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February 04, 2007

Final Score

final score.jpg

365 Wan Tam Tid Cheewit Dek Ent
Soraya Nakasuwan - 2007
GMM Pictures 35mm Film

In order to give King Naresuan maximum play, no new films received wide release until last Thursday. I finally got to see Curse of the Golden Flower, dubbed in Thai, with English and Chinese subtitles. Final Score is only the second Thai film to open this year, and by Thai standards is unusual. Unlike the usual horror films or comedies, or horror/comedies that get national rollouts, this is a documentary. As it turned out, in addition to recording the life of several high school seniors, the film had unexpected drama from a nationwide scandal.

The film centers on four young men from solidly middle class Bangkok homes. Only one of the four seems especially studious, although it seems to little effect. The other three seem more content on getting by. The English language title refers to the nationwide test that determines whether a high school student will be considered for college, as well as decide which college will accept that student. The film begins in May, when the Thai school year begins, following the students in class, with their friends, and at home. The students are genial goof-offs with no particular promise. The exception is the student who is interested in farming fish to the dismay of his father who would prefer his son to follow a more traditional career path.

The tests that the students all take were administered by the National Institute of Educational Testing Services. 2006 was the first year that Thai high school students were required to take as part of Thailand's efforts to create uniform academic standards. Due to questionable results from those taking the tests, as well as scores given to students who reported did not take the test, 300,000 Thai students were uncertain about the correct score results as well as their academic future. Two senior officials with the testing company resigned. In the scheme of the documentary, this incident is given rather short shrift considering the magnitude of the number of students affected, particularly those interested in studying outside of Thailand. The film almost suggests that the students managed to get accepted into college in spite of, rather than because of, their test scores.

I also have to wonder why Soraya Nakasuwan chose to focus on male students. Especially as their are so few female filmmakers in Thailand, her working with young women would have be useful in both discussing the role of women in Thailand as well as showing by example a career option possibly not considered. As Soroya previously made her reputation co-directing a documentary critical of the Tourist Authority of Thailand, one would have hoped that a film about Thai education would be sharper. Final Exam is more entertaining than edifying. What is encouraging is that a Thai documentary is given the same kind of treatment as such typical fare as Noodle Boxer and Letters of Death.

Cross-posted in Twitch.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 4, 2007 08:45 AM