Prostitution and kathoeys (“ladyboys”) are part of Tanwarin Sukkhapisit’s debut feature, Insects in the Backyard (at VIFF on Tuesday and Wednesday [October 5 and 6]). But on the line from Bangkok, Sukkhapisit wanted to dispel any misconceptions about Thailand.
“In general, the world know about prostitute in Thailand,” she told the Straight, apologizing for her limited English. “But in Thailand, it’s not accepted. It’s not legal. It’s not [considered] good to raise your daughter or son to be [a] prostitute.”
In the film, a tenuous family unit, composed of teenagers Johnny and Jennifer and their “big sister”, Tanya (played by Sukkhapisit, herself a kathoey who has starred in 13 of her own short films), disintegrates as each member searches for love, and slips into a world of Internet hookups, homosexuality, cross-dressing, kinky sex, and prostitution. Sukkhapisit, who will visit Vancouver for the first time for the world premiere of her film, explained that Johnny and Jennifer begin to empathize with Tanya through their sexual experimentation with others.
She emphasized that the characters don’t represent the norm; she wanted to show what is hidden in the Southeast Asian country, including homosexuality. “The characters in this film is not like the culture. They’re different, but they’re real. I want everybody to understand that.” She added that the title reflects that fact. “You know”¦the back yard has many, many insects. But nobody can see them. Like Thailand.”
Sukkhapisit’s film is up for the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema, which is given to a new director from the Asia-Pacific region. Insects in the Backyard will compete against films from Singapore (Sandcastle), Vietnam (Don’t Be Afraid, Bi!), China (Rumination), and more. The award will be presented at the screening of the Chinese blockbuster Aftershock next Thursday (October 7).
The stellar D & T jury includes South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho (The Host), Quebec’s Denis Côté (Curling, playing at VIFF on Saturday and Sunday [October 2 and 3] ), and China’s Jia Zhangke (I Wish I Knew, playing at VIFF on Tuesday and Wednesday [October 5 and 6]).