Sisters of Isan displays Isan (the northeastern part of Thailand)’s value and their construction at the beginning of the 20th century together with Thailand as a modern state. The book has recorded the stories of two sisters growing up and working from the countryside to Bangkok. At the same time, the book shows the perspectives of Isan people through their belief, lifestyle, culture, social norm, value and fate. This book covers the changes by over 50 years of Isan workers and Thailand. Hence, beyond two sisters who had shifted from rural to urban landscape, the stories inside reflect how Thai society has come. The struggle is not something Isan people choose, whereas, reading this book may imply the answer. Sisters of Isan is not just a book. This infers lives… the Isan’s lives.
At the world premiere of Cemetery of Splendour at Cannes Film Festival last week, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s newest work was well received. But despite receiving a standing ovation and being celebrated among film critics, the director came home empty-handed in the prize ceremony.
Set in his hometown Khon Kaen, Cemetery of Splendour (Thai: Rak Thi Khon Kaen), tells the story of Jenjira, a housewife who takes care of group of soldiers who suffer from a mysterious sleeping sickness (watch the trailer at the bottom).
In a recent interview with The Isaan Record, Apichatpong explained that the film is inspired much by his childhood memories of Khon Kaen, a city that is now slowly losing its identity, he said.
Cemetery of Splendour missed out on the official selection and was screened in the Un Certain Regard section, which presents “original and different” films. It is Apichatpong’s first feature-length film since his 2010 Palme d’Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
Apichatpong showed no regret that his film did not appear in the main section. On the contrary, the world premiere was a “stress-free situation,” he said, because his film did not have to prove itself in the competition.
And even though his film was not awarded a prize this year, it was lauded by both the audience and film critics alike. The Guardian’s Brad Bradshaw compares it with “a very calm sort of hysteria” and the applause after the first screening lasted well over ten minutes.
“I felt touched by the reception of the film. The standing ovation was longer than when I showed Uncle Boonmee which made me happy for my producers because together we worked so hard to get this film off the ground,” Apichatpong told The Isaan Record.
Cemetery of Splendour will be screening around the globe at many film festivals and will be released in France in September. However, it is unlikely that the film will hit Thai theaters any time soon.