Memoria: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Meditative Feature, Starring Tilda Swinton (Cannes Film Fest 2021)

Cannes 2021: Thai Palme d’Or Winner Returns with Memoria (In Competition)

Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul is back in competition with Memoria, starring Tilda Swinton, and a personal contribution to the Neon omnibus film The Year of The Everlasting Storm.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, winner of the 2013 Palme d’Or for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recount His Past Lives, is returning to the fest this summer with arthouse fare. The Thai auteur is the only talent with two titles in Cannes’ main selection this year.

Apichatpong’s long-awaited first feature shot outside native Thailand, Memoria, is included in the festival’s main competition lineup.

The project is set in Colombia and stars Tilda Swinton, the world’s most adventurous actor, as an orchid farmer in a meditative tale about nature and the human existence. However, other details of the story have been kept under wraps.

Apichatpong has said the film, which he spent months in Colombia researching and also wrote, is the product of obsession with South America.

The cast includes Jeanne Balibar, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Juan Pablo Urrego and Elkin Diaz.

Neon acquired North American rights to Memoria in 2019, shortly after the label’s historic success distributing Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho, another Palme D’Or winner.

Apichatpong’s Kick the Machine produced Memoria, along with Burning and Illuminations Films.

Neon also is involved in the auteur’s other title that will premiere at this’s year’s Cannes–a portmanteau feature titled The Year Of The Everlasting Storm, which is getting a special screening. Neon produced and financed the film, which has been described as “a love letter to cinema and its storytellers.” The project is comprised of seven personal shorts shot by international arthouse directors during the pandemic.

Apichatpong’s work is joined by contributions from Jafar Panahi, Anthony Chen, Malik Vitthal, Laura Poitras, Dominga Sotomayor and David Lowery.

Apichatpong is a longtime Cannes regular.

His second feature, Blissfully Yours, won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard program in 2002; and his next film, Tropical Malady, elevated him in 2004 to the main competition, where he won the jury prize.

Syndromes and a Century attracted critical acclaim in Venice in 2006, but his big breakthrough came in 2010, when a Cannes jury led by Tim Burton selected Uncle Boonmee as Thailand’s first Palme d’Or winner.

Apichatpong is a noted visual artist and had his video installations exhibited in museums around the world throughout the 2010s.

But he didn’t shoot another feature until Cemetery of Splendor in 2015. The film slipped from Cannes’ main competition into the Un Certain Regard section, a demotion that dismayed the director.

Cemetery of Splendor

The surreal film was nonetheless well received by critics, although its coded references to contemporary Thai politics may have mystified some international viewers.