Cannes Palme d’Or-winning Thai filmmaker and visual artist Apichatpong
Weerasethakul presented a compelling notion before emerging filmmakers
at Qumra 2018: The distant possibility of hooking up all the brains in
the world to share their dreams.
“We will no longer need cinema then,” he said, underpinning his own meditative approach to film as a medium that is after all, “evolved from dreams”.
Weerasethakul’s masterclass took audiences on his original journey in cinema, shaped by the collective memory of his own and his friends, and shaped from their dreams.
He connected dreams to movies, reminding audiences of the four cycles of the brain while one is at sleep, and concluding that “movies evolved from this”. He said sleep is “like cinema but much better, as various scenarios from our memories play out.”
For him, the art of making films is to exorcise these memories and lay them out bare. In today’s world, where message distortion and fake news thrive, his own interpretation of storytelling and history is that they are “devices to bluff memories and to manipulate them”.
Weerasethakul was also vocal about the concerns that he sees as a filmmaker in Thailand’s contemporary political scene. At one point, he speculated how his own cinematic interpretations and visual installations could be perceived by the military authorities, and told about how several of his friends had their social media accounts monitored and were sent to camps “for attitude adjustment,” where they are “tortured psychologically”.
He also presented a captivating presentation on his journey, taking audiences through visuals of his hometown, the people and places that shaped his memories, and his cutting-edge installations that interpolate cinema, art, visuals and theatre, into something that is singularly mysterious.
Weerasethakul said he is not overtly concerned about whether his works would be understood for what he intended.
“After a screening of my movie, one person got very angry and demanded a refund. I obliged. Over time, I have come to care less and less about such responses because what matters is how honest you are. If you believe in conventional cinema go for it but make it the best,” he said. “You are your first audience and you must be truthful to yourself.”
Urging young talents not to be let down by criticism, he reminisced how his teacher had asked him to “go back to school and learn filmmaking” after watching his film.
Discussing his movies, including the Palme d’Or winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives, Weerasethakul said his fascination for cinema was shaped by the works of Steven Spielberg (ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind).
“The way he deals with science fiction, and how he introduced a lot of smoke and backlighting”, fascinated the young boy,” he said.
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