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Igniting Change through Art and Activism

Artwork detail from the exhibit Un-Conscious, the transmedia impact activity of the Tech Tales Youth film Black Hole.

Guest post by Aly Suico

Thai artist and filmmaker Patipat Oakkharhaphunrat enjoys creating experimental work, short films, and documentaries. His love for finding new ways of storytelling is fueled by his belief in films’ capacity to convey truth. Patipat focuses on telling stories that touch on adolescent growth, maturity, memory, and metaphysics, all while expressing the value of the impermanence of life.

Complementing his drive to find new ways of storytelling, Patipat made his first social impact film Black Hole through EngageMedia’s Tech Tales Youth Program. Patipat reflects on venturing into creating social impact with film.

On making the personal political

Patipat is one of many Thai youth of this current generation realising their role in today’s society. He wasn’t oblivious to the news covering digital rights issues such as personal data being sold and the call center gangs that facilitate these digital crimes. Yet with the increasingly absurd new forms of corruption and exploitation of those in power in the digital age, Patipat never really gave his own role in these issues much thought. At the time, it seemed to him that such was the fate of scammers and their victims. They felt beyond his control. Patipat was confident that he would probably never become a victim because no scammer had been successful despite their numerous attempts to scam him.

Already inspired by the political themes of the films of Thai director Apichapong Weerasethakul and Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, film student Patipat found an opportunity through EngageMedia’s Tech Tales Youth program to make Black Hole, a film that centers on digital rights. He paints the story of present-day Thailand through his film, telling the story of unauthorised collection and misuse of personal information through the lens of generational accountability. In the process of creating an impact film, Patipat saw his potential as a young Thai citizen to take on responsibility for change. He realised that if the issues inherited from the past were left unaddressed, he and future generations would have to face the consequences.

In writing the script, Patipat began by investigating his own questions on the societal injustices that transcend across generations. He intended for Black Hole to shed light on digital rights as an issue closest to his generation.

On initiating change

Poster of the Tech Tales Youth film Black Hole

Patipat believes in the wisdom great films hold and their capacity to change worldviews. Yet concrete change only happens if people will it into being. Transmedia activities and campaigns tied to film distribution are essential to social issue film productions because this ensures on-ground impact and plants the seeds of change.

Patipat designed his impact film campaign to replicate his own personal growth. Knowing his approach with Black Hole was experimental, Patipat had the foresight to understand that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. This directed him to target artists, young creatives, and film students like himself who find the experimental and artistic approach effective in sending a message.

Asia Pillars Film Connection understood Black Hole’s art form and message, inviting Patipat to Film Talents BKK last April 24, 2024. The event brought together key groups in his primary target audience: university students and young professionals in the film industry. It was an external platform that Patipat maximized to discuss his experiences in impact filmmaking and digital rights, while also connecting with fellow aspiring filmmakers.

Un-Conscious exhibit at Hopespace Thonburi features mixed media pieces depicting personal data compromise in Thailand, incorporating sim cards and related paraphernalia.

Patipat recognized the need to expand his audience beyond his immediate community. His next goal was to organise an exhibit and screening with his two fellow Thai Tech Tales directors. By curating the Tech Tales Youth film program and collaborating with his fellow directors, he included his work in a collection of short films addressing digital rights. This strategy incorporated diverse storytelling approaches, including his own, to attract a wide audience and create a meaningful impact.

Patipat mounted Un-Conscious, a two-day screening and exhibit held at HopeSpace Thonburi last April 27-28, 2024. A post-screening discussion was held on the first day of the screening, and staying true to Patipat’s creative vision, the second day looped Black Hole and exhibited Patipat’s art as part of his video installation and exhibit. Nervous about the turnout, Patipat and his collaborator, Kenny, were able to breathe a sigh of relief as people started coming in to watch. Aside from direct invitations they sent out, they also observed new faces, some who walked in out of curiosity, others drawn in by the exhibit. Even passersby coming from a different event within the same building were compelled to drop in and see what Un-Conscious was all about.

Starting the post-screening discussion, there was so much ground to cover. With each one seated on the floor, the atmosphere helped clear any divide between the speaker and the audience. Everyone was equal in their experiences and knowledge of digital rights. Most of the comments during the talk were realizations of how deep and real the digital rights issues actually are in Thailand. The discussion offered a space for them to freely reflect on and question what their government was doing about these problems, and how the government itself was at fault. Throughout the post-screening discussion, Patipat finally felt his biggest success so far: to converse and hear feedback straight from strangers about the seven short films they had just watched.

Tech Tales Youth Director Patipat Oakkharhaphunrat and Kenny Chorboonklang at the exhibit in Hopespace Thonburi.
An exhibit attendee strikes a pose while holding a giveaway postcard during the exhibit.

On the importance of taking the first step

Patipat admits his first foray into organising impact screenings, especially for his film, made him worried and anxious. It felt like an experiment for him. Yet, no matter how difficult it felt, these impact activities opened Patipat’s mind to understand how his film extends into the real world through social impact filmmaking. He just had to do it.

The Tech Tales Youth program’s impact on Patipat led to his personal growth and empowerment. He gained a deeper understanding of digital issues and witnessed firsthand how film can help bring about change. His shared experience with fellow filmmakers and the audience adds value and inspiration for Patipat to continue using film to make a difference.

A few works that Patipat recommends are the following films, series, music, and books:

  • The film, The Lighthouse (dir. Robert Eggers, 2019)
  • Japanese anime series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, created by Hideaki Anno
  • Any classical music
  • The music of Japanese composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • The 1954 classic novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding

See Patipat’s Video4Change Impact Campaign Builder below:

Patipat takes the stage after the screening of Black Hole at the Bangkok Film Talents event organized by Asia Pillars Film Connection on April 24, 2024. Photo on the right is courtesy of the event organsers.