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» The dirt road is dry and red, scorched by the Isan sun. The headmaster is wary, sardonic, and enervated by the heat. The students, or at least some of them, are bored and ironic ("What do you want to be when you grow up?" a teacher asks. "A bank robber," he deadpans.) Next to this poor state school is a forest, sun-dappled, mysterious and probably haunted. Girls are warned not to go in there because they may never come back out.
» A string of box-office failures, an absence of hits, an onslaught of Hollywood blockbusters, an economic slump, the vacillating, unpredictable taste of audiences — all of this has plunged the Thai film industry into a gloom in the first half of 2015. Home-grown cinema can barely compete with the American juggernauts, but the past six months have been particularly wounding. Usually, Thai films take around 25% of the ticket sales, with Hollywood gobbling up the rest (the total box office value was around 4.5 billion in last year). This year, so far, local movies took a paltry 10%, according to industry analysts.
» The riches of Southeast Asian stories and images are celebrated at the 4th Bangkok Asean Film Festival, which opens tonight at SF CentralWorld and runs until Sunday. Hosted by the Thai Ministry of Culture, this year's edition marks the 51st anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the regional body whose primary mission is economics and which increasingly pays more heed to cultural promotion.
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