PHOTO: The Nation
From the outset, I can’t recommend this wonderful documentary more highly. It was inspiring, highly entertaining and a beautifully crafted, intimate insight into, as he describes himself, a normal Thai person doing something extraordinary.
Artiwara ‘Toon’ Kongmalai, a huge popular rockstar in Thailand, decided to raise money for struggling public hospitals in the Land of Smiles. He didn’t do it the easy way. He set out to run from the southern town of Betong to the northern tip in Chiang Rai, a journey of 2,215 kilometres (hence the title). The schedule would require Toon and his entourage to run 50 kilometres a day, 20% more than a full marathon every single day (with a few scheduled and unscheduled lay days).
He covered the distance, on schedule, in 55 days. The physical effort for ‘Toon’ was immense, for the support team, it was a nightmare trying to control the crowds, collect the money and mange the enthusiasm as they trekked north.
For a singer that ‘enjoyed running’ this was a mammoth physical and psychological undertaking and would test his own belief, stamina and resolve.
Rather than simply follow a daily timeline, the movie takes us on an intimate journey through the human side of this very public run-a-thon. We get up-close-and-personal with the people eager to meet Toon and pass on their contribution to the effort, the medical staff who are fighting the realities of Toon’s health, his proud parents who just want their son to be happy and the entourage who have to, somehow, control the huge public interest, the media, the crowds along the route and a very strong-willed and determined runner.
At one stage one of the many crowd and media controllers is asked, in a scale of 1-3, how stubborn was Toon? He said ‘do you have a scale up to 20?’
38 year old Toon, obviously used to the public adoration though his many years jumping around the stage as the lead singer in the rock band ‘Bodyslam’, made enormous efforts, throughout the journey, to meet and greet the hundreds and thousands of people who wanted to be a part of the epic run, and history.
In the end the aim to raise 700 million baht was exceeded when the total had reached 1.1 billion baht as Toon finally crossed the finish line at the northern tip of the Kingdom. So what do you do after 55 days of pounding the Thai roads, in humidity and rain, hundreds of pain-killing injections and even more therapeutic massages? Toon simply and quietly raised his finger in a reserved gesture – it was maybe the only energy he had left following the epic marathon.
Although Toon took time to meet with the Thai PM whilst passing through Bangkok, he clearly has no time for Thai politics. His aim, to raise money for a struggling public health system, could be regarded as a salvo across the bows of the Thai health ministry as a single runner did more to raise public awareness about the plight of smaller public hospitals, than anyone else ever had. Mission accomplished, message understood.
As a film, like most Thai films, it is high quality cinematography from end to end, a rocking soundtrack and compelling, although we already knew there was a happy ending with a record amount raised.
Please go an see ‘2,215’. It’s open in most cinemas now, with full English subtitles. It only cost 70 baht when I went to see it at the Jungceylon cinemas as much of the ticket cost has been subsidised by the duty-free group King Power.