Somtow Sucharitkul’s The Maestro wins ‘Spirit of Cinema’ Award at Oldenburg Film Festival
‘Sundance of Europe’ festival celebrated with opening performance by Siam Sinfonietta, Thailand’s renowned youth orchestra
Bangkok, 7 October 2021 — The Maestro, a Thai film written and produced by Somtow Sucharitkul and directed by Paul Spurrier, has been awarded a prestigious ‘Spirit of Cinema’ Award at Oldenburg Film Festival in Germany, which is considered the ‘Sundance of Europe’ for indie films.
The festival’s recent gala closing night opened with red carpet treatment for the Siam Sinfonietta, Thailand’s renowned youth orchestra. The group played a concert of film music including the score from the 1922 classic Nosferatu, and from films produced by Italian veteran honoree Ovidio Assonitis, in addition to music from The Maestro, that was filmed and produced during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The concert ended with a ten-minute standing ovation in the packed Staatstheater, Oldenburg’s historic opera house.
The evening concluded with the world premiere of The Maestro, a film about an insane composer-conductor (played by Somtow) who abducts a youth orchestra during a pandemic and builds a musical utopia in an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere in order to create a performance of his fictious masterwork, ‘Tongue of an Angel’. The cast includes well-known Thai actors including Vithaya Parnsringarm and Sahajak Boonthanakit, with the youth orchestra played by members of Siam Sinfonietta itself, along with big-screen newcomers Kittitat ‘Income’ Karnachanabovorn and Chanipong ‘Japan’ Kangwanlerturai.
In between the concert and the film premiere came the award presentation. “When a film is chosen as the closing gala of a festival, it usually is not up for an award,” said Somtow. “After all, there can’t be an audience award because the film has not yet been seen, and the honor of being a closing film is an amazing award in itself.”
When he went onto the stage to receive the festival’s Spirit of Cinema Award for The Maestro and he was, for once in his life, speechless. “I’m usually never at a loss for words,” said Somtow, who had just introduced all the compositions played by his orchestra in near-flawless German.
Traditionally the award itself is produced in Mongolia. This tradition dates from the time when Mongolia won the award, and they vowed that they would create the physical award each year. Unfortunately, this year because of the pandemic the award was stuck in customs. Beneath a huge projection of the award’s likeness, which resembles a classic Mongol helmet from the time of Genghis Khan, Somtow haltingly thanked Paul Spurrier, the co-producers, the cast, and the whole team.
The dream of bringing an orchestra to Oldenburg started with a bit of casual wishful thinking. Somtow mentioned half in jest to Torsten Neumann, founder and director of the festival, that the orchestra ought to play at the festival. Neumann managed to get the airfares and accommodation of a 30-person team completely sponsored and included the orchestra in every aspect of the festival. They opened the festival with an Oldenburg Fanfare specially composed by Somtow. They played music from the films of special retrospective honoree Ovidio Assonitis, who in the 1970s produced films in Thailand in collaboration with HRH Prince Anusorn, cousin of HM King Rama IX. Chamber players from the orchestra played at an event by Jeep, one of the sponsors of the festival. At a museum reception, 17-year-old Changching played a mandolin solo and Jirut Khamlanghan, who plays the role of the Maestro’s mother in the movie, sang the Strauss song Tomorrow the Sun will Shine again which brought German festival goers to tears. Young Thai artists were woven into every facet of the festival.
Introducing the film, director Paul Spurrier, award-winning creator of The Forest said, “With a project like this, one likes to fantasize about who, with an unlimited budget, would play The Maestro himself. Would it be Ian McKellen, Johnny Depp? With this film, there was no alternative but to talk Somtow into doing it.”
The Thai presence at this major indie fest in Germany was seen by director Torsten Neumann as “a celebration of the world’s return to cultural collaboration after the nightmare of lockdown” and the director cited this cultural breakthrough as a beacon of hope to the world.
The Maestro is a message to the world that no matter what the obstacles, creativity will not be stifled. Artists will find a way to work together, in large and small ways, to tell stories about madness, death, and love.
As well as Spirit of Cinema Award from Oldenburg, the International Thai Film Festival just announced that The Maestro won Best Creative Vision and Artistic Approach 2021 Award.
Warin Pattarapatumthong (Audi)
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