Q: For those of us not familiar with the Laotian indie film community, describe the scene for us.

A: I am based out of Washington, DC.  My only experience with the Thai indie film community is from filming “Ta” in Thailand.  I went to Kalasin, Thailand to film “Ta” because it is the setting for this story, which I have known my whole life.  It is where I was born and raised, and where the real exorcism that my grandfather performed took place.  

Kalasin is located in the Northeast, which is also known as E-San.  The language that is spoken in the film is also called E-San and is very similar to Laotian as E-San region borders Laos.  

Even though I am not a part of the Laotian indie film community, I have always been a big fan of Thai and Lao films – since way before I ever made films – and that type of filmmaking has influenced my own style much more than any other type of film.  

Making a film like this is very exciting for me because Thai and Lao films present a new perspective for western viewers.  They focus on very different ways of life, love stories, superstitions and supernatural beliefs, all with settings and value systems largely unfamiliar to western viewers.  When people lead a simple way of life, they feel more connected to the surroundings, nature, and little unexplainable things here and there which underlie our culture.  

Q: What drew you to the story?

A: Ta means grandfather in Thai.  This film is based on a story my aunt told me as a child from when she was 14 years old (in 1971); she followed her father to an exorcism at a neighbor’s house.  When I was a littlegirl, that was my favorite story of my Ta.  I love his calm and tranquility during a situation where everyoneelse seems to be losing their minds.  Also, I love the realness of the whole thing; that the drama is not unnecessarily prolonged.  

Q: The story seems to us universal themes (childhood fears, etc.) but also seems very grounded in its place and time. What makes your sensibility, approaching these universal themes, different? How much of it is influenced by your culture and folklore?

 A: I am 33 years old and I still make sure my hands and feet are not hanging off the edge of the bed so if there is anything underneath, it can’t pull me down.  I am certain everyone can relate to that type of childhood fear to a certain point.  

Many stories, especially stories of confronting fears, are universal.  However, the manner in which those fears present themselves is dictated almost entirely by the culture within which the story takes place.  For“Ta”, as with many other Southeast Asian stories, it helps to view it through the eyes of a Thai Buddhist.  

My understanding of Buddhism mostly comes from my upbringing, not from formal study.  To me,Buddhism focuses our lives on preparation for the next life, as it will be a direct consequence of the manner in which we live our current life.  Someone who has accumulated a great deal of merit in this life will be rewarded with a good life in the next.  This concept helps us to understand the scene where Nim and Prae are offering blessings for Ta.  They are attempting to donate their good deeds to Ta for his next life in case he hasn’t been reborn yet.

In Thai nature worship, everything in nature has its own spirits, and there are many good and bad spirits in nature.  So Buddhists must be mindful not only of karma affecting future lives of ourselves and others, but also of the spirits that are all around us…and using our own spirituality to safely coexist with nature.





© 2014 Chain NYC Film Festival