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March 06, 2007

Mekhong Full Moon Party


Sibha kham doan sib ed
Jira Maligool - 2002
Mangpong Region 0 DVD

During the time that my computer was in the shop, I saw the film Mekhong Full Moon Party on DVD. The film is instructive to watch during this time of controversy over James Cameron's documentary on the tomb that may belong to Jesus.

One of the biggest problems I have regarding discussions about films and faith, as I have previously addressed, is that the films are almost always Western, and the faith, Christian. While Mekhong Full Moon Party is a Thai film, about Buddhism, it brings up an issue that is more universal regarding religion. As Graham Greene may have put it, the heart of the matter is whether faith depends on the preservation of certain beliefs that may be mythic or symbolic, rather than factual. The story concerns the investigation of fire balls that shoot out of the Mekhong river at the end of a Buddhist holiday. Are the fireballs created by a dragon, or a freak accident of nature, or an entirely man-made phenomena? The film takes place in a small town in Northeast Thailand that hosts the increasingly popular annual event which for some participants is evidence of the power of Buddhism. The film is also inspired by true events.

This dramatic comedy has its share of problems, primarily with a sprawling story line that meanders away from the main narrative. Where the film succeeds is in its joy and respect of the chief characters. The grandmother with her folk remedies for every ailment is no more or less eccentric than the doctor and scientist who investigate the fire balls, or the teacher who argues that to question the miracle is to show a lack of religious faith. Even when the fire balls are explained, neither characters nor their particular beliefs are in any sense diminished or ridiculed. Nor should they be.

What Mekhong Full Moon Party has is the idea that scientific inquiry or factual knowledge is fully compatible with the sense of the mystical or magical. Not surprisingly, the film was awarded a FIPRESCI Prize - Special Mention at the 2003 Hong Kong International Film Festival, "For the joyous dialogue with one's own folk traditions and its accessible representation of Thai-Laotian mythologies to the international audience." That one sentence concisely explains the difference between Jira's debut film, and those films that equate faith with visual and verbal shouting.

Posted by peter at March 6, 2007 04:45 AM


Hi, Peter, I don't know if I told you this before, but I have a new blog. The one you have in your blogroll I'm still keeping, but only because I can't transfer my posts there.

Posted by: Noel Vera at March 12, 2007 02:15 AM