3 user 6 critic

The Island Funeral (2015)

Maha samut lae susaan (original title)
Laila sets out on a road trip to Pattani, one of the three southernmost Thai provinces, to visit her long-lost aunt. Her brother and his friend are tagging along. The three take off from ... See full summary »


Pimpaka Towira
4 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview:
Heen Sasithorn Heen Sasithorn
Aukrit Pornsumpunsuk Aukrit Pornsumpunsuk
Yosawat Sitiwong Yosawat Sitiwong
Pattanapong Sriboonrueang Pattanapong Sriboonrueang
Wanlop Rungkumjad Wanlop Rungkumjad ... (as Wanlop Rungkamjad)
Kiatsuda Piromya Kiatsuda Piromya


Laila sets out on a road trip to Pattani, one of the three southernmost Thai provinces, to visit her long-lost aunt. Her brother and his friend are tagging along. The three take off from Bangkok during a time when the capital is going through radical conflict. Being from the city has prevented them from realizing much about the violent outbreaks that have been occurring around Pattani for many years. Meeting a suspicious soldier sent to fight the insurgents, the four head together to find Laila's aunt, where the route is leading them to discover a land stranger than that they are familiar with. Written by anonymous

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Release Date:

9 February 2017 (USA) See more »

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The Island Funeral See more »

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User Reviews

Intriguing three-part story, each with other views on main protagonists, their beliefs and future. Ignore references to Thai history being not crucial for the story
18 May 2016 | by JvH48See all my reviews

Saw this at the Rotterdam film festival (IFFR.COM) 2016. The threefold story line is intriguing, keeping us constantly wondering in which direction this journey is about to develop. Each of the three stories takes roughly a third of the movie but are very different in all respects, so the nearly two hours running time proves to be not boring after all.

A small group of less than a handful people are constantly in our focus, carrying the movie from begin to end. I distinguished three consecutive stories, two of which underway before reaching an isolated island as their final destination. The first one follows a threesome in a car, a real road movie in the literal sense of the word, albeit that the interactions between the three are more important than the landscapes that we see passing. The second story follows them crossing a lot of water to reach an island, also sort of a road movie when using the term loosely, this time with more emphasis on the environment than on mutual interactions. The third story is on an island, everything outdated at first sight and without standard ways of communicating with the outside world. Each of the journeys offers a different sort of tension, but a common element is that we keep wondering how and when they will ever meet their aunt, bodily unharmed and with relationships intact. Utmost uncertain is how they will be received there eventually by an aunt they have not seen in many years, and what the ultimate purpose of their journey may be.

The first journey by car has its problems, given the many times they get lost underway, augmented with the usual discussions about reading maps versus asking someone passing by. Finally, they pass a person driving a motor bike and ask him to be their guide. He agrees to lead the way while they follow in their car. Seems a nice arrangement, but the landscapes become more and more suspicious and farther away from civilization.

The tension grows how the journey will end. The third person in the group stresses more than once that he is not a Muslim, and that he therefore runs more risks than the other two. I'm not sure I get the full potential of his remarks, but I think that someone familiar with Thai history will immediately understand what is going on here. Something else that confused me were armed soldiers popping up from time to time, possibly referring to radical conflicts in the vicinity and also a known part of Thai history. Don't let this confuse you, as these are side issues with little bearing on the developments as far as our main protagonists are concerned.

The second journey over water turns the threesome into passive passengers. Their new guide seems to know their aunt they are expected to visit, so the start is reassuring. The tension is different here, being in a boat with a total stranger on the helm, traversing a lot of water that offers no easy escape when something goes wrong. The local motorist who guided them earlier over land was not an immediate risk, as they could always leave him and proceed on their own devices. In a boat far away from the shore the perspective changes completely.

In the third part of the movie we visit an isolated island, where a small group of people survives without much interference from politics and minimal interactions with people ashore. It is sort of neutral ground, as it is uncertain it belongs to Thailand or not. Because the island has no economic value no politician really cares. Our threesome is just in time to witness the burial of the youngest inhabitant of the island. It left on us, I assume on purpose, a feeling of a community without a future. Later on a conversation at the dinner table confirmed that. Towards the finale we also see an important conversation about their freedom of religion (albeit relative), their neutrality (not official so relative too), and how long the community can continue on their neutral ground, or that they may have to leave prematurely by force or merely by extinction.

All in all, the relatively slow pace of the developments did not hinder me at all. Neither was the nearly two hours running time a problem, given the three separate stories and three different environments. Consider it as three movies with three consecutive plots but with the main protagonists in common. I hope that the above clearly outlines whether a movie like this is your cup of tea. I was positively surprised about this movie, but the average festival visitor scores resulted in a lowly 163th place (out of 178) for the audience award. I assume that the implicit references to Thai history went past most viewers, hence the unwelcoming scores.

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