Independent Thai cineaste Aditya Assarat (Bangkok, 1972), shot his first full-length film Wonderful Town in the village of Takua Pa in southern Thailand, where the tsunami spread death and destruction in 2004. "I came there two years after the tsunami and was surprised by the area's beauty, tranquillity and peace. But of course I knew what had happened there. There was a heart-wrenching difference between what the area looked like and how the people felt. The roads were new, the houses were new, and even the trees seemed new. But the people were not new. They have not yet fully grieved the tragedy. That will take much more time."
Wonderful Town tells the story of architect Ton, who visits Takua Pa and discovers that the spirits of the past are still floating there. His budding love affair with hotel owner Na proves to be fatal. "When I was wandering around there, I heard the echo of events that will never disappear. I wanted to portray that in the film. More than eight thousand people were killed in that area. Which means that someone was torn from every family. There is a collective pain that is almost palpable. The village’s economy has not yet recovered, either. Many people who worked in the tourist industry suddenly lost their employment. I saw many young people who constantly drove their scooters in circles. That image has been included in the film."
Assarat left for the United States when he was fifteen, studying film in Los Angeles, California. It was only logical for him to go to work in Hollywood. "But I opted for adventure in Thailand. At the time, Thai cinema was experiencing a new period of development that was highly stimulating. Pen-Ek, Nonzee and Apichtpong started making films, and I wanted to be a part of that. My only problem was the language. I think in Thai, but I write in English. What I actually do is write the subtitles for my films. But I am going to do it differently now. My next film is autobiographical and will be half in English. I am curious to see how that will work."
Wonderful Town will have its European premiere at the IFFR, to be held in Rotterdam from 23 January to 3 February 2008.
Wonderful Town received support from the Hubert Bals Fund.