Gateway | Dragons & Tigers
Writer-director Phuttiphong Aroonpheng dedicates his film to the Rohingya, and while it’s more suggestive than forthright, its story of a refugee, his caregiver and the death squad that comes between them certainly has strong political undertones. Wanlop Rungkumjad plays a Thai fisherman who discovers a mute, injured man (Aphisit Hama) near the coast. He takes him into his home, nurses him to health and names him Thongchai, after a famous pop singer. Thus begins a friendship that will last until, after defying his "boss," the fisherman disappears at sea under highly suspicious circumstances. Thongchai winds up taking on his former companion’s job, coupling with his ex-wife and even sporting the same bright dye job he had…
There’s still more to come in the story, and certainly a lot more to be gained by putting the pieces together and teasing out the implications. Phuttiphong has made a political poem, a tender story of care and bonding and a feast for the senses. The movie is languorous and dreamy, and yet it has the tension of a thriller—there is suspense from shot to shot and scene to scene, as we wait in fear of tragedy striking… Seductive, moving and undeniably beautiful, this is a film that gently takes a hold of you and doesn’t let go.
Winner of the Orizzonti Award for Best Film at this year’s Venice Film Festival and the first fiction film to deal with the plight of the Rohingya at the currently genocidal hands of the Burmese, Manta Ray has been praised by the Hollywood Reporter for being "much more than just a political statement in film form… [It’s] at once a visual feast and a nuanced personal drama which embodies all the social and geographical complexities of the global refugee crisis."
Best Film, Orizzonti, Venice 18