Oldest Sound Films Shot in Thailand Discovered

Stills from
Stills from "Royal Siamese Musicians" and "A Puppet Show in Bangkok" filmed in 1930. Image: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation / University of South Carolina

BANGKOK — A set of four sound films shot nearly a hundred years ago, believed to be the first sound films recorded in Thailand, was screened at the Thai Film Archive for the first time on Monday.

Film historian Dome Sukhawong discovered the films in 2018 in archives at the University of South Carolina. All reels were shot by Fox Movietone and recorded in 1930.

The Thai Film Archive, of which Dome is a founder, received high-quality copies of the films in July this year. The four films have a combined length of slightly over half an hour.

One of the films shows a traditional Thai musical ensemble. Another shows a three-person troupe playing western music and dancing in a humorous manner. The third reel shows a traditional puppet play ordered at the behest of Queen Rambai Barni, the wife of Rama VII. The last shows monks chanting, a baby taking a bath in a metal bowl, and a navy officer sweet-talking to a girl.

“It’s really traditional,” Kong Rithdee, deputy director of the Thai Film Archive and a noted film critic, said of the films.

However, he observed that the third film has a more modern and European feel: the recording shows not only the puppet play, but spectators looking with curiosity and amusement at the camera.

The first silent film in Siam was shot in 1897.

Below are some clips from the sound films: