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Ong-Bak: New Thai Cinema, Hong Kong and the cult of the ‘real’

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The article examines the Thai martial arts film Ong-Bak (2003), a commercial success in South East Asia and a growing cult hit in the West. The author looks at the film in three contexts. First, it is placed in the context of ‘New Thai Cinema’, a category associated with both nationalist and transnational characteristics. Second, the film is seen at the intersection of the relationship between Thai and Hong Kong cinema, with Ong-Bak reworking Hong Kong's tradition of ‘authentic’ stunt work. Finally, the notion of ‘authenticity’ is considered as a ‘return of the real’ in an age of digital action cinema. This is argued to be double-edged, as an alternative to the virtual action of ‘First Cinema’ (and the Matrix sequels in particular), but also complicit in casting Thailand as a ‘primitive’ cinema.

Keywords: Thai cinema; martial arts; the ‘real’

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Brunel University.

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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  • The journal aims to provide a platform for the study of new forms of cinematic practice and fresh approaches to cinemas hitherto neglected in western scholarship. It particularly welcomes scholarship that does not take existing paradigms and theoretical conceptualisations as given; rather, it anticipates submissions that are refreshing in approach and exhibit a willingness to tackle cinematic practices that are still in the process of development into something new.  
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