karaoke girlJust saw Karaoke Girl, by Visra Vichit Vadakan, a 2010 graduate from NYU’s film school, and recent bride of Chris Cox, a high priest in the Facebook Empire, and a whole lot richer than me.  I saw it at the House RCA theater and nearly froze to death along with, perhaps, four other people.  In the midst of Bangkok’s nightlife these Thai independent films are forever swimming up stream for customers.

This movie is a simple movie, part documentary, part fiction, about the many rural girls who go to Bangkok to practice the dark arts of classical antiquity to escape from poverty and support their families.  I wonder if there is anything new in her treatment of this common storyline.  The movie ends with her in full cabaret plumage, a Gatsbyish Eton crop, and karaoke lyrics, yet the sorrow remains.  One of the most powerful moments in the movie occurs when her middle class boyfriend subtly dismisses her as he talks with another middle class woman.

Wise Kwai has another review over at Thai Film Journal.

3822_1Visra Vichit Vadakan
(from International Film Festival Rotterdam)

Below the words of the young woman who played the karaoke girl:

Sa’s Statement

I spent my childhood in the Thai countryside. When I was fifteen my parents and I decided that I would move to Bangkok to make money to send back to the family. I started working in a factory but I did not make enough money to send home. Eventually, I decided to work as a “girl of the night.”

I decided to do this because my family was very poor and my parents had a lot of debt. I didn’t think that there was any other way to make enough money to take care of them. I often thought about quitting my job but because I was able to give me and my family a better life, I could not.

One day, my friend introduced me to a director named Visra. She was interested in my life story and asked me to be in a documentary and also act in a film based on my life. After a lot of thought, I agreed to do this project with her.

Visra and I went back to the country with a film crew to document my father and mother and my life in the country. Visra became a part of my family. My parents were very happy to have a whole crew of people in our house living together like a big family. Even now, my parents still ask about Visra.

I had never acted in a film before. Before we shot, I rehearsed for two months. Oh my!! It was so hard. In the beginning, I was embarrassed and I wasn’t able to express myself. Eventually, I became more confident and was able to act and have fun with it.

What inspired me to quit my job is that I was able to express my true feelings through acting and singing in this film. This let me leave my past behind me.

I would like this film to touch the many people that watch it. I would like them to see that everyone can start over again. It’s never too late.

—Sa