Apichatpong Weerasethakul Has a Moving Message From Quarantine About His Plum Tree

Exclusive: The "Uncle Boonmee" filmmaker offers a poignant dispatch from Thailand, where he has currently taken shelter.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Sean Wang

Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul has always been a filmmaker working outside the margins, so it seems appropriate that he’s found poetry in the isolation of the ongoing quarantine. That update comes courtesy of distributor Strand Releasing, which asked filmmakers, artists, and friends, how their lives were affected by the pandemic. The project is part of a collaboration with Criterion, which hosted the the “30/30 VISION” anthology celebrating Strand’s 30th anniversary last fall.

As shared exclusively with IndieWire, the “Tropical Malady” and “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” director has a message for fans from Thailand, where he lives and works. See below.

I have a marian plum tree at my home. Previously I didn’t pay much attention to it because I was mostly away. A few weeks ago when I started to spend time at home, I tried the fruit. It has the most satisfying flavor, sweet, sour, fresh — the taste of summer. I now have it everyday at breakfast and dinner. I sent a lot of them to my sister, my ex-boyfriend. So far I still haven’t been able to deplete the tree of its fruits. It keeps sprouting new ones.

I viewed the phenomenon as a mystery verging on magic. I peer at the tree at night and see the orange dots visible in the dark. Normally when plants at home produce unusual amounts of fruits and flowers, they tell us that they are trying to spawn because they are dying. So I look at the flowers with an anticipation of death. I’m concerned that this plum tree is relaying the same communication, just when I started to appreciate its value. This thought makes each fruit taste even more exquisite. I honor the conversation by keeping the seeds for sow. They will grow very well in the approaching rainy season.

Weerasethakul also shared a photo of his plum tree. See below.

Weerasethakul’s next project, his English-language debut “Memoria,” is currently undated for release. It looked like a possible Cannes entry, as Weerasethakul has been a regular at the French festival and won the Palme d’Or in 2010. But the fate of Cannes, now postponed, remains a question as festival organizers monitor the situation ahead of announcing a new date.

Shot and set in Colombia with Tilda Swinton, “Memoria” looks to be another rumination on memory from the “Syndromes and a Century” director. Filmed in the mountains of the municipality of Pijao and Bogotá, “Memoria” centers on Swinton as a woman from Scotland who, while traveling, confronts unsettling sights and sounds that call her identity into question.

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