Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Thailalaland - and UK movies need bigger box office in Kent.

The Oscars were livened up with the shenanigans over the duplicate envelopes for the Best Picture. PWC had one job...

And compared to the fuss last year over lack of BAME films and actors there were far more this year.

And new records with the youngest director, and the first Moslem Oscar winner.

And record-equalling 14 Oscar nominations for La La Land. Maybe one way to cool down in the worsening Bangkok traffic jams is to get out and dance on the highway? Perhaps best to leave that just to La La Land.

And the UK did OK with three Oscars including for The Jungle Book Special effects. But perhaps a slightly lower haul than usual for the home of the Star Wars and James Bond and Harry Potter franchises amongst much UK film expertise.

Indeed the LucasFilm sale of the Stars Wars franchise to Disney is spurring on one of the greatest expansions of UK movie making-in years, with new Star Wars spin-off stories such as Rogue One in film and animation and television and books and comics.

And apt that Fantastic Beasts the Harry Potter franchise spin-off picked up an Oscar.

While Christopher Nolan taking on the mantle of Britain's greatest living film director could well be in the running for Oscars for the mega-blockbuster Dunkirk and Ramsgate Little Ships this Summer.

One of the greatest pre-war movie stars in the comedian Will Hay living in Ramsgate and commemorated with a Blue Plaque, film and television star of Dad's Army, John Le Mesurier. And much-loved Bagpuss cartoon of Small Films in Canterbury, rivalled only by Aardman Animation, and Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep and Chicken Run.

And perennial Michael Caine (two Oscars and smuggled into UK via the now-defunct Ramsgate hovercraft at RAMSAR/UNESCO site Pegwell Bay in The Black Windmill, alongside Broadstairs' Donald Pleasance, and Blofeld in the movie of Kent 007 writer Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice).

And here in East Kent two Oscar/Cannes nominees/winners and residents in Brenda Blethyn , two Oscar nominations and Timothy Spall a Cannes for the Turner movie. I've got a Cannes too for an advertising film with Ken Russell for Audi.

But beyond the glitz and glamour of the movies, a crunchy point for UK and Thailand - the 7 hour time difference between UK and Thailand and Hollywood is perfect for speeding up the special effects and green screen processes now crucial to almost every movie.

It takes a lot of effort to make the stars shine bright whether in Hollywood or elsewhere.

UK Ambassador Vicki Treadell in Malaysia recently launching the Moneypenny secretarial service that uses that time zone difference to great effect by swapping digital files for continuous 24/7 working.

Far more though could be done with Kent Film Office and Screen South to make Kent a movie magnet and to diversify beyond just Chatham Dockyard.

Thailand needs few lessons in movie-making with classics such as Tears of the Black Tiger, King Naresuan and Uncle Boonme and burgeoning investment in cinema and digital infrastructure, but wouldn't Thailand UK be stronger together in securing investment, location shoots, translations, technology and so on?

The UK Trade Envoy to Cambodia and Thailand, David Puttnam Oscar-winning producer of The Killing Fields with East Kent writer Bruce Robinson is banging the drum for reform of the BBC and film and television industries. And Puttnam is prescient in developing Eire's digital telecoms infrastructure for education and movie content. With 5G rollout beginning in UK and capped EU mobile roaming costs now, and every EU town with free wifi before 2020, unlimited digital infrastructure will create a content boom not seen since the talkies took off.

While the new BBC Scotland channel will require further content as no doubt will a Wales channel plus increased Gaelic content for Ireland too.

Surely expanded UK and Thai, and ASEAN, Free-to-Air broadcast channel swaps are an easy step to make.

A bit of extra Premiership football would be a nice gift for Thailand, as well as Sports Diplomacy, and could even form the basis of an overdue dedicated BBC Sports channel and Film channel.

While abolishing the outdated BBC licence fee for the simplicity of a ringfenced annual budget would free up millions of dollars to reinvest back into excellent programmes such as Thailand Earth's Tropical Paradise, rather than jailing little old ladies - and 10% of all UK court cases - for watching Coronation Street.

And I'm developing the East Kent Film Office and Studio (EKFOS)to promote film shoots in East Kent and funding for movies and animation, especially the digitisation of the British Film Institute archives.

Old films by British greats such as Chaplin and Hitchcock and newsreels are literally crumbling into dust and disappearing unless they're digitised. Even the dangers of old film stock combusting was an accurate plot point in the Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt WW2 movie Inglourious Basterds.

Instant downloads, with multi-channels and formats through cinema, television, games, outdoor, VR, tablet, phone and PC will be demanding more, and expanded, films.

UK shows 700 films a year in cinema, and still a spasmodic cottage industry with only 2.8 nonUS cofunded UK films, will need to raise its game beyond ad-hoc content, every two or three years, to create a Sporting Superpower equivalent for the Creative Industries.

And exponentially grow its c.5% in jobs and GDP contribution to the UK economy and 8% in UK exports.

Thailand through language is insulated to some extent from Hollywood or Chinese or Indian content, but as with France a cultural quota could safeguard and expand the Creative Industries from Rocky 27 or Fast and Furious 58.

And surely a contender for next year’s Oscars will be Angelina Jolie's First They Killed My Father, on the 1975 Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, and the premiere held at Angkor Wat, the Canterbury Cathedral of Cambodia if you will, last week.

Hopefully it will be a feature of the revived Girl Summit on women's rights in London launched by Angelina and former UK PM and Foreign Secretary, William Hague.

It's an astonishing resurgence of the Cambodian film industry (Jolie also starring in Tomb Raider with a pre-007 Daniel Craig one of the first movies using Angkor as a location) with only Khmer spoken in the film and all-Cambodian cast.

As with the almost-total destruction of Khmer dance and ballet, and desecration of Angkor, and Climate Change logging of the surrounding jungle, a reminder of how thinly-held is civilisation.

And with the new Paramount theme park and Dreamland amusement park, East Kent deserves more than the occasional passing reference to Chatham Dockyard for locations. You might have seen it in the Les Miserables film with Russell Crowe and popular TV show Call the Midwife.

Perhaps apt for Frontline Kent - and the tsunami of heroin, cocaine and cannabis from the Golden Triangle of Europe - the only film set in Ramsgate so far was the WW2 actioner Contraband.

While Erin Brockovich the Oscar-winning true story starring Julia Roberts and the Hinkley pollution coverup, similar to Flint and Cato Ridge and Klity Creek apt for Margate given the Infratil-KCC-TDC toxic scandal.

And this week the London Mayor announced the first new film studio in London for 20 years.

Surely Thailand with discussions around the Bangkok Film Studio and numerous film festivals in Bangkok and the provinces should partner with UK?

And Thailalaland?

Well, congratulations for the foresight of my friend Issaree Suwunnavid of Heffernan Capital in launching the Hua Hin Film Festival a few years ago and opened by an up-and-coming film star called Ryan Gosling - narrowly pipped to the post last night for the Oscar for Best Actor in La La Land.

Shouldn't Thailalaland be a feature of UK and Thai film and Creative Industries working closely together?


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Cambodian flag over Kent

It was a surprising but interesting to see the Cambodian flag (and Singapore's too now) waving over Broadstairs seafront here in East Kent as beach-cleaning for the start of the Summer season hots up.

But interesting from a weekend of mega-publicity for Angelina Jolie's new film, First They Killed My Father about the 1970's genocide by the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot.

A story as astonishing as her first movie Unbroken.

Something of home ground from Angelina with her adopted son Maddox from Cambodia and previously she starred in one of the first Hollywood films set in post-conflict Cambodia, Tomb Raider.

First They… is the largest movie premiere in Cambodia held in the grounds of Angkor at temple in Siem Reap, (the temple features on the Cambodian flag itself - the Canterbury Cathedral of Cambodia if you will).

The new Royal Rebel book by Cambodia's Princess Soma exiled to California during the Pol Pot years details that era too.

The film features only Cambodian actors and only spoken Khmer.

And flags and bunting aside, is that where Kent is missing out?

Few would argue that Khmer is one of the most prominent languages in the world - only 15M speakers in Cambodia. But significant communities in Thailand, Vietnam and USA from the carnage of the Vietnam War years.

###Kent languages of Asia###

Hmong from Laos is also spoken in USA and intriguingly that exiled community features in the Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino.

But shouldn’t Kent with 4 universities and an international outlook with campuses in Paris - a significant Khmer community given the colonial past - and Brussels be active on Asian languages in general?

Britain seems in disarray for the Asian Century with only SOAS in London any in-depth but study of languages and even that blurring into general culture etc.
How can Britain hope to remain a G7 nation - some would argue already a G30 nation in slipping down the league tables of healthcare and education etc - without a knowledge of major cultures and economies such as China or India. Bangladesh or Vietnam. And so on.

It’s absurd that Thailand, a top 5 UK growth economy and a nation of 60M people, has only one university studying Thai - and that only in the last five years or so.

And Malaysia - understandably given the colonial past and Commonwealth present has more than double the number of Thai students studying in UK: over 20,000 plus Malaysian university campuses.

Perhaps it’s even more absurd with no Myanmar studies courses in UK for a nation of 60M people opening upto the world.

While Myanmar under Oxford's Aung San Suu Kyi has emerged from military dictatorship to almost zero UK and Commonwealth support. A tidal wave of City and ADB money should be flooding that nation. A recent visit to Kyaitiko showed me the massive potential for tourism and infrastructure upgrades whether the electric or telephone grids or rail and ports.

While the Royal Road between Angkor and Isaan is a golden opportunity for greater peace and prosperity - jade thread of Khmer temples and palaces that weaves from Battambang through Siem Reap to Isaan - between Thailand and Cambodia in ASEAN's 50th year.

For if the Pol Pot years - lingering on until 1999 - were some of Asia and humanity's darkest years then ASEAN is one of the brighter lights of the 21st century.
With almost all the Asian conflicts of the past resolved, the race is on to deliver prosperity to Asia's publics - whether rice or Resilience, the UK with English as the second official language of ASEAN should be doing more.

Failing in a cohesive programme from education to economics is almost certain without investment in Asian languages and culture.

Cambodian students - forming one of the ten current ASEAN nations and a population the size of Australia - are perhaps 200 scholarships a year. Vietnam and Philippines are negligible too despite populations of 90M.

And Indonesia with over 250M people, the largest Moslem nation and a G20 nation is invisible in UK society and economics. A recent visit to Borobodur showed how links with Canterbury and Angkor could be beneficial for all concerned.

And Mandarin and Japanese from two of the world's largest nations and economies are taught in only handful of schools.

UK has often been the bridge between USA and Europe but it should fulfil that function between Asia too.


Saturday, 18 February 2017

Misc articles update February 2017

* Sincerity article: Thai Foreign Minister, Khun Surin Pitsuwan and Thai-UK trade:

* Misc points: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/uk-plus-aseanlatam-misc-points.html

* Thai rice white gold: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/thai-rice-hunger-game-or-white-gold.html

* Sincerity core client aims: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-max=2016-05-31T08:31:00-07:00&max-results=7

* Sincerity article: Soda Wars go pop http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/

* Surin Charity: Malaria a brief thought: http://surinvillagecharityschool.blogspot.co.uk/

* Sincerity article on Coca-Cola: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/sweet-moves-from-coca-cola.html

* 21st century Britain Agenda article: http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/a-21st-century-britain-agenda.html

* No Tobacco Day, Smoking Sincerity article: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/axaing-tobacco-and-china.html

* EK Remedial points 2016: http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/kent-remedial-work-and-uk.html

* EK strategy 2016: http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/garbutt-time-for-change-2016-east-kent.html

* Time for a Free Economy article: http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/time-for-free-economy-tobacco-china-and.html

* Surin restaurant review: top Thai restaurant in Kent:

Surin Thai restaurant the best Thai restaurant in Kent and one of only 45 of any cuisine in Kent according to KM:



Friday, 17 February 2017

Lights go out on UK and Thailand energy?

The Bangkok Post editorial: Kill all Coal Energy Plans highlights a red-hot issue in Thailand over the EGAT electricity board plans for coal power stations in Krabi and the Deep South.


And similar issues have attracted heat and light in UK too with plans for the closure of all UK coal plants before 2025 to comply with EU Climate Change regulation. Brexit an issue in that the EU has been far more progressive than UK on environment issues over the years.

And UK one of only 5 EU nations likely to be fined over failing on air pollution standards this year.

And as an aside it's interesting to see from the Sky TV Ocean Rescue campaign on plastic in the oceans, and fish we eat, now taken up the by the United Nations, but also plastic bottle recycling at over 85% in many EU nations such as Denmark and Sweden - but only 57% in UK for lack of a 30 cents bottle/can deposit scheme.


The Prachuap Garbage Island may well be just the latest of the Pacific Plastic Patch and Atlantic Plastic Parch requiring rapid cleanup along with the Thames and Stour and Chaopraya.

The Manston-Infratil scandal in Kent with KCC and TDC councils and Infratil removing the airport monitors and faking the emissions data would of course only worsen the pollution figures.

The coal power debate is an even hotter issue with the debate around whether nuclear or renewable power will replace the 21% of UK energy derived from coal. And of course the extra electricity need for Internet of Things and Autonomous Driving etc.

In my politics role I've urged the faster closure of Dungeness nuclear power station - one of the reactors already closed. And ending of the nuclear train of radioactive waste through Kent and London upto Sellafield in Cumbria for cleanup.

And all 16 of UK's nuclear power stations are over 30 years old and now due for closure.

Hinkley was tentatively approved last year but the design is based on the overdue and flawed reactors at Flamanville near Cherbourg in France and Olkiluoto in Finland - both probably the last new reactors in Europe given Italy and Germany are due to decommission all their sites.

As the outgoing regime in Kent are seeing, investing public sector pensions in increasingly worthless fossil fuel shares is a false economy. Already dozens of towns and cities in Europe have agreed to sell of their fossil fuel investments, most notably and recently in Eire:


The Age of Renewables has well and truly begun. And with the debate of a Basic National Income, from the initial renewable investment it even becomes too-cheap-to-meter beyond forecasting demand and reducing waste.

Surely Thailand and UK should also be moving ahead on both storm Resilience and Beautification with a nationwide programme of burying electric pylons and cables?
No new UK nuclear reactor would go live before 2030, and each would only contribute c.7% of UK power - hardly more than could be delivered through better house insulation, or turning the heating (and aircon) down a degree or two through a smartmeter.

While a new Moorside reactor in Cumbria, next to Sellafield, was thrown into disarray this week with the collapse of the Toshiba NuGen consortium amidst an accounting scandal in Japan and the huge cost of USA Toshiba's Westinghouse nuclear division.

As with Olympus it's sad to see a great Japanese Meiji corporation like Toshiba, and also Samsung, damaged by accounting for such old nuclear technology. Toshiba's innovative memory chips division for smartphones may be sold, while its STEM division for education technology - ideal for Yingluck school tech policies in Kent, UK and Thailand - could be held back.

Surely every 21st century schoolchild should have a free tablet PC and smartphone alongside a pencil and paper? How wonderful to have every book or painting or piece of music or museum available from kindergarten.

Downing St in London and Government House in Bangkok will no doubt look on while Singapore or Finland's education systems grasp that opportunity?
With East Kent home to one of the world's largest windfarms with Vattenfall, the Swedish electricty board, and active in nuclear cleanup, surely renewables must be the way forwards for both UK and Thailand?

The current horrifying Mekong dredging and dam issue aside, Laos over the next few decades like Scotland should be a regional battery, if not the Saudi Arabia of Renewables?

And the new Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon could be a step change in wave technology viable for over 120 years. While solar panels that charge day or night, or from movement, will be relevant across ASEAN and Europe regardless of the climate.

And air pollution will be an increasing issue whether the fire haze afflicting Indonesia and Singapore or traffic smog and rise of electric vehicles across ASEAN's ever-larger cities.

But surely Thailand and UK really should be attracting more heat and light as well as investment for renewables into their energy policies?