March 04, 2007

MEKHONG FULL MOON PARTY (2002) Thai Buddhist comedy

(2002, Thailand, IMDB: Sibha kham doan sib ed)
Thai all-region PAL DVD (Mangpong)

Yet another Thai movie that has a basis in fact, like The Iron Ladies, Beautiful Boxer, and even Shutter. Apparently, every year, just after Buddhist Lent, strange fireballs shoot into the sky out of the Mekhong river. These are supposedly sent by the naga, snake-like spirits that live in the river. Likenesses of naga appear everywhere in Buddhist temples – usually as dragon-headed snakes.

The photo that appears in the movie, of a US army squad holding what looks like a gigantic water snake is an actual event cited as proof of the existence of naga . Because the naga in this case later died, it's said that the squad were cursed and many of them died soon afterwards.

So while I was expecting a film about the infamous Full Moon parties of Koh Phangan, I instead got a comedy drama about the possible causes of the fireball phenomenon. The comedy side is lightweight fare, with the members of a small town by the river having its livelihood threatened – they make their money from the tourists who flock to see the fireballs every year.

But the dramatic element worked better for me. University student Khan, played by the gorgeous Keanu lookalike Anuchit Sapanpong, usually swims and plants the fireballs in the river for the local monks. But after his hometown comes under scrutiny from the national press, Khan has a crisis of conscience. With the week of the river festival approaching, can the monks persuade Khan to plant the fireballs in time?

It’s certainly a well made film for Thailand. Lightweight comedy isn’t usually what I seek out, but I enjoyed the lush location and the likeable cast, which includes a little person playing a comedy sidekick mini-monk.

The Thai DVD is still available and includes good English subtitles.

Do you want to know more?
The actual Naga fireball phenonenon is expanded on in this website, which includes that photo of the captured naga…

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