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Thai cinema certainly has come a long way, as production values have soared considerably over the years. As a result, quite a few Thai movies have earned kudos and accolades on the international film festival circuit, not to mention a slew of prestigious prizes. But hardly any other local feature film before it has been more impatiently anticipated—and received more pre-release media fanfare—than this year’s The Last Executioner, which is scheduled to premiere in Bangkok on June 19, 2014.
Directed by Tom Waller and produced by Waller and Michael Pritchett, the film tells the story of Chavoret Jaruboon, who over the course of his 19 years as Thailand’s official executioner dispatched 55 condemned inmates by machine-gun shots through their hearts before the country changed its execution method to lethal injection in 2003. However, describing his movie as a “biopic based on true events,” Waller was quick to point out that Chavoret was deeply emotionally torn over his position, because it clashed with his Buddhist beliefs. “He always wanted to be a musician and in fact played clubs with his guitar. But this didn’t earn him enough money to raise his three children, so when the previous executioner suddenly retired, he very reluctantly accepted to replace him. After all, he would be paid 2,000 baht per execution, which was a considerable amount of money at the time,” Waller elaborated.
It is this inner conflict—leading a double life as a devoted family man on one side and carrying out state killings on the other—which the film depicts in stark, often harrowing visuals. “He can coolly pull the trigger on the same day he plays with his granddaughter, whom he absolutely adores. Yet it becomes clear to the audience that deep inside Chavoret is a troubled man, whose music often is his saving grace and who tries through his Buddhist faith to reconcile his torn conscience by making merit whenever he can,” explained Waller.
Although the scenes in the execution chamber—which was painstakingly recreated in a studio with the help of photographs taken on location at Bang Kwan Central Prison, the infamous “Bangkok Hilton”—are generally unsettling, the film’s defining moment is perhaps the scene where a female convict inexplicably survives the initial burst from the machine gun. “When she later comes to in a neighboring room, she has to be dragged back to be executed a second time, crying, screaming and kicking all the way. This surreal incident really happened and haunted Chavoret for the rest of his life,” said Waller.
Apart from its unusually high production values, The Last Executioner also greatly benefits from a meticulous screenplay written by veteran journalist Don Linder, who on several occasions had met Chavoret prior to his passing away in 2013, and also extensively talked to his family and colleagues.
Entirely privately financed, the film has been submitted to various international film festivals and is currently under consideration. It is distributed in Thailand by Handmade Distribution (Waller: “a new, smaller company we felt comfortable with”) and will open on a total of 30 screens initially. Waller’s production company DeWarrenne Pictures is currently also urgently looking for potential North American and European distributors. Interested parties can contact Tom Waller through the movie’s website.
By Thomas Schmid – filmjournal.com
Here is sneak peak of the new movie that will no doubt have audiences enthralled by its somewhat controversial subject matter. This trailer will give you a good idea of what to expect from a side of Thailand that most people have never even thought about let alone considered the implications for those involved.