What Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Memes, Means to Be, In Words (and Memes)
A year ago almost to the day, Amsterdam-based writer Timo Koren contacted me for an interview about my Boonmemes. Amsterdam's EYE Museum was preparing an exhibition on Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and wanted to include a piece on my memes in the issue of their Exposed Magazine that coincided with its opening. Of course I was surprised and honored! 

The resulting interview did run—in Dutch. And if you run it through Google Translate, you can kinda get the gist, but it comes out all stilted and such. So I thought, as with my Fassbinder piece published here last month, I'd run the original text of the interview, and sprinkle in a few classic Boonmemes. In a certain sorta way, it's the origin story of this page! 

BTW, If you can't get enough of my Apichatpong-specific memes, I have collected my greatest hits all in one place. 

Here it goes! Bear in mind that this was written last August, when I was still programming Maryland Film Festival and the Parkway Theatre.

What was your initial reaction after seeing Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives for the first time? Did you expect it would end up playing such a big role in your (Twitter) life?

It confirmed my feeling that he was one of contemporary filmmaking's most distinct and accomplished voices, while also broadening my sense of his range. At Toronto International Film Festival, I'd previously seen Tropical Malady, which I didn't initially connect with, and Syndromes and a Century, which absolutely blew my mind with its rare combination of gentle humor, complex structure, and exploratory tone (especially in its pure-cinema passages towards its end). I was a Twitter hold-out until 2012, so I had a few years of Apichatpong appreciation under my belt before I started meme-ing his work. 

Uncle Boonmee is clearly your favourite Apichatpong-pick. Why do you think it lends itself for memes?

Syndromes and a Century remains my favorite film of his, but I do think Uncle Boonmee is better for memes. It reached a wider audience than any other Apichatpong film, has more images that are instantly recognizable (perhaps even iconic), and has a (intentionally) cumbersome title that lends itself to satire and riffing. 

There are a few recurring Uncle Boonmee/Apichatpong-jokes on your account. Which one is the most satisfying and why?

I like those involving photoshop: such as Paul Blart Who Can Recall His Past Lives  and Uncle Buck Who Can Recall His Past Lives because I'm self-taught on Photoshop and feel like they both deliver a laugh and turned out looking decent. That said, I enjoy trying to find an Uncle Boonmee angle for any new meme or Twitter format that comes along, as a sort of challenge. 

How do you look at common (sometimes very serious, sometimes pretentious) discourse surrounding independent cinema in the film industry today?

I enjoy deep engagement and serious reflection on cinema wherever it develops, but do regard online discourse with both appreciation and frustration. One of the things I'm trying to do on Twitter is to express a frustration with the very concrete limits of discussing film in an interface that requires sentences of 140 characters or less, on which articles and reviews often bounce around with more than the headline and first paragraph rarely having been read, and on which a punchline or emoji generally travels further than a profound observation. I am trying to express these frustrations and satirize their omnipresence and impact a bit. At the same time, I'm immensely grateful for the online community that exists, which has often resulted in amazing reading, recommendations, and real-life friendships. Additionally, I do try with some of my tweets to surprise myself and others with how much can be earnestly expressed in a limited meme format; perhaps some of my "club" and "bae" tweets reflect this.

Were there ever people inside the film industry that clearly showed a disappreciation of your jokes? And if so, why?

Yes. Sometimes when a tweet goes viral, my mentions are a nightmare of bad energy. In a few specific cases I've discovered that producers or directors of films I've satirized have blocked me. I felt real guilt about this, because that can only mean my tweets hurt their feelings, and I don't want to diminish anyone's pride in what they've created. It's a good reminder that you never know who's going to come across your thoughts on the internet. Also, I often love films I poke fun at, or appreciate many aspects of a film even as I satirize one aspect I found lacking. So I do want to challenge myself to have an online presence that can have some stupid humor and (hopefully) sophisticated humor while also transmitting that I care deeply about cinema, and spend most of my life (as a film programmer) trying to amplify art that moves me. 

Have you ever programmed an Apichatpong-film at your festival?

Yes, I started as a programmer at Maryland Film Festival in 2007, and programmed Syndromes and a Century in that edition. We've been proud to include Uncle Boonmee and Cemetery of Splendor in subsequent festivals. We now also own and program a year-round, 3-screen theater, The Parkway Theatre, and both within the annual Maryland Film Festival and the year-round Parkway, I look forward to many more screenings of his extraordinary films. 

Below are the earnest words I wrote about Syndromes and a Century and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives for MdFFs 2007 and 2011, respectively. And again, if you need more literal Boonmemes, look no further than here.

Thanks for reading! xo, E


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