INTERVIEWS, NEWS, Thailand — 02/03/2011 12:20 AM

Mai Meksawan (Extra Virgin / Thailand) “We are looking for unique titles with crossover potential”

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Mai Meksawan, one of the 3 co-founders of Extra Virgin speaks about the doc production and distribution in Asian and Thailand. He also explains how he will distribute in Thailand the English documentary “Enemies of the People”.

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. Can you present yourself ?

I studied Architecture and Cultural Management, and started working in films when I worked for the Bangkok International Film Festival since 2004. The festival has been running on and off but I was a programmer for the most recent edition (in September 2009).

. Can you present Extra Virgin ?

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Extra Virgin is a company that I co-founded in 2007 with two other partners. We first started off as a production company and the first film we did is “THE TRUTH BE TOLD: THE CASES AGAINST SUPINYA KLANGNARONG” which is a Thai political-themed documentary feature. We then made 2 other feature films: “AGRARIAN UTOPIA” and “UNREAL FOREST” which are fictions but employed a documentary style in the narrative.

While we did not really set out to be a documentary production company, many films we made contain certain documentary elements which I’d guess just reflects how a number of filmmakers today are exploring more different ways in telling a story and blurring the line between fiction and documentary.

We expanded the activity to distribution 2 years ago by setting up a small theatrical release model for independent films where each title will be screened on limited release with a fixed period basis.

. You just acquired the thai rights for “Ennemies of the People”. Was it difficult to take this decision because of the sensitive issue ?

Thailand has a complex relationship with Cambodia and it is obviously a sensitive issue at the moment with recent news headlines. But we feel that’s why it’s important to show the film here – so that people can understand more what’s happening across the border.

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. How will you distribute this doc ? only in Thailand ?

The distribution model we set up is called Director’s Screen Project where we cooperate with a local cinema chain to release the film on 1 screen in Bangkok. Depending on the response there might be additional slots either in Bangkok or other cities in Thailand.

. Is it the first European doc you acquire for Thai distribution ?

So for we only released Thai films and ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE will be the first international title we distribute.

. Are you looking for other docs from Europe ? Which kind of subjects / topics ?

We keep our mind open but are looking for unique titles, both fiction and documentary,with crossover potential. But documentaries from Europe (and elsewhere) need to have a subject matter that is of local interest here to work in commercial distribution.

. How can Thai audience see European docs ? theaters ? TV ? home video ? On line ?

They are available on those channels plus at festivals or film clubs. The internet helps with wider exposure but VoD market is still difficult here.

. Is there a demand from Thai audience for more European docs ?

Maybe not specifically for European films but depends on the subject.

. Do you acquire many rights for Docs from Asia ?

ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE is the first non-Thai title we acquired. So far there has not been many Asian documentary feature films that fit the scope of the Director’s Screen Project well, but we keep looking.

. You are presenting a feature film project at next HAF. Do you have project to produce / finance documentary project from Thailand ? from Asia ? from Europe ?

We have 3 upcoming films in the plan but they are all conceived as fiction. One of them is DEPARTURE DAY which will be at 2011 HAF. We have some other documentary projects in the works but they are still in very early stage of development.

. How do you see the evolution of documentary production in Asia ? the emergence of independent producers and directors ?

Asian cinema is very diverse but it is still difficult for Asian documentaries to get much exposure internationally, especially inside Asia where the TV section is not strong for documentary content.

. How do you see the evolution of documentary production in Thailand ?

In terms of production it is getting better than before, there are more films being made now as the cost of making films on digital is getting lower.

. Have you recently watched an Asian doc / A European doc (except Ennemies) you specially appreciated ?

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NICOLAE CEAUSESCU (Andrei Ujica), LA BOCCA DEL LUPO (Pietro Marcello), NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT (Patricio Guzmán), PEACE (Kazuhiro Soda)

. How do you see the cooperation potential between European and Asian doc makers ?

Funding remains the major issue for local documentary filmmakers. So, many Asian documentaries are made with financial support from European institutions or producers. Then there are the cases of documentaries made in countries with limited filmmaking resources, especially in Southeast Asia, where a number of local issues are made into documentaries with collaboration from non-Asian filmmakers -BURMA VJ is one of the most obvious and recent examples in this regard.

Extra Virgin website

Enemies of the people website

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