However, I had never really dared to enter the area myself. Later, Anderson passed away in 2015, not long after another coup d’etat by the military in Thailand. This made me contemplate subject matters that I had never addressed in my work before, namely the Southern border and ultra-nationalists. All these issues now appear in this documentary as my tribute to “Khroo Ben” Benedict Anderson (1936-2015)
One of the most actual, original and courageous documentaries in the programme. PANSITTIVORAKUL became notorious for making wildly homo-erotic experimental movies – and for a sharp viewer there are still traces there – but this movie might be his most mature and accessible one. In a visual way the movie explores the rise of nationalism and observes a variety of communities in Thailand. They are all there: soldiers and students and other boys.
“Ruling the country is for soldiers, not civilians”, is a recurring sentiment in this documentary that gets its title from German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin: nationalist ideologies always develop in ’empty time’, in places where people share a ‘homogeneous consciousness’. Based on this idea, the film observes the causes of rising nationalism in Thailand without comment. Various groups are observed, from military cadets to Buddhists, Muslims and the pupils of a Christian boarding school. Their opinions vary wildly on many subjects, but what unites them is boundless confidence in the monarchy.
Documentary makers Thunska Pansittivorakul and Harit Srikhao shot Homogeneous, Empty Time between the 2014 military coup and the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2016, as the military leaders consolidated their grip on society and countless political opponents were imprisoned.
International Film Festival Rotterdam
An edgy, vital political documentary – which people in the Kingdom will not get to see.