Asian Cinema Fund 2018

2009 Asian Network of Documentary (AND) Fund

Project BabyArabia
Category Busan Bank Fund
Project BabyArabia
Director Panu AREE, Kong RITHDEE , Kaweenipon KETPRASIT
Country Thailand
Director's Profile Panu Aree began his career as a sound recordist for Thai film productions in 1995. He directed a number of short films, with one of them picked for the Yamagata Documentary Film Festival. Kong Rithdee has been a writer/columnist/film critic of the Bangkok Post newspaper for thirteen years. He also contributes to various international magazines and film festival catalogues, and serves on the jury of many film festivals (recently at Vancouver in 2007 and Hong Kong in 2007 and 2008). Kaweenipon Ketprasit graduated from the department of mass communications at Ramkamhaeng University. He edited a feature film, [Three Friends] by director Aditya Assarat (who went on to make [Wonderful Town]). In 2008, the three directors made a feature documentary [The Convert] with the support of the Asian Network of Documentary and the Pusan International Film Festival. The film has traveled to many film festivals including the Vancouver International Film Festival 2008, the Pusan International Film Festival 2008, and the Taiwan International Documentary 2008, etc.
 
Synopsis
At a mosque fair in the suburb of Bangkok, the sound of tribal conga beats and wailing accordion play to the soulful voice of a female singer – a Thai woman in traditional Malay dress. She’s one of the singers of the legendary Thai-Muslim band, BabyArabia. They've been touring mosque fairs, Islamic weddings, circumcision ceremonies and village parties at various Muslim communities around Thailand for thirty years. The movie follows the band's touring to reveal the little-known subculture of Thai Muslims that has never been recorded on film before. We meet BabyArabia's founder, a self-taught accordionist who knows over 1,000 songs by heart and who's pondered for thirty years whether it’s forbidden by God to play music. We follow one of the band's female singers who teach Koran on Friday afternoon and sings sizzling Arab tunes to a cheering crowd on Saturday night. This is a story of artists and their art – as well as their conflict with the religious conservatives. And hopefully it’s a story that will put a human face on the troubled image of Islam.
Director's Note
Through documentaries, we are hoping to put a human face on the troubled image of Islam. In 2006 we made [In Between], a documentary that probes the modern existence of four Muslim men in Bangkok. In 2008 we completed [The Convert], which tells the story of a Buddhist woman who marries a Muslim man. Our latest movie is about a Thai-Muslim band who play Arab-Malay music at mosques and weddings. What strikes us is the sound, the visual and the total environment of a distinct subculture that is not entirely Thai, not exactly Arab, not altogether Malay – but a unique fusion that speaks a lot about each of those cultures, and about the yearning, the need to construct an identity, and above all the resilience of Muslims in a non-Muslim land.
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