Monday, December 15, 2008

Bad timing?

Ongoing building work of the Khmer palace used in Ong Bak 2
A brand new film just released in Thailand and wowing the martial arts fans in that country is Ong Bak 2, a vehicle for leading man Tony Jaa, who's also the director, to further display his athletic fighting prowess and for him to expose a mix of Khon Dance and Muay Thai kick-boxing to his audience. However, he has chosen to do so using Khmer imagery from the 15th century and part of that backdrop includes a 25-million-baht replica of an ancient Khmer palace, known as Prasat Nagara of Deva (Pavilion of God's City) which took two years to build on a plot of land in Rayong province. Jaa himself is a native of Surin, in northeast Thailand, so he's familiar with ancient Khmer ruins in that part of the country. I'm not sure its such a bright idea with the current frosty relationship between Thailand and Cambodia for an action movie like this to hit the theatres using such an obvious Khmer backdrop - and thank goodness they didn't build an exact replica of Preah Vihear or all hell would've been let loose, but if one of the theatres here in Cambodia is scheduled to show the film, they might want to rethink that strategy in the current climate!


Blogger Jinja said...

There's a lot of affection for Tony Jaa in Cambodia, and the Khmer Surin influence is noted with pride. I think the movie has a good chance of going over OK, given the previous films.

December 15, 2008 7:39 PM  
Blogger WiseKwai said...

I think the Khmer imagery and the display of Khmer dance in Ong-Bak 2 is simply Tony Jaa embracing and acknowledging his Khmer roots and giving a nod to history without commenting on current affairs.

Jaa being a Surin boy, the Cambodians want to claim him as their own. I think Cambodians will get a big kick out of Ong-Bak 2, so I hope it does come to the cinema there.

There is some general political subtext in the film, but it didn't strike me as having to do with the Preah Vihear dispute. Rather, I think it is possibly pointed toward Thaksin and his power abuses.

December 15, 2008 9:30 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

I understand your points of view but its just unfortunate timing in my view. Its a Thai martial arts film whatever you say and using a Khmer backdrop to the action will be read by many as rubbing salt in current open wounds. Of course the film has been years in gestation so I'm sure its not intentionally provocative, and I hope you are right that a Khmer audience will see it for its fight-action value not any political subtext. I've tried to read all the Tony Jaa interviews about the film but couldn't find anything to suggest he made it with a desire to promote both Khmer and Thai heritage.

December 16, 2008 1:03 AM  

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