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26 Sep 2008

''Love of Siam'' catches on in Taiwan

Why would five Taiwanese dig into their savings of NT$1 million (US$31,000), just to screen Thai flick The Love of Siam in theatres in Taiwan? Fridae's Taipei correspondent Jason Tan finds out more.

It was a warm Christmas in Bangkok last year. Taiwanese tourist Kyan Zheng and friends decided to catch a movie there and chanced upon The Love of Siam.

Top of page: Billboards in Taipei. Above: Press coverage of the movie (click here to read) and scenes from the movie.
"I could relate to the movie as if it were telling my own story," he told Fridae when the movie opened in Taipei on Sept 19.

The Thai film, which combines family drama and a teenage romance between two boys (played by Witwisit Hiranyawongkul and Mario Maurer who is of Thai-German heritage) who had lost touch but reunited in later years, touched Zheng so much that he and four other friends decided to pull money together to make it into the big silver screen.

They had to invest US$15,000 to repurchase copyrights from a local movie distributor, who decided not to release the movie on concerns of a sluggish box office market.

Generally, major Hollywood productions would fare well in Taiwan, despite a ticket price of NT$270 (US$8.50). There are a handful independent theaters that screen non-mainstream foreign titles, including those on LGBT issues, but box office takings tend to be unpredictable and typically lacklustre.

These five friends - who happen to be colleagues - are determined to make the movie accessible to the public. They made use of their network in their advertising firm, pitched proposals to different movie houses, produced promo billboards and wrote publicity material for the screening.

They had even managed to fly actor Witwisit Hiranyawongkul and director Chookiat Sakveerakul from Bangkok to hold a meet-the-fans autograph session last Saturday on Sept 20.

"It is all hard work... We are all inexperienced in distributing a movie, but it is worth it," said Wendy Chen, one of the five who have brought the film to theatres.

All the bills add up to NT$1 million (US$31,000) in total, meaning they each have to shoulder NT$200,000.

But their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Three hundred toys, replicas of a toy featured in the movie and remade for Taiwan's premiere, were nearly sold out before the first screening. Over 1,000 tickets were also pre-sold in the first week, an achievement considering Thai flicks aren't really crowd pullers in Taiwan.

Now, box office is their least consideration as these five young executives are ready to part with some of the investment - if not all.

"We knew that some have watched the movie on the Internet, but we want to make it into the big silver screens for public viewing," Chen said.

Opening on 146 screens in Thai cinemas last November, The Love of Siam was the No. 1 film at the Thai box office that weekend and dominated domestic film awards last year. It won Best Picture category in all major awards: Thailand National Film Association Awards, Starpics Magazine's Starpics Awards, Bangkok Critics Assembly Awards and Star Entertainment Awards.

Bangkok Post commentator, Nattakorn Devakula, said the film contained important lessons for Thai society. "The point that the film attempts to teach viewers - and a largely conservative Thai society - is that love is an evolved form of emotional attachment that transcends sexual attraction of the physical form."

When director Chookiat (flanked by actor Witwisit) met fans in Taipei, he told the audience what gave birth to the tear-jerking title: "I wanted to find out what is love. And if two boys have feelings for each other, does their love count?"

The two and a half hour story intended to connect to the audience by also touching on the love of family, parents and siblings, he said.

Indeed, one moviegoer was moved by the film's depiction of "love in all forms."

"I saw the music video in Thailand and it aroused my curiosity of the movie," Lin, a 25-year-old, told Fridae while queuing up to get the poster autographed in Ximending - a hip-and-happening teenage hangout in downtown Taipei.

So when he learned of the movie premiere in Taiwan, he was eager to purchase tickets to feel the big screen impact.


Reader's Comments

1. 2008-09-26 19:50  
I encourage everyone to watch this film, not because I am Thai but also the matter of the film is exceedling good. It is worth to pay for. You will knoe that true love can happen everywhere and every time among friends, family and lovers.
Comment #2 was deleted by its author
3. 2008-09-26 20:01  
The Love of Siam (Rak Hang Siam) is a 2007 Thai romantic-drama film, written and directed by Chukiat Sakweerakul. A multi-layered family drama, a controversial element of the story is a gay romance between two teenage boys.

i have the movie. very nice n touchy... movie's soundtrack is nice too. although do not really understand the true meaning.

anyway in summary of this movie is two childhood neighbourhood playmate (Mew & Tong) met again after a seperation. a nature love story between the two of them, Mew dedicated a Love song to Tong on a house gathering, ended up Tong reply was a Prolonged Kiss with Mew. although that's the starts of the r/s but happy moment do not last long.

if you looking for the links to the movie... you can get it in my blog.

4. 2008-09-26 20:24  
watched it and was touched by it. good film
5. 2008-09-26 23:38  
Good for you guys - please support this film if you can, they deserve it plus it looks like a 'must not miss' show anyway :)
6. 2008-09-27 00:23  
where can I get a DVD for this movie? anybody has a clue? I am in USA... I went on AMazon.com....the movie is not available...can it be in a different title? thanks.
7. 2008-09-27 00:37  
hope it will get screened in Singapore too..
8. 2008-09-27 01:06  
Hope it will be screened in Singapore without cuts. Unfortunately gay films shown in Singapore are usually senselessly cut :(
9. 2008-09-27 11:54  
this is a good movie. don't miss it.
10. 2008-09-27 16:08  
From the very first scene i knew this was going to be a pretty movie. An ugly challenged cast, beautiful sets and gorgeous photography makes it an enjoyable watch although its a hit & miss when it comes to individual performances.
The two female leads in the film make this more than just another coming of age gay flick (family relations drama - whichever).
Sinjai Plengpanich plays the concerned benevolent mother to Chermarn Boonyasak's dual role missing daughter.
Witwisit Hiranyawongkul makes an affable sweet Mew while porcelain Mario Maurer is the expressionless Tong. I dont know if this was his character's personality or just bad acting, because the kid who played the young Tong was much more enjoyable.
Overall good, but not great 3 Stars :)
11. 2008-09-27 16:47  
I've watched this movie so many times, and I still like it so much. I even have the a collection of songs from this movie. I am not Thai, and don't understand the language, but the subtitle helps me a lot. This is indeed a recommended movie to all, regardless to gays or not. Incredibly touching!!!
12. 2008-09-27 17:12  
Soldier on my friends in Taiwan. You have done something good for the PLUs. Thank you, the five friends.
13. 2008-09-27 19:07  
It's nice to see this little gem getting a chance to shine outside of Thailand. What's a bit unfortunate is the notion that it's a gay movie or about being gay. At it's core, the movie is the need for connection and care and the many forms this takes. Yes, there are gay issues involved, but is love gender-specific?

This movie moved me because it shows so many levels of society, culture, family and friends and how some of us struggle to not only be ourselves, but in learning just who in fact we really are and how hard it sometimes is to accept AND embrace that knowledge. Call me a hopeless romantic, but this flick is a movie about loving oneself as much as anything else.

As an aside, Mario Mauer's performance may appear wooden, but I live in this magical Kingdom and I can say from experience that his performance was life-like compared to a large number of young Thai men, just as Donut is life-like compared to a large number of young Thai woman...and please note I did not specify "all" or "most" so no stereotyping is intended. Besides, if you ask people that have suffered failed relationships, I think you will find most will complain that an ex-partner was "emotionally unavailalbe" which, like love, is not gender specific.
14. 2008-09-27 19:59  
Its my lifetime favorite movie! really is!
15. 2008-09-27 21:19  
don't miss the opportunity to watch this movie
16. 2008-09-27 22:09  
Im in the US, how can i get to see this movie? Is it out on dvd yet?
Please let me know ...thank you
17. 2008-09-27 23:51  
anyway there is nothing much to be cut of from the movie.. jus they kissed that's all..
18. 2008-09-28 01:41  
I watched the movie 3 times in cinema and bought the VCD and CD. Friends said I was crazy about the movie so I recommened them to see and they all love the movie. There were many touchy parts and meaning.. Even I watched it for the 5th time after read this post, it still got me tear. Pity if you are not thai as the dialog and songs said alot.. maybe a bit differerent if translated... so you guys should learn thai and have thai boyfriend. :)) 555..
19. 2008-09-28 07:41  
what a sweeeet movie! and what a cute actor. lol.
20. 2008-09-28 13:25  
Why is that all of Asians Gay movies were with love stories, good looking leads in it and worst of all, same old plots?

Why can't any director or writers come out with realistic plot that we human are dealing with in daily life? Like our fight for equal rights, etc.

Enough already with the love plots and deal with reality please. And please no more cutesy leads. I am sure the reason the Taiwanese wanted the picture to be shown is no more than the lead good looks and the love plot

Get back to the basic please!
Comment #21 was deleted by its author
22. 2008-09-28 18:58  
Excellent. Some of us was there before but not as cute as them and might not have kissed like them. But isn't that pure? Love is something emotional and can't be control regardless of age as long as it is true.

A + movie. Back to the basic.
23. 2008-09-28 19:00  
I watch it through online.. too bad, the two boys cant get to be together. WHAT A SAD MOVIE. they finally decide to be a normal friends, althought they love each other. the director should follow up they life by the movie, who knows got some big impact from they life since they still love each other. cheating, desire, lying, sexs, lifes, and communication who complicated they life to make decision rather they need to be together or still remain as a friend.
24. 2008-09-29 00:19  
Kid's Love Story...
Comment #25 was deleted by its author
26. 2008-09-29 01:30  
I'm going to respond to any comments that try to say things againts this movie. First of all, I assume that you've never watched a movie or even you watched it, it shows that you have no idea what this movie is trying to communicate. I don't even think you know why the characters have to be like those, why they had to be Christian, why the atmosphere of the houses of those two boys were different, why an opening song called The Ticket, etc. Secondly, please don't compare this Thai movie with the other gay Asian movies because I'm darn sure this is way better and deals with many complex issues. Lastly, there is nothing wrong to use good looking actors and actresses because it's all about marketing.
Comment #27 was deleted by its author
28. 2008-09-29 06:36  
To the brothers n sisters in the US of A, you can watch it on youtube....with English subtitles....broken into 17 chapters....

29. 2008-09-29 08:17  
this is the best gay asian movie i've seen. the love between tong & mew is innocent, pure, & uncalculated. it's very difficult to find real love like this in real life. good luck.
30. 2008-09-29 09:53  
would it be released in singapore?

I want to watch on the big silver screen!!!
31. 2008-09-29 12:48  
Actually, Ximending is similar to Siam Squre in Bangkok ..
Last year Thai people had very good time around Siam Squre ,so this year hope taiwanese have a very good time as us too

Gonna b perfect if Ximending show Music video ,and play those movie music around,,,those song from this movie also very good

Great time in Ximending for Taipei people

32. 2008-09-29 22:53  
Watch it , feel it then you will love it. And you will know why it become a big hit in Thailand. Now it gonna happen in Taiwan,too.
33. 2008-09-30 09:04  
as i was watching it last nite for the first time tears poured down my cheeks cos it reminded me of so many things...

my first kiss
my first bf
my first gf
growing up hanging out at siam square
my music band in high school
my conservative parents
growing up in a chinese family
school uniforms
my uni by the chaopraya river
34. 2008-10-03 15:27  
Steve;older "farang" in BKK.I saw this here last year & it just blew me away,I have tears running down my face writing this now. Yes it even related to me in UK back in the 60's. I hope it helped many young Thais to explore their feelings.Just a great movie!
35. 2008-10-07 04:43  
Ive watched this movie several times and it makes me cry every time, its the sweetest story of 2 beautiful friends who love each other deeply. I thought Shelter was the best gay love story ive seen untill now. Love of Siam is really brilliant and moving.
36. 2008-10-22 01:26  
Does anyone know where can I get the VCD/DVD in Singapore? And the soundtrack too.....

it's the best i've ever came across.... each time i listen to the songs, my heart is so touched and sad......

the songs are very meaningful.....

please let me know where to get if any of you know... thanks..

and thanks to all the people who has contributed..
37. 2008-10-27 03:52  
Seen it... this was such a good and purely love among the teens... rating 4 stars **** / out of Five.

Any one who loves story about family relationship; brotherhoods; friendship; love ; hate and tears.... you got it all here!

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