Call for Chapters – The Cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul

One of the several elements with which Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul indulges himself, is the notion of the body—the various adventures and misadventures of bodilyness, the bliss, the pangs, the illnesses and the suffering. As memory (or the lack of it) takes the centre-stage in his oeuvre, bodies—young and old, male and female, rural and urban, real and ethereal— are often forgotten, remembered and re-remembered in quick succession. Such embodied characters, in their varied entanglements with mnemonic and topographical occupations, haunt and are haunted by the setting. More often, the rural Thailand features as the backdrop of Weerasethakul’s films with its multitudes of life: the daily interactions, the humdrum affairs, the tedious tasks, the necessary rituals and customs. And all these reverberate with a distinct south-east Asian palette. On the surface, there are these local images of Isaan, the livelihood of villagers and the continuing migration: some of the recurring subjects of his films that give his works a “national” character, enabling a global audience to explore the society, culture, politics and practices of both rural and urban population of Thailand. While on the greater curve, his films unearth concerns that are universal and complex. As Matthew Barrington observes, “When Weerasethakul uses his camera to focus on Isaan and the exploration of the voiceless Thai inhabitants it becomes useful to place Weerasethakul as a transnational filmmaker whose films provide an international audience for the documenting of the marginalised individuals who populate Isaan”.

On a similar note, documentation, identity, memory, mythology, ethnicity, communication are some of the apparent themes that Weerasethakul explores and problematizes in his films but there are several others such as transcendence, ecoprecarity, sound, philosophy, aesthetics, surrealism, superstition, environmentalism, capitalism, illness— to name a few, that demand cross-disciplinary investigations. At one hand, his films represent the everyday, and on the other, they challenge the very forms and modes of representation through subversion and experimentation. The open-ended nature of his films thwarts the expectations of the audience, conjures an enigmatic atmosphere that can withhold a cathartic resolution, and frames an immersive space for further possibilities. His innovation, improvisation, self-reflexivity and avant-garde experimentation has earned him a place as an important Asian filmmaker in the contemporary scene, which is otherwise flooded with the emerging South Korean wave.

Mysterious Objects at Noon (2000), an experimental documentary film is a collection of unrelated interviews that impart glimpses on lives, times, traumas, memories and fantasies of randomly chosen individuals who inhabit Thailand. Tropical Malady (2004) is an “unusual” romance captured in a deeply enthralling cinematic arena. Syndromes and a Century (2006) is a poignant tale on the idea of transformation, shot centrally in a hospital and a medical centre. His Palme d’Or winning film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) depicts the life of Boonmee, a farmer who is slowly dying from kidney failure and his reunion with now “transformed” members. There are primarily, three distinguishable storylines that construct the film: one that includes Boonmee and his last days, the second one captures a princess, her servant and a catfish and the third one is about Jen, Roong and Tong after he becomes a monk. Through a disjointed timeline, the film explores themes of identity, reincarnation and “death of cinema” itself. Cemetery of Splendour (2015) is a breathtaking fantasy based on a group of soldiers who are suffering from a mysterious sleeping sickness.  His other acclaimed films include Blissfully Yours (2002) a romance that centres on a girl and her Burmese lover who is an illegal immigrant, and the auteur’s recurring exploration of spectrality and mysticism features in a bizarre film titled Mekong Hotel (2012).

The proposed volume on the aesthetics and politics of Weerasethakul’s cinema invite chapter abstracts (within350 words) along with a short bio-note (within 100 words) and the volume is to be published from an international press on film studies.

The following areas may be explored (but are not limited to):

  • Memory and amnesia
  • The corporeal body and the lived-bodies
  • The rural and the urban
  • The natural and the supernatural
  • The primitive and the modern
  • Age, gender roles and ethnicity
  • Avant-garde and postmodernism
  • Cinematography and technique

Abstract deadline: 15 September 2020

Acceptance notification: 25 September 2020

Communication email:

Editors: Anik Sarkar, Department of English, Salesian College, India / Dr. Jayjit Sarkar, Department of English, Raiganj University, India.