Phi Ta Khon: Ghosts Of Isan

"Thailand’s psychedelic ghost festival” does not come as advertised. There’s a lot of drinking going on — powerful stuff, I’m sure — but the wild visuals on display seem more like a Thai-style Mardi Gras. There is definitely some kinky behaviour, what with all the huge, stylised phalluses on display and eager cross-dressing, but it all seems like that’s just part of life in North-eastern Thailand. The narrative-free videotape documents a two-day performance of the rituals involved in the ghost festival, from the construction of elaborate and scary masks to overwhelming and anarchic firework displays. Like Mardi Gras, everyone in town is wrapped up in this humdinger of a party and the sense of release is palpable. This DVD is a totally absorbing travelogue, with so many fascinating visuals that further explanation would just get in the way. The music is provided by electric guitars, bamboo flutes and stringed instruments. If you are already familiar with the Sublime Frequencies releases of the last several years, you’ll appreciate this visual counterpoint. Plus: bonus short film. (Sublime Frequencies)