IFFR 2022: Big Talk Sayombhu Mukdeeprom

IFFR 2022: Big Talk Sayombhu Mukdeeprom

Sayombo Mukdeprom. Photo: IFFR

The 4th Big Talk of the 2022 Rotterdam International Film Festival is about Thai photographer Sayombo Mukdebrom, this year’s Robbie Muller Prize winner.

Photographer Sayombo Mukdebrom caught fire when he received an original Polaroid copy by filmmaker Robbie Muller. He is the third to win the Robbie Muller Prize. This award has previously been awarded to Best Picture Maker, directed by Kelly Richardt and photographer Diego Garcia. “I can’t put into words what this means,” Mukdebrom answers. “I feel very close now.”

This sounds like a compliment, but the following interview shows that he can mean his best. Mukdeeprom has sensors that are very sensitive to the environment, but never emotional.

Colleagues congratulate the Thai photographer via video, including directors Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Miguel Gomes and Luca Guadagnino and actress Tilda Swinton. They praise him as his “light designer,” his nature, the “touch” of his shots, and his “frame-within-a-frame” techniques. The conversation then also threatens to become a mass party led by the Dutch photographer Joris Polstra (the dangerous idol of his interlocutor). Fortunately, snippets of conversation can at least also explain what makes this photographer so special. And every now and then Mukdeeprom shares a gem. He discovered the camera at his aunt’s house and learned the trade in the library. “I borrowed textbooks on photography, sort of DIY books. They were almost all in English, so I had a dictionary by their side. That way I learned camera angles and English at the same time.”

What Mukdebrom understands by nature is illustrated by an excerpt from Syndromes and horn (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006). Viewing characters from afar makes the wind and big green banana leaves just as important as the dialogue. The same goes for the hanging plants in the next shot, which create depth in the image. They contribute to a documentary style, which suggests that the confrontation occurs by chance. Long steady shots make room for chance and the environment. This is the basis for Mukdeeprom, he says based on his favorite movie from his work: I myself (Pongpat Wachirapungong, 2007). “It’s a little Thai movie, where I can look up my own style. Instead of working on the next shot, I just watched things happen before my eyes.”

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Mukdeeprom prefers to work on kinescope. “There’s nothing wrong with digital, it’s mine. I don’t feel the actors through this little camera. I have to feel them through the camera.” He is the regular photographer for his compatriot Wirasethakul. In 2000, he made his directorial debut with a documentary film Mysterious object at noon Then he showed almost all of his films. Even include his most recent work, memories (2021), starring Tilda Swinton. Even before the text is ready, he goes to the sites to feel the places. Mukdeprom: “Syndromes and horn It is a love story about Apichatpong’s parents. They were both doctors. But I also realize a lot from my childhood, my father was also a doctor.”

During filming, Mukdeeprom is primarily interested in light. “Then I see a tree that looks so beautiful in the sun and I think: to flip it over. We can at least use it for to cut† The light can be very harsh, also “in front”, very beautiful. Mukdeeprom predicts in advance the atmosphere you will evoke. He speaks loudly and backs up his words with copious gestures. Sometimes his hands form a camera, sometimes he shows the movement of a puppet with two fingers or twists his fists as if they were construction workers.

Mukdeeprom’s shot by Luca Guadagnino, among others Call me by your name (2017), about the emerging infatuation between a wealthy teenage boy and his father’s student assistant. Again, the dialogue, the positioning of the actors, and the movement of the camera are exceptionally synchronized. In one take, the characters lose each other in language and literally lose sight of each other, only to find each other again physically and in words at the end. When asked if Mukdeeprom had considered releasing some additional shots just to be sure, he said:Come here, Come here! Of course not!” He also shot the entire movie on 35mm film. Wasn’t it also tempting to use an 85mm lens?†Come here, Come here! I had two lenses. 35 mm and another 35 mm”.

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It turns out that Mukdeeprom is a light modeler from a part of the horror movie suspense (2018), also from Guadagnino. A red-haired young woman enters a dance academy in 1977 in Berlin. Fast zooms, overhead shots, and wild camera movements give an exotic feel to Eastern Europe. Robbie Muller was a great example for this movie, says Mukdebrum, but you can feel Eastern Europe through the light. “The light is historically true. I have researched lamps since that time, so that I can remember that time. So I consider those lamps to be natural light as well.”

And what did Mukdeeprom bring from Thailand to Europe and the United States? Maybe Buddhism? Brulstra tries to bring the conversation to this topic several times, but Mukdeeprom dives into this question. His father had many books on Buddhism, Taoism and philosophy. “Ultimately I am like the water in this cup. It transforms when you put it elsewhere. But also in another form, the water remains.”

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