Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2019 by Siddhant Adlakha
I think I fell asleep during Manta Ray — the debut feature of Thai cinematographer Phuttiphong Aroonpheng — though I can’t be sure. If that’s a value judgement on the film, it might not be entirely negative.
Aroonpheng showed up to address the audience before the film’s New Directors/New Films Festival premiere, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He was heavily jetlagged, and ready to nod off. “My film is quite slow,” he said. “Please don’t fall asleep during the screening! I’ll try and stay awake too.” He knows what kind of film he made; Manta Ray, or Kraben Rahu, is oblique, meditative, and hypnotic. It’s light on dialogue, and heavy on symbolism that you, the viewer, might need to project upon. It opens —after a brief title card that reads “For the Rohingyas” — in a dense forest, scattered with strings of coloured lightbulbs and cheap, plastic disco balls; their presence is, at once, calming and invasive.