There's a movie making the festival rounds this year called “The Elephant King” and it’s about, you guessed it,
More than two cultures, ‘Elephant King’ is really a story of two brothers, one younger and weaker, over-sensitive and slightly suicidal, one older and aggressive, over-confident and insensitive. Of course there’s a woman planted squarely in the middle of this mismatch, and of course she’s got a Thai male friend on the side, a love triangle gone rhomboid gone rumpus. There’s even a real elephant for comic relief. Care to guess who gets the girl? I ain’t tellin’. That’s not really the point, anyway. The point is: how do you know what’s real in a world where emotion is currency, and how can you truly find another when it’s so hard to even find yourself? Nothing is resolved, of course, so the writer/director turns out to be the most honest person in the story. The film works visually as well, ‘taking advantage of seedy Thai locales’ (Variety), such as a certain ‘bar beer center’ and a certain ‘warm wet massage’ parlor, all in Chiang Mai, my old stomping grounds. I even know some of the extras. It’s not an all-star cast, mostly unknown except for Ellen Burstyn, who plays the brothers’ mother, unless you count Joe Cummings, Mr. L.P. Guidebook himself, who does a quick drug deal for the cameras when he wasn’t busy being local production coordinator. Being a former film student myself and currently co-producing a festival back in the US, I can be a pretty harsh critic, fully expecting to snicker silently in the back row as the homies got their kicks touring the seamy tourist underbelly of Chiang Mai (of course the really seamy Thai underbelly is out at Santitham), but I didn’t. I got jealous. Seth Grossman told the story I’ve long wanted to tell, but found it too difficult, maybe because I was too close to it. Writer/director Grossman must have spent some time in Chiang Mai to achieve that level of realism, but I doubt that he spent ten years.
Try to find this movie if you can. Considering that it debuted at Tribeca over a year ago, it should either be finding its way into theaters or DVD store by now, though it’s likely ‘too artsy for the mall, too mainstreams for the art houses’ (Variety again). Somebody could probably make a buck packaging it for Thai audiences, though; hhhmmm…..