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2nd May 2016
Son of Samila
Title of film: Son of Samila
Director: Charlotte Rabate
New York-based French writer / director Charlotte Rabate talks to 1.4 about making her award-winning short film shot in Thailand

Please tell us how the film came about, what was the initial idea and how did it evolve?

It started with location… As always! The commission was to make a short film about Thailand in a specific region. We chose Songkhla because it was visually stunning and spending five days shooting on a beach was not a problem at all… The mermaid statue on the beach was what sealed the deal.

Chananun and I brainstormed a couple of ideas. I wanted to do something out of the ordinary and suggested a Thai kid going to prom… But quickly realized that prom was perhaps too weird for the setting. Inspired by magic realism, we thought of a boy who was abandoned by his mom. He grew up listening to a mermaid tale, a story his peers would tell him to make him feel better. What if this fantasy became real? Or maybe, he wants to believe it so bad, that it’s all in his head? When we arrived, we met this amazing kid called Man who had a very similar story to our concept. We adapted to his story – everything about the father and the phone call is true.

What led you to Thailand – did you choose Thailand as a location after writing the script or were you already staying there?

Chananun and I have been frequent collaborators since film school. She is extremely talented: she has a great eye and an amazing sensibility. It’s very rare to find this kind of collaboration and connection. After a while, you kind of read each other’s minds. Chananun had gone back to Thailand, I really wanted to go visit her. She found this competition which we pitched for. They supported the entire film.

What were the main challenges of creating the film?

It was very guerrilla style, we had to do pre-production, production and the edit in five days. We were extremely lucky to have someone local and our other friend Kitti who did b-cam. We decided to do voiceover because of logistics. I remember editing for 24 straight hours. When we handed in the short, we then went for a three hour thai massage, but just slept through the whole session.

Please tell us about how you found and cast the boy who plays Man.

Chananun’s uncle, credited as producer, is a fisherman in Songkhla. He brought us to a football field and gathered a few boys. Man stood out because of his own personal story. At first, he was reluctant, he didn’t want to be in the movie but he quickly changed his mind. When Chananun first spoke to him in Thai, I noticed she was getting upset. I asked her: what did he tell you? She then revealed the story about the father and the phone call. I think we both had chills at the same moment. I recently heard that Man is now a monk.

True or false: You have a thing about mermaids, recalling an earlier Wonderbra spec ad.

Yes! I don’t know where this obsession comes from. I definitely have never dressed up as a mermaid for Halloween. Maybe mermaids are my spirit animal… definitely a subject to be continued.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m nearly done with a short film I made back in October. A lonely Polish immigrant works in a fast-food restaurant in NJ. She meets an American man who saves her from the American dream. It has a lot of burgers in it (and an ice cream truck!)

LINK:

Charlotte Rabate

Credits

Director: Charlotte Rabate

Cinematography:  Chananun Chotrungroj

Written by:  Chananun Chotrungroj and Charlotte Rabate.