Explore the Socio-Political Filmmaking of Nawacharee Piyamongkol

From air pollution to gender stereotypes, the aspiring artist puts them all on film for the world to be aware

Nawacharee Piyamongkol, who goes by the nickname "Bo", is a Thai filmmaker director based in Los Angeles and Bangkok. With her background in cultural studies, it is of no surprise why she is well-informed and unafraid of tackling socio-political problems in her work, especially ones close to her on a personal level. Bo's previous works include Pieces & Bits, a representation of the sexualisation and fetishisation that many Thai women face at a young age, and Fall Into My Palms, an experimental short film exploring the suffocation one might feel being in a relationship.

Her newest film, Bangkok 2.5 follows the pattern. Choreographed and performed by Napat Rodboon and Saruda Chantrapanichkul, the issue of Bangkok’s ongoing air pollution is depicted through interpretive dance. Two individuals, both in gas masks, show movements as if they are struggling and gasping for air, holding on for dear life. The message is straightforward, with the inspiration behind the film stemming directly from the filmmaker’s own experience.

“I didn’t choose pollution as an issue I have to do; it’s the pollution triggering the movie to be made,” the 28-year-old director explains. “One day when I was walking around the junction near Central World, I looked forward and all I could notice was the dense smog. The problem is right in front of my face, and I’m pissed, so as a filmmaker, I’ll make a movie.

However, she decided to not use words at all in conveying her message. “I don't want to watch a bunch of people talking about pollution,” she says. "We are already talking about it in our real lives—we have conversations about it, we write stories, we hold protests, and so on. I decided to choose a different medium that does not involve talking, and I feel that dancing, with all the movements and gestures, presents a visceral connection to the audience. It depicts a clear sign of struggle and suffocation, while giving us a vivid idea we can connect with almost instantly. I’m worried that if I include too much talking, that connection would not be established as easily.”

Perhaps due to the apparent passion behind the film, Bangkok 2.5 won Best Performance award at the Los Angeles Experimental Dance and Music Festival in 2021, as well as earned its place as a semi-finalist for Best Music Video award at AFF Barcelona in 2022. In addition to being an outlet for her frustrations, Bo uses film as a tool to build empathy. “Film is such a powerful medium to encourage people to exercise their compassion. It can be easier to address issues after a movie presents them. That’s why I chose film as a medium to talk about all these subjects that are important to me and my friends that might be a little hard to bring up at dinner tables with your family.”

You can follow Bo’s work at nawacharee.com.