- Cast & Crew
- Other Trailer
- Photo Gallery
- Nude Collection
Pride & Passion
Director Nonzee Nimibutr makes movies that set Thailand's box-office alight. Now he's really turning up the heat with Jan Dara
Jan Dara is the most anticipated Thai film in years for a couple of reasons. It will be Nonzee's third movie, and his first two, Dan Bireley and the Young Gangsters and Nang Nak, both broke box office records in Thailand. Nang Nak went on to tour the European festival circuit, where Nonzee was proclaimed something of a wing-collar art house director, giving Thailand a seat at the ongoing banquet of honor being served up to Asian filmmakers. Indeed, the new movie is being produced by Hong Kong's Peter Ho-Sun Chan, who directed The Love Letter for Dreamworks in 1999, and Nonzee is pushing the production schedule to wrap in time to exhibit the film at Cannes.
The other cause for excitement is that Jan Dara is the filmed version of a 1966 literary novel known intimately to almost all in Thailand, or at least most of the males. "Jan Dara was where sex education started for most of us," says 39-year-old hipster director Pen-ek Ratanaruang (6ixtynin9). While the dramatic content is key, the flesh quotient in the movie is generous. Nonzee estimates that 20% of screen time features some nudity, and that includes voyeurism, four rapes and, of course, the lesbian scene Nonzee has held for the final day of shooting. "In my first film," marvels Nonzee, tugging on a Marlboro Light cigarette, "I wasn't even allowed to show a pair of breasts." But the board of censors is no longer made up of policemen, as it was in the past. In fact, Nonzee himself is on the board now, so he is hoping to get away with more. "Everybody in Thailand is having sex everyday," he says, "yet nobody wants to confront it openly, talk about it openly. It's people's hypocrisy that makes it taboo. We need to be more honest about sex. It's not a crime." In addition, Nonzee is not throwing away any stuff too steamy for local consumption. "I'll do two versions of this movie," he grins. "One for Thailand and one for everybody else." Sly. That's the Nonzee way.
The fame of the book, a tale of guilt and retribution told through a prism of frank sexuality, is such that many directors wanted to film it, but Nonzee was the producer's first choice after the success of Nang Nak. Jan Dara, the curious but ultimately doomed main character (played by Thai TV actor Eakarat Sarsukh), is abandoned from the start of his life: his mother dies during childbirth and his father brands him a bastard. (The boy's first memory of his father is watching him have sex with a nanny.) At 13, he is thrown out of the family home for supposedly trying to rape his stepsister. Nonzee's movie concentrates on Jan Dara's return to the house as a young adult to exact vengeance from his father. His life is further complicated by three women: a highly Westernized stepmother who brings Malay colonial influence into the picture (she smokes and drinks coffee), a manipulative stepsister whom he's forced to marry and a virginal classmate. Ultimately, the main character doesn't get revenge: instead, he unwittingly ends up repeating his father's self-destructive life.
Nonzee's most endearing trick has been to remain a commercial director within Thailand while gaining respect on the art house circuit overseas. Japanese director Akira Kurosawa used to say that the best way to become international was to be as true to one's own culture as possible. Nonzee is no different, and tips his hat to Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou for the same reason. "His films all smack of the East, particularly Ju Dou, and I want to give Thai cinema the same sense of identity that Yimou gave Chinese cinema." Rival director and friend Ratanaruang has Nonzee down better than any. "I think he's more Chen Kaige than Zhang Yimou," he enthuses. "Kaige is capable of art house, but he's also got business savvy. That's something Nonzee instinctively has." He may not be blessed with the talent of a Zhang Yimou, but Nonzee's cleverness more than compensates. Streetwise, savvy, this film will work for him too. "Nobody in Thailand could do this project better than Nonzee," says Timkul. "He's very hip, he understands what people want and they love him for it." Whether he goes international or not, Nonzee is writing a whole new page of Thai cinematic history.