Take a backseat in one of Thailand’s most bizarre taxis and see the streets of Bangkok through the eyes of charming taxi driver Narong Sairat.
Interview with Director/Producer Joshua Belinfante
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you Over the last 4 years of my life I have developed an obsession with people around the world who claim to be the world’s best at strange things. I’ve always had a fascination with taxi drivers and their relationship with passengers. I was working on a TV show in Bangkok and asked the local crew I was working with if they knew someone doing any bizarre things that I could film on the weekend. One of my colleagues told me about a man that basically ran a convenience store in his taxi and I thought this was the perfect way to spend a free weekend! I thought it might be fun to just run the meter and ask the taxi driver to take me to the places that he wanted to see.
Making an observational documentary in another language with a translator presents a unique set of challenges. I liken the process to making a film blindfolded! The first time I met Narong the camera was rolling. Once I received the transcript translated many months later, I knew that Narong & Wilai Sairat’s message of charity and goodwill had to be put on the largest platform possible. In this fast paced noisy world we live in now I thought it was important to make this film to bolster support for their message of “just doing good things.”
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
In the current age of gloom and doom in the media, it’s nice to listen to an uplifting story about karma, charity and giving something back even when you don’t have that much. Narong Sairat really is the world’s kindest cab driver. Every time a passenger hands Narong a ‘tip’ for his stellar service he buys something to put in his taxi. Whether it is candy, medicine, noodles or a karaoke machine! Most passengers think he is selling things in his car like some sort of mobile 7/11 but everything is for free. Naturally this leads to a gift giving cycle and a circle of charity. Something to behold in the 21st Century.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
For me the film shows that we really are all the same and want the same things. Narong is an incredibly generous man with little possessions but with so much to give. Narong discusses the concept of charity in Thailand and that Thai people have goodwill in their heart, they just need help in expressing it. Narong’s taxi provides the perfect vehicle for that to happen. I think that most people and cultures have the propensity for good, but in this rushed world we sometimes don’t stop to think about those around us.
In my body of work I am heavily motivated to find similarities and differences in cultures and communities separated by vast oceans.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The film was always predicated on the idea that Narong was the world’s best at something, we just didn’t know what before we met him. It became immediately apparent that he was incredibly charitable and not the typical taxi driver of Bangkok. I only discovered what the film was about once I had the rushes translated by a colleague in Thailand. Because of the complexities of the Thai language I enlisted the help of assembly editor Chireen Yotinpattana and several other Thai friends.
It was challenging to make the film make perfect sense for both a Thai audience and a Western audience. We laboured over this process and spent longer than I’d care to admit in post production, taking as much care as we could to be accurate and sensitive to Thai customs and history.
By the time the edit was with me, I’d send every revision of dialogue to my colleague Arphawan Sungsiri and a few others for validation. I hope we struck a balance for both Thai and Western audiences!
I’d also like to note that once I involved the work of composer David Bruggemann the film took on an entirely new energy.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback overwhelmingly has been amazement that someone like Narong even exists in the world. People have questioned why he’s doing it, whether he’s actually selling the items in the taxi and more. Narong’s own answer to that question of why he’s doing it is pretty beautiful, “if you do it, you’ll know that you not only earn the money but the happiness in your life. What I receive is much, much more than I can give.” Generally, people have responded by being a little bit more aware of things they can do in their life that are more charitable. Maybe slowing down a bit and waking up to what’s around them.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The feedback has surprised me and made me incredibly pleased. It has shown me that story does trump all else. I know that for some Thai people the film may not be that exotic because of it being very familiar. This realisation was a challenge. In the end I’ve decided that showing the film to Western audiences at least puts Narong’s message out there for people to hear!
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
‘Bazaar Taxi’ is a taste of what is to come! I’m hoping to get people interested in an anthology feature film about a bunch more people just like Narong around the world being the world’s best at strange and amazing things. I’ve just launched a website for the project where people can stay up to date. We’ve filmed people as diverse as the world’s best town planner to the world’s best griller of bananas. I’m also always on the lookout for new stories anywhere in the world. The whole process has shown me that you don’t have to be the world’s very best at what you do, just your own personal best.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
At the moment we are right in the thick of post production on the series/feature film. There are currently 9 films. We have all the post production crew on board to bring these stories to life, we just need some people that believe in the film’s message to help us get it out there. We really would love to talk to sales agents, distributors and film festivals to discuss all of those strategies! One of them which obviously involves selling coffee mugs/keep cups with ‘World’s Best’ written on them.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I am hoping that after watching this film, people think about ways they can be charitable in their own lives, in whatever capacity they can.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Given Narong has so little and his taxi is being retired for being too old what is his future? And what motivates him to continue giving?
Would you like to add anything else?
A massive special thanks to my post production crew who banded together over the last few months to help finish the film. Our talented colour grader Sean Morris, our amazing sound mixer Liam Moses, our wonderful composer David Bruggemann and my colleague Palm. Arphawan Sungsiri.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Happy to report that most of my team are working with me now on www.worldsbestfilm.com.au
Interview: June 2018
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Take a backseat in one of Thailand’s most bizarre taxis and see the streets of Bangkok through the eyes of charming taxi driver Narong Sairat
Length: 12 minutes
Director: Joshua Belinfante
Producer: Joshua Belinfante (Finesilver Media)
About the writer, director and producer: Joshua Belinfante holds an eye for the eccentric and surreal. He is a filmmaker currently based in Sydney & Stockholm.
Joshua Belinfante, filmmaker & photographer holds an eye for the eccentric and the surreal. Joshua founded Belinfante Photography in 2010, specialising in events photography and film production. He has self-produced and assisted on numerous short films, feature films, TV shows, TVCs, music videos and stop motion animations in Australia and abroad. He has taught technical workshops at the University of Technology Sydney ('UTS') and taught industry journalists through the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism and been a casual lecturer at the New York Film Academy, Sydney and Gold Coast campus for 3 years. His recent film 'Requires Review' has screened at over 20 festivals, won numerous awards and recently had its North American Premiere at The Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. He has worked on television series for the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Channel 9 & SBS. He has had films exhibited in Australia, Asia, the USA and Europe and has won numerous awards for his work. He has a Bachelor of Communications (Media Arts Production) / Bachelor of Laws from the UTS.
Key cast: Narong Sairat, Wilai Sairat
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Sales agents, distributors, film festival directors
Social media handles:
Other: IMDB - https://www.imdb.com/name/nm4361586/
Made in association with: Sean Morris (Colour grader) , Liam Moses (Sound mixer), David Bruggemann (Composer), Chireen Yotinpattana (Assembly Editor), Palm. Arphawan Sungsiri, Thanakarn Thongbujsri (Translator)
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?
Hopefully at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival in Sydney or as part of ‘the worlds best’ feature documentary at a film festival near you!