Khavn Dela Cruz and Apichatpong Weerasethakul: The Unabridged Interview

The full conversation between two of the most eccentric filmmakers working today.

by Khavn dela Cruz

For the April issue of Rogue, we sent local filmmaker Khavn dela Cruz, director of such as films as EDSA XXX and Mondomanila, to interview Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, director of Cemetery of Splendor and the Palme d’Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Weerasethekul was in town for the opening of his exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, The Serenity of Madness, which is ending its run this weekend. The resulting twenty minutes of conversation are as strange as one might expect. Here, published for the first time, is the full, uncut transcript of that conversation.

 

Khavn Dela Cruz: These are my questions. Feel free to answer them or not answer them. Just talk.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Sure, sure!

KDC: Have you ever been on a boat?

AW: Of course, yes.

KDC: How honest are you?

AW: I’m trying to, because like this, I’m very comfortable talking with you because I don’t have to lie. Sometime, you know… you… how you say—I just. Think about it. Before, when I was starting filmmaking, I have to justify my work, to say things to make it more interesting. But now I don’t care. Yeah. And I think it apply also to the way that you start a project— you just have to be very honest. Sometimes it’s just beautiful but that’s it.

KDC: All right. Do you prefer cats or dogs?

AW: Uh, difficult. If I have to choose, dogs. But Boston terriers only.

KDC: Okay. Sing a song—or what’s a song that best describes you?

AW: Crazy. This is very hard. I cannot because I stopped listening to music.

KDC: Really?

AW: Yeah, for almost ten years now.

KDC: Like, uh, songs or instrumental music or music in general?

AW: Everything.

KDC: Everything, huh? Wow.

AW: Because I appreciate this… air. Ambient sound.

KDC: Sound?

AW: Yeah. But I use music.

KDC: Yeah, so how do you deal with your soundtrack guy?

AW: It has a memory—it has a certain memory with that music. Sometimes it’s not the music itself but someone I love gave it to me. Now I’m working with Sakamoto Ryuichi.

KDC: Wow.

AW: But it’s like our personal thing. Yeah. So I told him ahead, I don’t listen to music. But I grew up with his music, so it has this memory.

KDC: Like his album 1996?

AW: Yeah, yeah.

KDC: Right. What biscuit would you be if you were a biscuit?

AW: Biscuit means?

KDC: Like, you know, one of those—

AW: Chocolate?

KDC: –Like those cookies.

AW: Chocolate biscuit. Yeah.

KDC: Chocolate? All right. If someone would write a biography about you—which is, you know, someone will write a biography about you—what do you think the title should be?

AW: Oh… oh. Maybe this show title, Serenity in Madness. Because people told me that I look calm but in fact, I’m really mad inside. Inside there’s this crazy storm.

KDC: Cool. Crazy storm. If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?

AW: Mmmm… crazy, I don’t know any superhero.

KDC: [laughs] Are there like popular Thai superheroes when you grew up?

AW: Superhero? Maybe—maybe I can pass this question?

KDC: Yeah, yeah, no problem. What would you choose as your—as your last meal?

AW: Maybe just a single avocado.

KDC: Really? Have you tried—there’s a burger joint in Chicago—you went there, you studied there—where there’s like a heavy metal theme. You know this place? This heavy metal burger place?

AW: I don’t know this!

 

KDC: How do you feel about affirmative action?

AW: What is affirmative action?

KDC: If you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you have?

AW: Japanese?

KDC: If you were a bicycle, what part would you be?

AW: Oooh, light. Headlight.

KDC: All right. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

AW: So many. I will say—I will say… there’s that thing. Macadamia.

KDC: Macadamia? Nuts?

AW: Yeah.

KDC: If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

AW: Uh… I would… Hmmm… I would buy a very good projector. And a good cinema.

KDC: Okay. Oh, is the (5:24) cinema still going, or is that for the…?

AW: Ah, no. It’s just that time.

KDC: What did you want to be when you were ten years old?

AW: Wow. Mmm… I think I wanted to be a dentist, I think. An animal doctor, a vet?

KDC: An animal dentist?

AW: A vet. Veterinarian.

KDC: Okay, all right. What makes you angry?

AW: My own… hm, how do you say it? My own impatience.

KDC: There’s a—there’s a Filipino poet who said that the Philippines should be renamed Pasensya because patience, ha ha. Who do you like best? Your mom or your dad?

AW: Oh, my mom.

KDC: What would I find, uh, in your refrigerator?

AW: Oooh, let me see. I have normal things. Nuts. I have my collection of different nuts. Almond, walnuts and all these things.

KDC: Those are good for high blood.

AW: I think so! Yeah.

KDC: Tell me about the worst curator or boss or whatever—producer that you ever had?

AW: I had bad experience with one guy, but I forgot his name because when something bad I erase.

KDC: Yeah, selective memory.

AW: Yeah, in Basel—Art Basel—hmm, what’s his name?

KDC: What happened?

AW: He was just mocking me like—uh, how you say… how you say? Like a third-world artist or something like that. It was very…I didn’t like him.

KDC: Can you tell a joke?

AW: No, sorry.

KDC: How would you describe yourself in three words?

AW: Mmm… Three words?

KDC: Three different words.

AW: Uh, how you say, unpredictable? And… it’s the same as changing my mind?

KDC: Fickle, that’s fickle.

AW: Like, always changing my mind?

KDC: Yeah, fickle.

AW: Fickle, and… the same: Spontaneous. Yeah.

KDC: Right. Do you like Jerry or Tom?

AW: I like the mouse— Jerry.

KDC: What videogames did you play?

AW: The best one I play, so far, was a long time ago. Katamari—it’s called Katamari, but there’s a longer name.

KDC: Is that the ball?

AW: The ball. You know that?

KDC: Yeah, it has a good soundtrack as well.

AW: Very good.

KDC: Why do you think Chaplin is famous?

AW: Because he used close-ups and people like close-up. That’s why he’s more famous than Buster Keaton.

KDC: Which ancient place do you like the most or would you like to go?

AW: I like to go to this super big cave in Vietnam. Do you know it? It really is the biggest cave in the world, or one of the biggest, but it’s not really accessible because we have to trek and it would take long, very long.

KDC: Is it also like, dangerous to go there?

AW: No. But you need to trek in the jungle and it’s a very big, like cave. You have a cave within a cave within a cave.

KDC: What would you do if you had a time machine?

AW: Oh. I would want to see… I really love my house. I want to see my house in the future—see how it looks, who occupied it.

KDC: Which house? In Chiang Mai?

AW: In Chiang Mai.

KDC: What would you like to ask from God?

AW: Oooh, nothing because I don’t believe in God.

KDC: If you were a god, what would you do to the world?

AW: I would kill myself first.

KDC: How would you react if you were transformed into a fish?

AW: Oh. I don’t know. I just enjoy it—the feeling of weightlessness… fragility in the water fluid.

KDC: The fluidity. What was the last book you read?

AW: Oblomov. Yeah, Russian. Oblomov. O-B-L-O-M-O-V.

KDC: Oh, I haven’t read it. If you were a shirt, what color would you be?

AW: A shirt? Oh, blue, like this. Indigo.

KDC: Indigo? Are your parents disappointed with your career?

AW: I think so.

KDC: Really? Did they want you to be a doctor or something?

AW: No, no, no, no! But my mom always want me to be a soap opera director.

KDC: Oh! Okay, like “when are you going to make real films?”

AW: Like that! Just like that.

KDC: My mother’s the same. If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

AW: Wow. I would like to be a jellyfish. Because it lives—I heard that it’s… how do you call it? It never dies.

KDC: Immortal.

AW: Immortal, right.

KDC: How would you hide a dead body?

AW: A dead body? [Note: a very long pause] No, that’s just too crazy, no.

KDC: [laughs]

AW: I will pass, I will pass.

KDC: What is your take on fashion?

AW: What about it? Like what? What’s your take?

KDC: What gets lost in translation?

AW: Love.

KDC: Is the moon made of cheese?

AW: Of course not.

KDC: If all rivers are sweet, where does the sea gets its salt?

AW: … Wait, wait, wait. What kind of magazine is this? Is it yours, or—?

KDC: [laughs]

AW: Are these your questions?

KDC: Yes, these are my questions. Where does the rainbow end, in your soul or on the horizon?

AW: Ah, it never ends, I think.

KDC: What will people say about your film, if they have touched your blood?

AW: Maybe, maybe… how do you say… nostalgic.

KDC: Is the rose naked or is it only her dress?

AW: Ah, no… it’s…what is that?

KDC: Is the rose naked or is it only her dress?

AW: It’s the horizon, that’s my image.

KDC: In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?

AW: In what language?

KDC: Yeah.

AW: Spanish.

KDC: If there was an omnipotent god, would he be able to create a stone that he could not lift?

AW: What is omnipotent?

KDC: Like, all-knowing, all-seeing… all-knowing.

AW: Yeah, what is the question again? Omnipotent god…

KDC: Would he be able to create a stone that he could not lift?

AW: Sure, yeah.

KDC: Why is it so hard, the sweetness of the heart of the cherry?

AW: Why is it so hard? Hard like—?

KDC: Hard, as in—hard.

AW: Because it never sympathizes with its own peers.

KDC: How did the abandoned bicycle win its freedom?

AW: To forget that it’s a bicycle. To forget—to get rid of this idea that it is a bicycle.

KDC: If you eat yourself, would you become twice as big, twice as small, or disappear completely?

AW: Ah… I think I would transform into Boston terriers. That’s my wish.

KDC: Is there gravity in Chiang Mai?

AW: Mm, heavy. In Thailand, heavy gravity… Did you take a long time, writing these questions?

KDC: [laughs] 15 minutes. Is Christian Bale a Christian?

AW: What?

KDC: Is Christian Bale a Christian? Was the movie The Lion King based on a true story?

AW: Yeah, yeah, I think so.

KDC: Who was your favorite Spice Girl?

AW: What is Spice Girls? I don’t know what Spice Girl is.

KDC: I don’t know. They’re like a band.

AW: I know, but let’s answer that. It was too long ago.

KDC: Like Scary Spice, Posh Spice…

AW: Let’s say I don’t know Spice Girls.

KDC: What is the weirdest place you’ve ever vomited?

AW: Ah, trying to find a real… let’s say on a dog. On an unsuspecting dog.

KDC: How long after you feel full do you keep eating for?

AW: Ah, maybe—maybe an hour?

KDC: How many hours after getting paid does it take you to spend your entire paycheck?

AW: I spend it before I receive it. [laughs]

KDC: What were you like in high school?

AW: I don’t like anything about high school.

KDC: What was the last gift you gave someone?

AW: I just gave a lollipop to Yeyey. Lollipop in the shape of Anpanman.

KDC: All right. What are you known for?

AW: Ah, my beauty.

KDC: All right! How would you rate your memory?

AW: How do I rate my memory? Uh, I don’t know how to say it in English. Low. Not low, but… distant. Can that be answer? My memory is always very far from me.

KDC: What do you think about when you’re alone?

AW: My breathing.

KDC: Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?

AW: I think a gatherer.

KDC: What do you think cats dream about?

AW: About… What? Oh, let’s pass this one.

KDC: Describe the color yellow to someone who is blind.

AW: It’s sweet and sour. Yeah.

KDC: You’ve been given an elephant, what would you do with the elephant?

AW: I would project a movie onto it.

KDC: What do you work toward in your free time?

AW: What do I…?

KDC: What do you work toward in your free time?

AW: Toward?

KDC: Like what do you do in your free time?

AW: Ah. I really… I sleep.

KDC: Really? How many hours do you sleep?

AW: Little but if I have time, it’s my desire to sleep more.

KDC: All right. I think we can end it. Last two questions. How would you convince someone to do something they didn’t want to do?

AW: Oh, I wouldn’t do such thing. [laughs]

KDC: A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero—

AW: Wearing a what?

KDC: Wearing a sombrero, wearing a hat.

AW: A hat.

KDC: What does he say, and why is he here?

AW: He would say, “I want a green tea Kitkat. Please.”

KDC: And for the last question… if you don’t get this job, what’s your backup plan?

AW: This job? I wanna be a designate designer of pants for Khavn dela Cruz.

KDC: A designer—

AW: A designer.

KDC: —of pants? [laughs] Okay!

AW: Only for you.

KDC: All right! Thank you.

AW: What kind of magazine is—like a pop, teen? Art?

KDC: Ah, no, it’s a porn magazine.

AW: Are you serious? Me, in a porn magazine?

KDC: Like soft porn.

AW: Really?

KDC: Like, lots of naked ladies.

AW: [Turns to transcriber] Really? [Transcriber nods] I thought with Catholic culture…

KDC: Yeah, I mean the bestselling issue is—

AW: Please give me this—kind of—yeah. I’m really curious.

KDC: A pretentious porn magazine.

AW: Ah, okay.

KDC: Art porn.

 

Still taken from Apichatpong’s 2009 film, Haiku