Crossing the Muslim-Buddhist Divide for Love

BY DAN-CHYI CHUA
May 10, 2009
*Special to asia!

Thai filmmaker Kaweenipon Ketprasit talks about a work that transcended religions to take him on a deeply personal journey.

“The Convert” is an ode to simple stories, and how sometimes they are the most eloquent and heartwarming.

Boy meets girl, they fall in love, and the story begins with their new life together. June and Ake are ordinary characters, but their union is that of a Buddhist woman and a Muslim man. June left her life and job in Bangkok to live in the southern Muslim region with Ake, her new husband.

For two years, three filmmakers followed June's journey into married life as she donned the headscarf and immersed herself in Islam. “The Convert” is a story propelled by the sincerity and strength of its lead, a heroine who endears her audience right from the start. The result: a tender and intimate picture about her conversion and the challenges that tested the couple’s commitment to each other.

One of the filmmakers, Kaweenipon Ketprasit, talks to theasiamag.com about “The Convert”.

the convert

Photo courtesy of  Singapore International Film Festival


theasiamag.com: How did the film come about?

Kaweenipon Ketprasit: June and I are friends. She had told all of us she was going to the south (of Thailand) for vacation. Ten days later, she came back and said she was getting married. All our friends were busy and I was the only one who was free to attend, so I went and recorded the wedding.

After the wedding, I came back to Bangkok and met with Panu Aree and Kong Rithdee (the other two filmmakers). I had made my previous film “In Between” with Panu and we had been talking about a next film. I showed them the video and decided to make a movie [out of the story). I wanted to do a documentary about Buddhists and Muslims. I wanted to follow June's life.

June is a city girl and worked for a Japanese magazine in Bangkok. As a Buddhist in Bangkok, she is like us, the filmmakers. We are Muslims in the city and we do not fit into any religious stereotypes. I can go to a Muslim ritual and feel alienated, and caught between Buddhist and Muslim societies. I have spent most of my life in Bangkok and met lots of people in other religions.

 

theasiamag.com: What made you want to make the film?

Kaweenipon Ketprasit : I was interested because I had a question. What is going to happen after June converts? How is she going to live with their families on both sides? June had known Ake for four years but only as friends; then in ten days, she decided to marry him. I was curious how this marriage would work out.

 

theasiamag.com: Did you feel compelled to convey a certain message of hope or reconciliation between the two religions?

Kaweenipon Ketprasit: “The Convert” is a love story about two people, about a woman who loves a man. It conveys this simple message. Despite their differences in religion, some of the problems have nothing to do with religion. It is about human beings and two people living together.

The clashes between religions, such as between the Christians and the Muslims, is a conflict of human beings co-existing.

 

theasiamag.com: How has making this film changed you?

Kaweenipon Ketprasit : For me the film became a journey of self-discovery. At the beginning, I didn't think so, but later I realised it was. I learned more and started to turn the questions back to myself. When June converted, she began to do a lot of things better than I do as a Muslim. That made me question myself.

 

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dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi