Orizzonti Award For Best Film at Venice to Kraben Rahu (Manta Ray)

By Moira Sullivan

Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s debut feature Kraben Rahu (Manta Ray)
from Thailand took home the Orizzonti Award For Best Film (Thailand, France, China) at the Venice Film Festival that ended Sept 9. It clearly merits its award for its beautiful story and cinematography. Phuttiphong Aroonpheng said at Venice that his film was a metaphor for people who disappeared, whose identity can be shared by many and whose fate is in danger.

The title of the film Manta Ray named for the magnificent coastal fish symbolizes the two main characters – a Thai fisherman and a stranger who he rescues from the sea. The Manta Ray is a filter feeder from the same family as bluefins sharks and tuna but is not a predator. It is on the endangered species list and is hunted by fishermen , and vulnerable to entanglements in fishing lines and nets where they often drown.

The fisherman out on his boat is a threat to the Manta Ray in fact and the stranger who arrives to shore is near dead from drowning. Although it is never stated, he is a persecuted Rohingya refugee from Mayanmar. On the southern coast of Thailand are mass graves of these people who are victims of human trafficking. We see a hunter with a rifle in the forest looking for victims. The most enchanting aspect of this film is the use of colored lights. The hunter is dressed in dark clothing illuminated by tiny colored lights, but in the forest , the fisherman tells the stranger that there many gravesites. The ground is covered at night time with the tiny lights. When the fisherman does not return from sea, also sharing the fate of the endangered Manta Ray, the stranger who he has given the name Thongchai, continues to live in his house. The fisherman’s exwife returns after having been kicked out by the navy officer she ran away with and asks to live with Thongchai. He assumes the life, the habitat and the mate of his previous friend.

By day the forest is starkly lit but by night it becomes the dwelling of the  Rohingya whose existence is told through the tiny lights. The lighting likewise from the fisherman’s boat at night inside the cabin takes on a colorful illumination as well as his house.

What is brilliant about Manta Ray is that there is sparse dialogue, minimal plot development, and little attention to imposing the rules of narrative form. It is a cinematic experience with parallels between endangered humans and animals that is breathtaking.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09 /19/18
Movie Magazine International