Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries Present Film Retrospective of Acclaimed Thai Director Pen-ek Ratanaruang Sept. 13–28

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Outspoken Filmmaker to Make Rare Personal Appearances During Opening Weekend

“Dreams, Hallucinations and Nightmares: The Films of Pen-Ek Ratanaruang,” a film retrospective at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, is the first Washington, D.C., presentation of Ratanaruang’s movies. Ratanaruang is considered the leader of Thai cinema’s New Wave, a rebellious generation of young directors who burst on to the international film scene in the past decade. Running Sept. 13–28, the series features seven of Ratanaruang’s most popular films, showcasing the action, humor and incisive social commentary that make him well-known to film buffs around the world.

Ratanaruang’s films have won prestigious awards around the world, including at the Berlin and Venice Film Festivals. Fans can meet the director during personal appearances Sept. 13–14 and sample Thai cuisine at a reception prior to the screening of the first film Sept. 13.

“No filmmaker on the planet is making movies like he does,” said Tom Vick, curator of film at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. “Ratanaruang once likened his films to a piece of candy with a poisoned center, and it is a wonderfully apt description: they are entertaining movies that pack a punch and make you think. Watching them is like being in an altered state of consciousness.

Ratanaruang’s films range from the Tarantino-esque shock comedy 6ixtynin9, to the hallucinatory road trips of his collaborations with Japanese superstar Tadanobu Asano, Last Life in the Universe and Invisible Waves, to his latest, Headshot, which he calls a “Buddhist film noir.”

“Dreams, Hallucinations and Nightmares” and its opening reception are co-sponsored by the Royal Thai Embassy. All films are free and open to the public, and are screened at the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium.


Saturday, Sept. 13, 2 p.m.

Headshot (2011, 105 min.)

In Person: Pen-ek Ratanaruang

Pre-film reception at 12:30 p.m.

Moving back and forth in time, this stylish thriller is full of Hitchcockian double-crosses and intense action scenes. Intended for mature audiences.

Sunday, Sept. 14, 2 p.m.

Monrak Transistor a.k.a Transistor Love Story (2002, 90 min.)

In Person: Pen-ek Ratanaruang

Adapted from a popular novel and dedicated to the late Thai singer Surapol Sombatcharoen, whose songs fill the soundtrack, this film follows a country boy who marries a beautiful widow against his family’s wishes.

Friday, Sept. 19, 7 p.m.

6ixtynin9 (1999, 118 min.)

A botched money drop leads to windfalls of cash and carnage in this savagely funny thriller, which won awards at the Berlin and Hong Kong film festivals.

Sunday, Sept. 21, 2 p.m.

Last Life in the Universe (2003, 112 min.)

An attempted suicide leads to a double homicide and a series of coincidences leads to a chance encounter in this inventive mix of fantasy, reality and hallucination.

Friday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.

Invisible Waves (2006, 115 min.)

After carrying out a job to poison his boss’s wife, a Japanese hit man is sent on a cruise to Phuket, Thailand, where he finds himself pursued by two mysterious characters who may have dastardly designs on him.

Sunday, Sept. 28, 1 p.m.

Ploy (2007, 105 min.)

A stranger’s intrusion leads a couple to reassess their 7-year marriage in this meditation on displacement, homecoming and relationships. Intended for mature audiences.

Sunday, Sept. 28, 3:30 p.m.

Nymph (2009, 109 min.)

An unhappily married couple tries to reconcile by taking a vacation in the jungle. Little do they know that two men were recently murdered there, and a mysterious force is trying to draw the husband deeper into the jungle.

About Film at the Freer and Sackler Galleries

For over 15 years, the Freer Gallery’s film program has provided Washington, D.C., audiences with a broad selection of the most critically-acclaimed films from Asia. In addition to annual events such as the Iranian and Hong Kong Film Festivals, the museums present retrospectives of particularly noteworthy actors and directors, and series focusing on the cinemas of various Asian nations and regions. 

The program is helmed by Tom Vick, an expert in Asian cinema and curator of film at the Freer and Sackler. Vick holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from Purchase College in Purchase, N.Y. and a master’s degree in film/video from California Institute of the Arts. Prior to coming to the Smithsonian, Vick was the coordinator of film programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is a consultant for the International Film Festival Rotterdam and has served on the juries of the Korean Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal and Filmfest DC. Vick has contributed essays to World Cinema Directory: Japan, Film Festival Yearbook, Asian Geographic and other publications. His book, Asian Cinema: A Field Guide (2008), provides an insightful overview of the dynamic world of Asian cinema, and he is currently working on a book about Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other public events, visit or follow or . For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.

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