2018 FIAF Award: Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Acceptance Speech

Further information about the 2018 FIAF Award and the video of the acceptance speech can be found HERE.

"I would like to congratulate FIAF for all its work in preserving our heritage. It’s an impossible task, especially now, when moving images have become more and more disposable. You need determination, passion, and a lot of engagement. I relate to this as a filmmaker – we need to engage with images, with memories, real or fake, to be able to recreate them on the screen. I have so many feelings, besides the affinity with this community. I am excited, grateful, humble, and honored to receive the FIAF Award. It is one of the brightest spots in my long personal journey. Not bad, for a kid from Khon Kaen who was addicted to science-fiction and ghost stories, to be standing here. Back then, my town had nothing. I took refuge in the movies to mask the monotony of the hospital and the school. Now, almost 50 years later, I realize that I have never left that shelter. It acts as a bridge to the real world. As an introvert who is not really into socializing, it was the perfect place. But as a filmmaker, like it or not, you are forced to interact with the world. And over the years, it has become manageable, and actually amazing, to meet, among others, actors, producers, editors, designers, artists, lawyers, and ambassadors, even princes.

When I started out, though, I knew no one. I remember when I was in my late 20s, I went to the Thai Film Archive, which was then in Bangkok. I timidly approached Khun Dome Sukhavong, asking him for contacts. He kindly provided me with details about what was going on at the time in the local independent film scene. There wasn’t a lot going on, actually. Hollywood films were popular. But because of them, there were more movie magazines, and we started to have a new wave of film critics.

There was a sense of trying to break away from the old-fashioned style of Thai cinema. At a certain period, I and many others looked down on Thai films, perceiving them as unsophisticated. However, when I started to make my own films, those old Thai films that I grew up watching resurfaced. From memory, I had discovered something unique. In a large cinema auditorium, they embodied a special rhythm and light, the inertia, and the heat. They were not old-fashioned; they were the truth. The truth of that refuge in which I cried at the melodramatic scenes, and laughed when men hit one another in the head. And now, often when I am behind the camera, I yearn for that rhythm and the temperature of those old films. They are ghosts that refuse to disappear. They are alive, and evolve with us. Now, I no longer cry or laugh as much. When I look back at some horror films, the fake blood and bad make-up no longer evoke fear, but melancholy. In disaster movies, the storm, the earthquake, the collapsed pagoda, have become metaphors. Many fictions are no longer believable. So we search for reality. We look at history, at politics. With Thailand again under dictatorship, we are not only aware of the propaganda machine, but also of the change in the way we look at our memories. And in the process, we make a different kind of film. We make the truth of our time.

I am truly thankful for my crew members on this journey of realization. I am very blessed to have their support as a family. I’d like to thank you, the members of FIAF, who have achieved the impossible. You are making an important impact on behalf of the world’s memories, allowing them to grow and inspire… and create new stories. And I thank you for your brilliant idea to have an event here… Because my ghosts, along with those of others, live here. Khun Dome has regarded this place, the Film Archive, as a temple. For him, cinema is a religion. If I have to believe in one thing, this is it. So I’d like to dedicate this award to Khun Dome Sukhavong, who has been instrumental in making this temple a reality. This place, and the belief in it, was where my filmmaking started. And I hope that it will be a place that ignites the spirits of generations to come."

Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Thai Film Archive, Salaya
19 November 2018