It’s taken me two weeks to recover from the 3rd Amazing Stoner Movie Fest at Cinema Oasis. What a fun and unexpectedly serious festival that was. Thank you everyone for making it such a happy experience, especially the filmmakers whose labours of love so enchanted us.
The apocalyptic vibe of this historic moment seems reflected in the winning films: ‘Blood Rain’ (Golden Ganja), ‘Blessed Demon’ (Baby Golden Ganja), ‘Head in the Clouds’ (Audience Award) and ‘Pain of Silence’ (Most Necessary Film).
How astounding to discover that three of the films came from Thai directors, and that one of the German co-directors of the very German ‘Head in the Clouds’ lives in Thailand. Oh dear Lord Shiva, Ganja Guru Dev, has our stoner movie fest become demonically possessed by radical nationalism? This is unlikely, given the extreme protective white magic put in place by the best local (Sukhum)witches, and the fact that Cinema Oasis was built by filmmakers banned for endangering fascistic notions of national security.
It’s even more extraordinary when you consider that the first Amazing Stoner Movie Fest in 2019 received and screened hardly any Thai films at all; we had a miraculous film from Saudi Arabia with newly-weds in a hotel room, but almost nothing from Thai filmmakers. At the last minute a flawless film with Hollywood production values arrived from Mahidol Film School, ‘30K An Ounce’ by a Thai-born Indian film student, which won the short film prize, then called the Crystal Bong (now changed to the Baby Golden Ganja due to difficulty in sending ‘drug paraphernalia’ abroad). The Golden Ganja went to the mind-blowing ‘SuperPsychoCebu’ from the Philippines.
COVID Lockdown postponed the 2nd edition until November 2022. Not many Thai films then either, though the opening movie was the hysterical ‘The Maestro’ by a Bangkok-based English director, which went on to win the Audience Award. The Golden Ganja went to awesome Brazilian Kung Fu stoner movie ‘The Smoke Master’, while eerie ‘Face to Face’ from the Congo won the Crystal Bong. Special award Most Shocking Stoner Movie went to the emasculating ‘Space Birth 2’.
Clearly some kind of renaissance is happening here, with classical musicians making films, with animation transcending childish fantasy, with a hunger for Reality to be reflected in Thai cinema, with films becoming the alchemical instrument of the filmmakers’ psyche; and all done with love, technical accomplishment, and style. And few resources.
So it was another shock to hear the winners’ emotional acceptance speeches, that each and every single winning director have suffered so much from rejection by other Thai film festivals, even as their work was being honoured abroad, as in the case of ‘Pain of Silence’. Everyone there was shocked by this revelation, coming one after another, and moved to tears along with them. These talented people should be supported and cheered on; they should not suffer as we’ve suffered—has nothing changed for Thai filmmakers in 30 years? It’s supposed to be better; it’s supposed to be different for them.
Not just the winners but during the festival other Thai directors shared horror stories of heartbreak and rejection or outright condemnation, making me realise that there’s a lot more banning going on of ‘sensitive’ films than meets the eye, below the radar, beyond the official censors in their dark deliberation room, by people who have somehow become our arts and culture police. The demon of nationalism did not possess us. These films deserve to be honoured and their directors cheered on to make more films that so enrich the world.
It’s also not surprising when you think about it that all 3 short films that have won Best Stoner Short all deal with oppression: being forced to pay bribe to police after a weed bust (30K An Ounce); the history of the slave trade in the Congo (Face to Face); Siamese colonial suppression of Ubon (Blessed Demon). After all, stoners or ganjachon in Thai well understand what it is to be a victim of oppression—of cultural oppression and misrepresentation, of slander as well as criminalisation of Lord Shiva’s sacred plant.
Thai filmmakers have no human rights so long as they can be banned. Thus stoners and filmmakers are a perfect match in the struggle for the freedom to be our true selves and tell our stories with truth, beauty and unrestricted imagination.
Downstairs in the atrium the post-sunset open-air screenings (kicked off by Thai ganja icon Piak Lek Hip and Iron Pussy director and star Michael Shaowanasai with his original cult ‘The Adventures of Iron Pussy Episode 2’) amidst the bean bags, cushions and the happy stall the chill vibe reigned. May we continue to be free, to be ourselves, unhurried and unbullied, out of the dark closet and the silence. May cinema follow ganja out of that darkness of enforced silence, into the light of day. Chaiyo!
All We Weed Is Love
(Dr) Alice Skinhead
Amazing Stoner Movie Fest at Cinema Oasis