Directed by Visra Vichit-Vadakan
Official Selection, 2013 International Film Festival Rotterdam
Official Selection, 2013 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival
Festivals are designed for films like KARAOKE GIRL. Formally inquisitive, poetically assured, and socially grounded, it delivers that rare sensory experience in which the visual can evoke a tactile space – melody, fragrance, velvet softness. That this happens to also be Thai American filmmaker Visra Vichit-Vadakan’s first feature makes it a real discovery.
Sa Sittijun, the touchpoint of KARAOKE GIRL, plays both herself and Sa, a character loosely based on a scenario in her life as a 19-year-old escort in Bangkok. Combining fiction and documentary, the film weaves between hostess work, imperfect romance, and the aging family Sa supports in the Thai countryside. Inside a maze of karaoke rooms and streetwalks are playful moments with kitchen aunties, and ebullient freshness during trips home.
Vichit-Vadakan developed a three-week collaboration with Sittijun that avoids dishing tragedy or sensationalism so common with sex work stories. Instead, we get a chromatic flood of beauty, a personal landscape that is palpable and deep, moments that are transcendent grace notes, and glimpses of care between two women at the foundation of the film.
“Hybrid” films blending documentary and fiction are now heavily-treaded waters. What makes KARAOKE GIRL so exciting are the effortless transitions between the two as if they breathe within the same space. A puff of air to move the dust around, and watch, as documentary and fiction create a fuller thing altogether. –Christina Ree