Mixed emotions over tsunami mini-series

PHUKET CITY: Mixed reactions greeted the filming of scenes for the TV mini-series Aftermath at Bangkok Hospital Phuket this week.

While some people said they saw the movie as potentially good for promoting Phuket, others – particularly victims – felt disturbed.

Kudos, the company making the movie for the BBC and HBO, recently came under fire in the British media for insensitivity, causing the BBC to issue a defensive press release. Another critical story by the Associated Press was published widely in the US and elsewhere. Kudos itself has made no public comments.

Some have also questioned the effect that the mini-series, due to be screened in the autumn, will have on tourism in Phuket and neighboring provinces.

But Panu Maswongsa, Vice-President of Marketing of the Phuket Tourism Association, told the Gazette that he did not believe the drama, which covers the day of the December 26, 2004, tsunami and the following few days, will damage Phuket tourism.

“I am sure that the authorities have been involved and read the script before allowing shooting to start. If they have approved it, there should be no negative effect. We should trust the [judgment of the] government officials.”

He noted that the movie Hurricane was made about a disaster in Hawaii, with no negative effect on tourism there.

“Tourism is sensitive, but everyone knows that the tsunami is history. Also, everyone knows that we have a warning system on the beaches to protect lives,” he added.

The production came under particular scrutiny after the crew recreated scenes of devastation, complete with corpses, alongside the main road into Khao Lak, Phang Nga.

Buaphun Phumsanid, 54, a construction worker who was injured when the tsunami hit Baan Nam Khem and who lost her daughter, son-in-law and unborn child, was in two minds about the production.

She said that she had heard that many of the extras in the movie “were running and smiling at the same time,” because they had had no experience of the real thing. She added that people like her should have been hired as extras. “I want to show them how was it,” she said.

That said, she admitted that she found some TV footage disturbing. “I was on a bus coming to Phang Nga and there was a movie or documentary with scenes showing big waves. It make me feel bad.

“I told the bus driver to turn it off or change the movie because it took my mind right back to that day. I still feel bad. I miss my daughter every day.”

Another tsunami victim in Phuket, who asked not to be named, told the Gazette that she had come across some of the extras, still in bandages and fake blood, and that the sight had immediately taken her mind back to the day of the tsunami.

“It has taken me and my husband more than a year to stop having nightmares. We have been trying to forget it,” she said, adding that they both found even small things such as TV commercials with images of flooding – like a current ad for Ford pick-up trucks – disturbing.

“I still have terrible memories about the horrible waves that took away so many thousands of lives in moments. It was a real nightmare for me and I don’t want to be reminded of it again,” she added.

Piyanooch Ananpakdee, Senior Marketing Communications Manager of Bangkok Hospital Phuket, explained that the hospital felt obliged to cooperate with the makers of the mini-series because of a formal request from the Office of Tourism Development in Bangkok.

“We read the script. The plot is good, and emphasizes the kindness of Thai people after the tsunami. I think it will help to promote the country,” she said.

Asked about the effect on people who come across post-tsunami scenes being re-enacted in the hospital, she said, “I don’t think that the filming will have a psychological effect except in the case of people who experienced the tsunami – they might start thinking about it again.

“But the number of tsunami victims coming into the hospital during the three days of filming is likely to be a very low.

“Yesterday some children came in with their parents and we explained to them that it not real. Even though the actors were covered with blood or something, they were always smiling and did nothing to scare anyone during breaks in shooting.”

She noted that shooting had also taken place in three other hospitals – Thalang Hospital and two hospitals in Phang Nga.

“We have allowed them to shoot scenes here on the strict condition that they do not interfere with patients. They are professionals, and gave us a schedule of when and where they would be shooting. We also have our staff keeping them apart from patients,” she added.

“We have a sign informing people about the production and we have been handing fliers to anyone coming to the hospital, apologizing for any inconvenience.”

Phuket News
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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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