I have been interested in a topic of extinction for a while, the extinction of species, of voices, of tradition, and of cinema. Thai society on the surface looks peaceful, however, there are so many injustices going on that contribute to the elimination of “the other”. The government uses the terms such as “Preservation of the Thai Values” and “National Security” as pretexts to destroy different opinions, beliefs, and cultures. I come across too often news about discrimination and violence towards minorities. In 2006 and 2007, at the peak of the military-controlled regime, five provincial governors in Thailand have issued regulations that prohibits migrant workers from leaving their designated housing at night, prohibits them from using mobile phones, and from gathering together outside of their houses in groups of more than five. The decrees are specifically enforced on the workers from Burma, Laos, and Cambodia, despite the fact that Thailand has migrant workers from various countries. Even though there are strong protests from human right groups, until now the decrees have not been nullified. This decrees led to the unsightly episodes such as extortions by the police and the arrests of migrant workers who participated their cultural events at the temples.
In my recent short film, the main actor is played by a migrant worker from Shan state in Burma named Jaai. The shooting of this film provided me a great opportunity to learn from his stories. He is one of the lucky ones who have decent jobs and are contented with the new living condition. But there exist many others who are still living in the opposite circumstances. For this film project, Mobile Men, it is a portrait of Jaai. By the act of making the film, I would like to instill and capture his confidence and dignity. It is not about storytelling, but about a man who is full of life.
Making film is the most liberating act for me. I often work with the same crew and actors who become good friends over the years. So every time we are making a film, it is like a carnival. I would like to introduce Jaai into this world of ours. We are creating semi-parallel universes – of real life and of imagined life. These two lives are at times cross path. I put real people’s gestures and stories into a film. It is true that Human Rights are real, but the “presentation” of the topics is always subjective. I try to convey this idea of “no boundary” or at least “less boundary” between the making and what you see.
In Mobile Men, the cinema is a tool to create self-awareness. It is important for one to be proud of one’s own existence and recognize it in the others. Here the situation is choreographed as a movie-making game to celebrate youth, beauty, and dignity. The film honors simple gestures that mark individuality through visual exchanges. I hope the viewers realize that, when the actors and a director are holding a camera and shoot, we are destroying a discriminating barrier. The pickup truck simulates a small moving island without frontiers where there is freedom to communicate, to see, and to share.