Seventeen years ago, homo erectus fossils were found at the archaeological site of Lanpang, Thailand. Almost two decades later, no ones cares much for the discovery. The site has instead been turned into a religious shrine where the locals make offerings to the “ancient ghost” (or Kohka man) by placing food offerings at the erected statue at the site.
I’ve been fortunate to have spend the last 12 or so years of my life living in Southeast Asia, and much of the film felt familiar to me. The offerings, the incense, the public performances and community activities – all things common in rural Asian culture. The irony that a scientific discovery was gradually turned into a religious shrine was also not lost on me.
The film itself is incredibly atmospheric and strangely haunting,, but also peculiar as it leaves you with more questions than answers. The more I watched, the more I enjoyed it – right up until the abrupt conclusion. I’ll admit that while I really didn’t quite grasp the ending of the short, I enjoyed the glimpse of the unfamiliar and artistry of the cinematography.
Tales of 500 000 years’ director, Chaisiri Jiwarangsan, had this to say on the film:
This film is an investigation of the dead and rebirth of cinema culture in Thailand which engaged with animism society. In many parts of the country, the outdoor screening changed it function from a media for human to an offer for ghosts and spirits. I would like to explore possibilities of transformation of cinema to keep itself alive here. As well as how do we transform scientific discoveries into spiritual activities.
I am also inspired on a quote from Antonio Gramsci which explain both cinema culture and the transitional time in Thai society “the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”
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