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This project dedicated to cinematographies from Africa, Latin and South America and Southern Asia was made possible thanks to the support of IFTC and UNESCO.


All the information here is accurate by the time of print and based on the writer's personal method of research and collection since Thailand has no central organisation that collects data or information about Thai films. The information here was checked up with all of the Thai and English sources in Thailand, and has been regularly updated. But changes can come up at any time.

cinemas of the south

A Brief History of Cinema in Thailand
Compiled by Anchalee Chaiworaporn


The First Film Screening: The first evidence of the beginning of Thailand's cinema history appeared in the newspaper Bangkok Times on Wednesday 9 June 1897, as an advertisement for the showing of "The Wonderful Parisian Cinematograph: Picture with Live Movements" at the Mom Chaow Alangkan Theatre from June 10-12.



The First Film Made: American producer and director Henry MacRae made a film entitled Suvarna of Siam (Nang Sao Suwan) in collaboration with Topical Film Service (under That State Railways Department). This silent film about a love story was not the first film made by Thai people but the first film to star an all Thai cast. It was released to the public on 23 July 1923.



The first indigenous Thai feature, Double Luck (Choke Song Chun) was made by Bangkok Film Company (owned by the Wasuwat Brothers), and released on 30 July. It was shot in 35mm black-and-white film and directed by Luang Anurakratthakarn, former staff of Thai State Railways.



Censorship law, known as 1930 Censorship Bill, was first endorsed.



The First Sound Film: After making the first Thai feature film, the Bangkok Film Company, now operating under the name Sri Krung Sound Film Company, made the first Thai film with synchronised sound called Going Astray (Long Tang), which premiered on April 1.


1938- 1943

On 16 December 1938, Field Marshall Por Pibulsongkram became prime minister and ruled as an autocrat. Nationalism was used to protect the country from the growing economic strength of the Chinese expatriate community and Western colonial powers.



Thailand's star system emerged, starting with the most popular hero-heroine duo Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowaraj. They first appeared together in the film Pimchawee's Love Diary (Banthuek Rak Pimchawee).



Student's political involvement and youth counterculture of Thailand in the 1970's gave rise to the social-problem films, which often depicted struggles of poor people in urban areas and villagers in provincial areas. Prominent directors of this era were Prince Chatreechalerm Yukol, Euthana Mukdasanit, Vichit Kunavut, Surasee Patham, Manob Udomdej, and Permphol Choei-arun. The works included The Angel (Thepthida Rongraem) in 1974, The Violent Breed (Thewada Dern Din) in 1975, The Hell Life (Cheewit Budsob) in 1976, The Citizen (Thongpoon Khoke Pho) in 1977, The Angel of Bar (21 Thepthida Bar 21) in 1978, The Rural Teacher (Khru Bannok) in 1978, Mountain People ( Khon Phukhao) in 1979, Northeastern Son (Luk Isan) in 1982, The Gunman (Mue Puen) in 1983, The Story of Namphu (Namphu) in 1984, and Butterfly and Flower (Pheesue Lae Dokmai) in 1985.



On 6 October 1976, the army invaded Thammasat University where students demonstrated against the return of three tyrants. A large number of students were massacred and imprisoned. Many of them fled into the jungle.

The government increased the tax on foreign films from 2.20 baht to 30 baht per meter of film in an effort to promote domestic filmmaking.



Distributors of Hollywood films began boycotting showing their works. Up to 160 Thai films flooded into the theatres annually.



Video arrived and Thai cinema experienced a flood of teen flicks, starting with the formation of Tai Entertainment company and the arrival of directors Thanit Jitnukul, Adirek Wattalela, and Somjing Srisuphab. Some of most famous teen flicks of this era included Be More Crafty Hide Your Dullness (Suem Noi Noi Kalon Mak Noi) in 1985, Delighted (Pluem) in 1986, six-part series Boonchoo, and The Time Not Beyond (Kling Wai Kon Phor Son Wai) in 1991.

Teen flicks proved so popular that even directors from the social commentary era like Prince Chatreechalerm Yukol eventually made two teen films called Daughter (Sia Die) in 1995 and its sequel Daughter 2 (Sia Die 2) in 1996, both of which had a strong focus on youth problems.



Goethe Institute opened an experimental film workshop, which for the first time offered an opportunity both to film students and the public.



The Thai government was forced by American government to reduce the tariff on imported film from 30 baht, which had been imposed since 1976, to 10 baht per meter of footage. This tax reduction prompted a surge of American films being shown in Thailand.



Thailand's Entertainment Theatres Network, and the Hong Kong and Australian based Golden Village established EGV, the country's first multiplex theatres.



In February, amidst a seemingly doomed industry, Fun Bar Karaoke (Fun Baa Karaoke), the first film of TV-commercial director Penek Rattanarueng, startled the Thai film world as being the first Thai film in a decade that premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.

In April, another first film, Dang Bireley and the Young Gangsters (2499 Anthaphan Krong Muang) by TV-commercial director Nonzee Nimibutr, attracted Thai audiences across generations and broke all-time Thai box office records.

In the same month, the first Art Film Festival was arranged by private organisations to showcase the works of Thai film and arts students; this festival marked the first Thai showing of the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

In August, the first Thai Short Film and Video Festival was launched by the Thai Film Foundation, its competition open to both film students and the general public.

In October, another first-time director from the Thai advertising industry, Hong Kong- born Oxide Pang, entered the field with Who Is Running?



An unknown young director called Apichatpong Weerasethakul silently made his directorial debut with Mysterious Object At Noon, with the Rotterdam Film Festival's Hubert Balls Fund. It is a fictional documentary about Thai peoples' life in four regions.

The Bangkok Film Festival started in September under the auspices of the Nation Multimedia Group.



In March, Francis Ford Coppola and Prince Chatreechalerm Yukol announced their collaborations for the international release of Suriyothai.

In Cannes, Monrak Transistor was the first Thai film to be selected for Directors' Fortnight. A man from nowhere, Apichatpong Weerasethakul also surprised the Thai film community with his unknown work Blissfully Yours to enter Un Certain Regard and won the Mécénat Atladis prize.



Ong Bak was bought the rights by French distributor EuropaCorp, owned by the world-famous director Luc Besson for the releases in Europe, the US, and Australia. In the first week of release in France in April 2004 it opened in the fifth spot in the charts, selling 440,495 tickets on just 281 screens.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady was the first Thai film in Cannes' official competition and also the first to win Special Jury Prize.

In September, another directorial debut The Shutter by Pakpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakul, became the top taker of the year and was ranked as the sixth highest grossing Thai film of all-time.



On 10 February, Ong Bak was nationwide released in the US, taking $4,434,189 in seven weeks. Tony Jaa was appointed by the Ministry of Culture as the Cultural Ambassador, the second following tennis-player Paradorn Srichaphan.






Adventures and    Misadventures
North African Cinema
   Tendencies, Perspectives

Western Africa
   Perpetual Renewal

Ousmane Sembene
   The Elder of Elders

Souleymane Cissé
   The Right of Expression

   South America

Brazilian cinema
   Writing the speech

Diegues on Rocha
   A Dream That Came True

Nelson Pereira dos Santos
   Making Films with People

The Re-birth
   of Brazilian Cinema

Fernando Solanas
   A Profile

The Aesthetics of the    New Argentinean Cinema
Pablo Trapero
   Family Pictures

   Southern Asia

A Short History
   of Pakistani Films

A Brief History
   of Cinema in Thailand
New Thai Cinema
Lester James Peries
   A Pioneer of a Tradition