In early 2010 the first Thai movie in which a tom (Thai term for butch lesbian) and dee (short for lady to mean femme lesbian) were the central characters opened in Bangkok. The title was Yes or No. The two leads were on the cover of Thailand’s @ Tom Act magazine. Now we have Yes or No 2, and again @ Tom Act has a cover story.
In between we had a slow Thai film She, pairing two lesbian love stories (one with a prominent tom). All three films had general release. Yes or No 2 played in six or so cineplexes in August.
The two lead characters in Yes or No meet as accidental roommates at an agricultural college. Both are from rich families. The femme’s mother is rabidly anti-tom, so the fem has strong prejudices to overcome. After on again/off again relations (hence the title), the two wind up as a couple.
In the sequel they have come to the end of their studies and go on internships or study placements. Pie (Suparat Manaying), the femme, goes to a fishery in the south, while Kim (Supanart Jittaleela), the tom, whose family runs a vineyard, does a placement in the north, close to the family property. Pie tried to engineer a common placement, and felt betrayed when Pie chose a placement more closely related to her family’s business. But the separation was only going to be for a few months.
On the placement, however, a second femme, Yam, falls in love with Pie. Kim, ever spoiled, ever controlling, breaks up with Pie. Pie, it seems, is pleased to play the tom role to his air-headed fem sweetheart, indulging her every whim. This reviewer was pulling for Yam to take over. As the two hour movie continued and continued, I just wanted an ending.
The films are based on Thai novels. The publisher was interested in turning the stories into film. The director had experience in the film industry as an assistant director. Now she moved to directing. She put together the financing. Some newspaper reports said she funded the films herself.
The first film, Yes or No, did badly at the Thai box office. The director lost money. One reviewer, looking back at the first film, commented that it was “not the talk of the town” as the two earlier gay male films Bangkok Love Story and Love of Siam had been.
The first film had limited release in China. In Indonesia it was banned. While it lost money in Thailand, there was surprisingly lucrative business elsewhere. Through DVD sales and downloads it became a hit with audiences in Taiwan, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.
When Suppanard, who plays Kim, the tom, got off the plane in China for the Shanghai International Film Festival, she was startled to find that 800 to 1000 fans were there to greet her. Kim and Pie have held more than 10 concerts in China, appeared on TV and on the covers of Chinese magazines. Orders continue to flood into the directors Bangkok office for t-shirts, posters, CD soundtracks and DVDs. The revenues from the concerts and merchandise made the sequel possible.
The first movie has featured at film festivals around the world and received accolades such as a Special Jury Mention Award at Festival MIX in Milan, Italy. The sequel, no doubt, will also travel around the world. Hopefully there will be some editing to bring it down to a normal length.
Douglas Sanders is a retired Canadian law professor living in Thailand. He can be contacted at email@example.com.