Een Thaise visser ontfermt zich over een gewonde man die hij aantreft in de bossen aan de kust. Daar spelen zich geheimzinnige zaken af. Vele lichamen zijn er haastig begraven. ’s Nachts dwalen lichtjes rond als zielen van overledenen. De visser noemt de man Thongchai. Hoewel deze geen woord spreekt en vermoedelijk doof is, bloeit er kalmpjes een mooie vriendschap. Dit brengt de visser tot een besluit met verregaande gevolgen. Wanneer hij op een dag niet terugkeert van zee neemt Thongchai stap voor stap het leven van zijn redder over – zelfs diens teruggekeerde ex-vrouw.
Het realisme van dit aanvankelijk eenvoudige verhaal vermengt zich met magische elementen tot een complex geheel met veel ruimte voor interpretatie. Aroonpheng draagt deze eerste lange speelfilm op aan de Rohingyas, want de doden kunnen omgekomen vluchtelingen uit buurland Myanmar zijn. Deze poëtische hommage werd onder meer bekroond als beste film in de Orizzonti-sectie van Venetië.
Director’s NOTE Moei River. A small body of water marking a frontier between Thailand and Myanmar. I arrived at this place in 2009, alone and excited, looking across to the Myanmar side. There was no immigration checkpoint, no patrol soldier, no barbed wires. Just a waist-deep creek separating me from crossing over. I looked ahead to the other side. A small boy emerged through a bush. He got in the water and began to swim towards my direction, my country. On my side of the shore, a couple of feet away, two other boys were joking around. They yelled out to the foreign boy to swim over and join them. I watched, as the three boys swam and played together in the Moei. That same year, boats carrying Rohingya refugees were pushed away from the Thai shore by the authorities. Five wooden boats capsized. Three hundred Rohingyas disappeared into the ocean. I wished their fate were similar to that of ‘Thongchai’, the first character in my screenplay. He was wounded and washed over to the Thai shore, but alive. In 2015, on a hill in Padang Besar, a southern Thai border town 300 metres away from Malaysia’s Perlis Tunnel, a mass gravesite of Rohingyas were discovered. The cause of those deaths remains a mystery. As corpses cannot talk, things were slowly forgotten. At a pivotal scene in my film, multiple voices were heard in the forest. They are the voices of sorrow and tears. I recorded those voices from Rohingya refugees in Thailand. Their voices will not disappeared and forgotten. They will continue to exist, in my film.
At the moment in the film when the ‘blond-haired fisherman’ character returns and sees how Thongchai, a man he once rescued, has taken over his own house and his former lover, a violence is suddenly brewing. Over these years, I keep hearing stories about refugees fleeing terrors and sneaking into my country. Many people here see them as unwelcome elements that will pose danger. I found myself confronting with extremist nationalism and discrimination from several friends whom I grew up with since childhood. People who built up resentment and selfishness, who were taught to believe in the idea of a segregated nation that they have to protect at all cost. I close my eyes and imagine a dark and isolated forest, completely quiet save for the sounds of birds and insects, under the moonlight shining through tree leaves. I look around intently at my forest. Suddenly, a deranged man creates bright neon lights all over the forest. Ugly foreign lights in green, yellow, blue and red. The deranged man proclaims that all the piece of lands where his neon lights touch belong to ‘ours’. He puts his arm on my shoulder. I opened my eyes again. The Moei was right in front of me. The sun was setting. Two young boys said goodbye to their foreign friend. The child walked through the water, heading back where he came from. I looked at that foreign child slowly disappearing from my sight. The sun was now gone as well. I felt the ugly neon lights slowly beginning to emerge from the land where I stood. The lights were shining over to the middle of the Moei river in front of me. Phuttiphong Aroonpheng March 2018
Vanaf 12 september 2019 is MANTA RAY te zien in de filmtheaters:
EYE Amsterdam - De Filmhallen Amsterdam - Rialto Filmtheater Amsterdam - Filmhuis Den Haag - Louis Hartlooper Complex Utrecht - Lantaren Venster Rotterdam - Filmtheater Hilversum - Filmhuis O42 Nijmegen - Focus Filmtheater Arnhem - De Lieve Vrouw Amersfoort - Groninger Forum - Concordia Cinema Enschede - Filmhuis Alkmaar - Filmhuis Bussum - Lumière Cinema Maastricht - Slieker Film Leeuwarden - Filmschuur Haarlem - Fraterhuis Zwolle