THE ISLAND FUNERAL
Directed by Pimpaka Towira
FIPRESCI Prize, 2016 Hong Kong International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2016 International Film Festival Rotterdam
Best Asian Future Film Award, 2015 Tokyo International Film Festival
The unforgettable women in THE ISLAND FUNERAL evoke proper fear – the muscle clench appropriate in the presence of something almost-ancestral, the power of invisible truths. Pimpaka Towira, Thailand’s preeminent female director, has delivered a film which can only be described as a paranormal, de-colonial, feminist, political road movie. Set against a backdrop of political turmoil oozing from the pores of the countryside, Towira asks where the answers might lie to Thailand’s deep unrest, and takes us to mapless regions, dark hearts, and utopic flights of hope.
Three Bangkok’ites Laila, Zugood, and Toy abandon GPS technology as they search for Laila’s aunt in the southernmost region of Pattani, all the while crossing geography that becomes increasingly secretive and loaded with the whispers of the violent unrest surrounding them. In spite of her companions’ disorientation, Laila is as resolute as a compass needle, wayfinding along the invisible axis she shares with her long-lost aunt deep in a mysterious location. As the trio continue, THE ISLAND FUNERAL’s allegorical journey exposes the religious and ethnic fault lines below the surface, as Laila and Zugood’s non-Muslim friend confesses to his racial fears and misreadings, and as the strangeness of place dances between the inhospitable and self-recognition.
Shot on 16mm, the movie is a visual feast, experimenting with footage of a roaming military intercut with ethereal shots of women in hijab and shady encounters with roadside specters. Co-written by Towira and renowned critic Kong Rithdee, THE ISLAND FUNERAL traces a gradient from elliptical to ceremonial, arriving at a place that literally flickers; light and shadow blink on and off between the tangible and the otherworldly. Towira gives us the best kind of cinema – one that is equal measures uncanny and hopeful, a story that will both chill your bones and blur the map lines. A movie akin to walking slowly in the dark using only memories, intuition, and the North Star to take us somewhere new. –Christina Ree
Writer: Pimpaka Towira, Kong Rithdee
Starring: Heen Sasithorn, Aukrit Pornsumpunsuk, Yossawat Sittiwong