NEW YORK, April 27, 2011 – Thai filmmaker Mingmongkol Sonakul spoke with La Frances Hui, curator of Asia Society's film series Blissfully Thai (May 13 –June 17, 2011) about her film I-San Special (2002), which depicts an unusual and surreal bus journey from Bangkok to I-San in northeastern Thailand.
Seemingly possessed, the bus passengers act out parts of a soap opera playing on the radio. All at once, the small and unassuming bus becomes a fancy hotel, the backdrop for a step-mother and -daughter drama, and a glamorous fashion show.
Although the film is experimental in nature, Mingmongkol explained that her intent was to break through to Thailand's general filmgoing public by incorporating the popular soap opera form. A large number of residents of I-San, a poor region with about a third of Thailand’s population, have to make a living far away from home; consequently, said Mingmongkol, factories in urban areas, their rural homes, and the bus are the spaces they inhabit. Using nonprofessional actors to play bus passengers, the film fulfills the fantasies ordinary men and women have of playing leads in a soap opera.
Asia Society's Blissfully Thai film series is presented in association with Cineaste. Major support for this film series is provided by the Thai-US Partnership Program of Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thai Artists Alliance, and the New York State Council on the Arts.