The critique of anticommunist state violence in uncle boonmee who can recall his past lives

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Palme d’Or-awarded Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) has ostensibly been embraced by both critics and scholars alike as international art cinema and for being constitutive of a canon of world cinema from the vantage of Southeast Asia. This article, however, takes a detour to focus particularly on the film’s engagement with Thai politics and its complex intertwinement with Buddhism during the period of anti-communism. I specifically look at how the film replicates religious beliefs and indigenous practices, such as the structure of kamma and reincarnation as redemption, that were used by the right-wing military government to justify a series of anti-communist pogroms. I argue that by hijacking such religious narratives and translating them into cinematic form, the film manages to eschew the risk of being suppressed by censorship, or, at worst, of reproducing the state-imposed narrative on the appropriation and accomplishment of such violence in the name of the nation. This article aims to shed light on how the film criticizes not only the past - what historically happened - but also the way we come to understand the history of such atrocious event and relate to it as our national history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-111
Number of pages17
JournalAsian Cinema
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Intellect Ltd Article. English language.


  • Anti-communism
  • Apichatpong
  • Buddhism
  • Cinema
  • Southeast Asian
  • Thai cinema
  • Uncle Boonmee
  • Weerasethakul


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