Manta Ray – Kraben rahu (2018)
Directed by: Phuttiphong Aroonpheng | 105 minutes | drama | Actors: Wanlop Rungkumjad, Aphisit Hama, Rasmee Wayrana, Kamjorn Sankwan, Sanit Pasingchop, Tawan Hirunyapong, Athasit Phumhiran, Manus Prasitwattanachai, Pumidol Kongperm, Waratpob Loaphitakthippa, Sanukita Sompstippa, Lunghana Kongkamongna, Asongkong Kongnagna, Sanukita Somthimpa, Asukita Sokijorgna
‘Manta Ray’ (‘Kraben rahu’) is the feature film debut of Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, who mainly works as a cinematographer. Not only did he direct, he also wrote the screenplay. The film is dedicated to the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group from Myanmar. Stateless, persecuted and hunted, they have been fleeing en masse since 2015 to neighboring Bangladesh and Thailand, or even to Malaysia and Indonesia, where an equally horrific fate often awaits them. ‘Manta Ray’ is about one such refugee, who has reached the Thai coast more dead than alive.
The refugee is found by a Thai fisherman. He takes the injured, barely conscious man to a medical aid station, but then takes it over himself. He takes him to his humble abode and slowly fixes the silent man. When the unnamed fisherman notices that his patient may not be able to talk, he names him Thongchai, after popular Thai actor and singer Thongchai “Bird” McIntyre. As time goes on, a bond grows between the two.
Although you know much less about Thongchai (don’t say anything) than about the history of the bleached fisherman, always dressed in Levi’s jeans short, both actors know how to draw the viewer irrevocably into the film with their nuanced and moving play. Perhaps Aphisit Hama as Thongchai is just a little more convincing, but mainly because he has more screen time in the second part of the film.
Wrapped in symbolism, Aroonpheng slowly reveals the secrets of his story, but leaves enough for the viewer to keep guessing. The friendship the two build is fascinating. The fisherman is savior, mentor and perhaps lover all rolled into one. With a touch of ‘Single White Female’ and ‘Mulholland Drive’, ‘Manta Ray’ is a fine mix of magical realism, tragedy and thriller. A heartbreaking film about humanity and rebirth, and for those who want to see it also a political statement.
But Aroonpheng is not only a professional when it comes to narrative. Visually, there is simply nothing to fault about the film. The use of the hypnotic lights – you can never label those colored strands of Christmas lights as kitsch after watching this film, the beautiful close ups, and the dreamlike sequences, will make you want to drink ‘Manta Ray’ again. Go see this.