Having previously directed four documentaries focusing on border disputes, ethnicity, prostitution, and human rights, Thai director Nontawat Numbenchapol shifts to fiction with his new film “Doi Boy”, addressing similar themes. Premiering at the Busan International Film Festival’s Jiseok competition section, “Doi Boy” explores the lives of three marginalized young men in Thailand on their pursuit of justice.
The story unveils the struggles of an undocumented worker from Myanmar, who, despite being heterosexual, works as a gay prostitute in Chiang Mai, and becomes involved with a customer and a fleeing political activist. It reflects upon various socio-political challenges haunting Thailand, including the plight of undocumented workers, the influx of refugees escaping Myanmar’s civil unrest, governmental oppression, enforced disappearances, police brutality, and overwhelming traffic congestion.
Numbenchapol discovered a considerable number of male sex workers from Myanmar’s Shan region in Chiang Mai, who were pushed into the profession due to their undocumented status and the necessity for employment, sparking his interest in crafting a feature around this. Initially, he considered making a documentary but deemed the subject too risky. Transitioning from documentaries to a feature film reignited Numbenchapol’s passion and creativity.
The director, who spent five years developing “Doi Boy”, witnessed his script evolve alongside significant socio-political changes in Thailand. Though the film begins with a focus on ethnic minorities and gender issues, it gradually incorporates themes like corruption and environmental degradation, underscoring the fragile nature of dreams in an unstable social context.
Numbenchapol faced no censorship issues during production despite tackling sensitive subjects. He believes framing the story as fiction rather than using real names mitigated potential problems. The film was developed through various production labs and markets since 2016, eventually receiving full funding from the new studio Neramitnung Film, turning it into a Thai-Cambodian co-production with a budget of $725,000.
While Numbenchapol expresses interest in further exploring fiction, he does not plan to abandon documentaries completely, acknowledging they offer a stable source of income and opportunities to collaborate on international projects and produce short films for NGOs, television, and art projects. Source