Cannes First, Then Thailand for Restored ‘Lost’ Classic

Poonpan Rangkuan and Rewadee Sriwilai in a scene from ‘Santi-Vina.’ Photo: Thai Film Archive / Courtesy

BANGKOK — A long-lost Thai film from the 1950s has been completely restored and will show at Cannes next month.

Rediscovered and newly restored, “Santi-Vina” (1954) will be among 21 classic films showing at the Cannes Film Festival before being brought to Thai theaters later this year.

The film, starring Poonpan Rangkuan and Rewadee Sriwilai at the beginning of their careers, had long been thought lost until copies were found two years ago in foreign film archives in China, Russia and the United Kingdom. It was added to the National Film Heritage Registry in the same year.

A print of the film was sent to Italy for restoration work. It’s now ready for public viewing in a new digital version, with corrected color and sound.

“Santi-Vina” was directed by Tawee “Kru Marut” Na Bangchang and produced by Rattana Pestonji, who is regarded as the father of contemporary Thai cinema.

It was first released in theatres and broadcast on television in 1954. A commercial and critical success, it was remade by Rattana’s son Santa Pestonji in 1976.

In “Santi-Vina,” Vina (Rewadee) is a woman who draws romantic interest from two young men Krai and Santi, who is blind. However, the movie is better known for its portrayal of Thai culture than its love-triangle story.

It was the first shot in color on 35mm color – with sound. Up till then, movies were usually filmed in 16mm without sound.

“Santi-Vina” was the first Thai film to garner awards at an international film festival, winning best cinematography and best art direction at the Southeast Asian Film Festival in Tokyo in 1954.

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A damaged film cell from ‘Santi-Vina’ prior to restoration at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Italy. Photo: Thai Film Archive / Facebook
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Photo: Thai Film Archive / Courtesy
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Photo: Thai Film Archive / Courtesy