Most Remarkable Thai Film Directors
| 5 MIN READ |
Written by Patrick Harney | @pharnney
Japanom Yeerum better known internationally as Tony Jaa is a martial artist stuntman turned actor turned director. With his first break as an actor in “Ong Bak” he gained international recognition where he later took on roles outside of Thailand becoming an international star in movies like “XXX: Return of Xander Cage”, “Fast and Furious”, “Master Z: Ip Man”, “The Protector” and many more. Being in so many film productions, collaborated with so many production house in Thailand and having the demand for “Ong Bak” squeals, Tony Jaa had not only starred in the second and third movies but was the screenplay writer and lead director for both. Based on his experience being in so many films, there is no doubt he was the perfect candidate to direct this culturally rich, action packed Thai feature film.
Prachya Pinkaew is a Thai film director, producer, screenwriter and someone who had worked very close with Tony Jaa being the director of the first “Ong Bak” film. Graduating with an architecture degree Prachya later had won multiple best music video awards in the 90s in the Thailand Golden Television Awards. In 2003 he took lead of the production house for the film “Ong Bak” which ended up being an international sensation and the highest grossing film of the year. Prachya gained momentum directing his style of action movies and went on to make several international blockbusters due to this recognition.
Being one of Thailand’s most celebrated directors Pen-ek Ratanaruang who also goes by the name of Tom Pannett; started his career journey by studying film at Pratt Institute. He later started working for an agency producing TV commercials winning numerous creativity awards including the Cannes Lion Awards and debut his first film years later called “Fun Bar Karaoke”. Gaining traction for his work, this production director created a pan asian concept that fused Thai and Japanese worlds together in “Last life in the universe”. This feature film production ended up being a cult classic and created a new wave platform of cinematography in Thai films.
Nick named “Joe”; Apichatpong hails from Khon Kean and has directed dozens of short films and features over his early career and expresses his work as experimental and unorthodox. This unorthodox style of this director is bias toward using non-professional actors finding the borderline of authenticity and beauty in film. Winning the first ever Palme Award for a director in Thailand was one of the Thai film industry’s greatest acknowledgements, as the film that won “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” ended up fascinating one of the judges of the film festival; Tim Burton who called it “A beautiful dream”.
NYU educated, Aditya Assarat is not one to conform to the Thai film standards but rather uses his experimental creativity and even feels more comfortable writing his scripts in English first than in Thai. His graduate thesis; a 15 minute short film “Motorcycle” gained popularity and was screened in multiple film festivals winning awards from best short film, Gold Hugo award, and even Vision of Life Award at the 2000 Bangkok Film Festival. It was named best short film in the Aspen Shortsfest and the Shorts International Film Festival in New York City. In 2006 he had directed his full feature length drama film winning yet again multiple film awards and top prizes around the world. In his recent film production “10 years Thailand” he reflects the future of Thailand co directing with the film producer Apichatpong Weerasethakul above.
If you want to know more about the film industry in Thailand then you must read our Film Industry in Thailand – A Producer’s Guide article.
Thumbnail photo by Pim Chu on Unsplash
Tony Jaa picture on Kungfu Kingdom
Prachya Pinkaew photo on IMDb
Pen-ek Ratanaruang photo on Alliance Francaise
Apichatpong Weerasethakul photo on Anthem Magazine
Aditya Assarat photo on Berlinale