News & Updates

24.06.19 Academic panel in Singapore

We wrapped up our busy month of June with a trip to present papers at the Asian Cinema Studies Society Conference at La Salle University, Singapore. The idea of the panel is to gather academics who are working on the subject of film location and fan activities in Southeast Asia together to share ideas and also generate interests and build connections withothers working on related subjects. Several academics we spoke to are working on related areas and we are looking forward to follow their works. Apart from the conference, we also managed to visit the Newton Food Centre featured in the film Crazy Rich Asian (2018) as part of our group dinner!


Below are our panel abstracts:


Multiple Perspectives on Film Locations and Fan Tourism in Asia

THE 13TH ASIAN CINEMA STUDIES SOCIETY CONFERENCE, SINGAPORE.

JUNE 2019


Reflecting on the phenomenon of people travelling to film locations in Asia, particularly the rise of pan-Asian travel films as well as the increased interest in the subject of space and Asian cinema, this panel explores multiple perspectives on film locations and fan tourism from aspects of aesthetic trope, to socio-political discourse, to fan participatory culture. The panel seeks to highlight how the physical space of Asia - shaped by various types of film over time - are mediated by new generation of filmmakers, producers, digital nomads, fans, stars and policy makers. Each of these agents revisits certain discursive construction of past films while also carving new ways of experiencing locations across different screen cultures.


The first paper Southeast Asian Film Trail: Past Colonial Legacy and Present Fan Tourism by Wikanda Promkhuntong and Kate Taylor-Jones discusses how Southeast Asian spaces which have been organised through film history are re-represented via digital nomads and new film festivals that promoted film locations. In the process, a kind of Southeast Asian film trails are created with places such as Ko Phi Phi, Thailand featured in The Beach (2000), Angkor Wat, Cambodia featured in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Ubud, Bali featured in Eat, Pray, Love (2010) and new sites in Chiang Mai shaped by a generation of Chinese films following the success of Lost in Thailand (2012). These new trials intersect with earlier trails shaped by cold-war Hollywood films shot in various locations in Asia such as The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lord Jim(1965), Good Morning, Vietnam (1988). Operated mainly by US and UK digital nomads and Chinese tour companies, it is inevitable to see these sites as agents of nostalgia for the old Asia with cultural sites and exotics landscapes. This worldview is subsequently fostered by location scouting agents and governmental events such as Thailand Film Destination Festival started in 2013 by the Department of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and Sports. Countering the economic-driven notion of fan tourism through the trail creation discussed above, the paper draws attention to artists and film fans who challenge dominant discourses on fan tourism through aspects of performance and play. A specific case on the UK’s artist Richard DeDomenici’s Redux Project will be discussed to illustrate how parody short film and ludic photography promoted by micro festivals and social media draw attention to underexplored cultural sites and alternative ways to experience space.


The second paper by Pasoot Lasuka Creating “Authentic” Experiences: Tourism Objects in Thai Travel Cinema looks closely into the construction of iconic locations in Thai travel cinema which reveals the dual process of creating an authentic experience of a character as a traveller on the one hand and overtly highlighting the experience of ‘being elsewhere’ outside Thailand on the other. Lasuka begins by discussing the development of the narrative of “being elsewhere” of Thai “travel cinema” by focusing on tourism objects, or tourist attractions used in the films to help narrate the travel experiences of the characters and filmmakers. The narrative of “being elsewhere” has been regarded to be a tool that helps legitimise the narrator’s travel experience. However, in filmmaking, especially of the Thai commercial context, this process can go beyond the process of experience authentication, to cover the process of make-belief (that the character has really been aboard). While the films temporally take the audience away, they have to convince the audience of the constructed world of the characters. In this stage, tourism objects become a contested site, in which the filmmakers of travel cinema have to negotiate between what is commonly practised among general tourists who visit that sites, and what can be possible for the characters to show their experiences of ‘being elsewhere’. From the Golden Gate Bridge in Red Chilli and Ham (1989) to the Opera House in Bad Genius(2017), Lasuka demonstrates how these tourism objects work to organise the travel and cinematic experiences of being elsewhere and what Thai travel cinema may imply through this kind of narrative construction.


Expanding from the aspect of narrative device in travel cinema to the representation of Bangkok as a city in a number of co-production films, the third paper Bangkok as Film Locations: Representations of Bangkok in the European, Thai, and Southeast Asian Film Co-productions by Veluree Metaveevinij investigates three distinctive kinds of representations of Bangkok. The first kind of representations is produced by European films, which mostly present Bangkok as an uncivilized city of sex and adventures where Western characters discover their innate desires; for example, Emmanuelle(1974), and Only God Forgives (2013). Conversely, Bangkok in Thai films is always portrayed as a city of modernity and capitalism. Especially, after 1997 economic crisis, narratives of many post crisis Thai cinema, including 6ixtynin9(1999), and Monrak Transistor (2001), concern the Thai middle-class who escapes from Bangkok capitalism and restores their faith in humanity in local communities outside Bangkok. Lastly, the third kind of representation is found in co-production films between Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries such as Sabaidee Luang Prabang (2008) and From Bangkok to Mandalay(2016). Although the films are internationally co-produced, all films are directed by Thai filmmakers and aim to promote tourism in Southeast Asian countries. In the films, Thai characters usually are Bangkokians who are bored with Bangkok alienation and, therefore, travel to new beautiful places in Southeast Asia. Eventually, the colonial discourse is constantly produced by the films. But, instead of Western characters, Bangkokian characters is placed in colonizer positions to explore the exotic sites of neighboring countries.


The last paper of the panel Somewhere Only We Know: Mapping Thai Yaoi Stars, Travels and Fan Culture by Natthanai Prasannam looks closer into the subculture of yaoi Thai fans and the construction of affective space. Prasannam begins by reflecting on the revival of yaoi texts in Thai screen culture since 2014, which is also the time when same-sex relationship among Thai male teenagers was widely reimagined after the influence of the Korean Wave. The return of yaoi on Thai television led to the production of yaoi couples (male same-sex couples) within the Thai star industry which are warmly received by Pan-Asian fans. In light of this context, the paper discusses the construction of Thai yaoi stars by their fans through the process of travel. A specific case study discussed is a yaoi-couple called Tay-New produced by GMMTV - one of the biggest entertainment companies in Thailand. Tay-New’s duo star persona is presented as travelling companions. Their intimacy is reimagined and reinterpreted through travels and their trips are always publicized on social media then reimagined through fan texts—fans’ videos, fan fiction and fans’ pilgrimage. Subsequently, this persona is endorsed by related special episodes of television series and television shows featuring and hosted by Tay-New. Their popularity in relation to travel is followed by sponsorships by tourism industry and governmental sectors. Through this case study, Prasanam explores how the intimate connection between Thai yaoi stars and their fans is shaped by the notion of travel and participatory culture, at the same time it is also complicated by entertainment conglomerates and the tourism industry.

This panel is formulated as part of British Academy’s Newton Mobility exchange network focusing on fan tourism and the Southeast Asian film trails. (Mahidol University – University of Sheffield)


Contributor Information

1. Pasoot Lasuka, Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University

Email: pasoot.lasuka@cmu.ac.th

Pasoot Lasuka is a lecturer in literary and cultural studies at Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University. He is interested in travel narratives both in verbal and cinematic forms. His other works include critical analyses of life writing, particularly the biographical writing.


2. Veluree Metaveevinij, College of Innovation, Thammasat University

Email: veluree.m@gmail.com

Veluree Metaveevinij is a lecturer in creative industries at College of Innovation, Thammasat University. Her interest includes both film studies and cultural studies. She has graduated PhD in Film Studies at SOAS, University of London, UK. Her current research project sponsored by Thailand Research Fund concern critical analyses of Thailand-Southeast Asian co-productions by using concepts of transnational cinema and audience studies.


3. Wikanda Promkhuntong (joint-paper), Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University

Email address: wikanda.pro@mahidol.edu

Wikanda Promkhuntong is a lecturer in Film and Cultural Studies at the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University, Thailand. Her research focuses on East Asian and transnational cinemas, film authorship and reception studies. Her works include the examination of the global success of East Asian auteurs via film festival, multi-platform distribution and online fan culture, as well as the phenomenon of fan tourism/cinephile pilgrimage in Asia. She has completed her PhD in Film Studies at Aberystwyth University, Wales UK.


4. Kate Taylor-Jones (joint-paper), School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield

Email: k.e.taylor-jones@sheffield.ac.uk

Kate Taylor-Jones has a varied background with a broad expertise in many forms of visual arts. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in East Asian Studies at University of Sheffield. Taylor-Jones’s research is highly interdisciplinary and draws on a variety of fields including film studies, history, gender and sexuality studies, media studies, visual culture and critical theory. Her research interests can broadly be defined as: the cinema of Imperial Japan and its legacy across East Asia, representations of East Asian girlhood in film and media, and representation of prostitution and sex work in visual culture.


5. Natthanai Prasannam, Department of Literature, Kasetsart University

Email: fhumnnp@ku.ac.th

Natthanai Prasannam is Associate Professor of Thai literary and cultural studies at the Department of Literature, Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand. His publications touch upon various fields: contemporary Thai literature, film studies, memory studies and adaptation studies. He is now growing his research interests in Thai and transcultural intermediality after his long stay in St Andrews, Scotland for his doctoral research.

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