Sunday, January 24, 2016

“How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)” A Nostalgic Tale of Brotherhood and Tolerance

By Jose Alberto Hermosillo,
“How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)” is the Thailand Oscar submission for best foreign film 2016. The film was carefully shot with a great sense of respect and beauty. A surprisingly original coming-of-age story, where sexuality is not a taboo.

Its poetic narrative depicts a young guy trying to understand the world of his older gay brother who lived and sacrificed everything to keep him safe.

The filmmakers traveled to a colorful country to portray on the screen the beauty of the land with an artistic austerity.

In “Checkers” every character is a fundamental piece of the board-game. Everybody wants to win, even if their unprivileged condition makes them abuse alcohol, sex, and drugs, and some also could descend into prostitution of this corrupted environment.

Life becomes a game where some win, others lose. “Money is power, success is for sale.”
The chronicle starts with a dream of a man burning in flames. Oak is the handsome young male having all these nightmares. He is played by the famous Superstar Thai actor-model Toni Rakkaen. 

Oak, vividly, remembers his childhood and his relationship with his older brother Ek and his rich boyfriend Jai. 

“Checkers” shows how an innocent boy views gays and transgender as an integrated part of the community, a tolerant society which is more concerned about the daily life and survival rather than worried about anybody's sexual preferences.

The Aunt is a hard-working, superstitious lady, who cleans houses and takes care of little Oak and Ek, the two orphans but loving brothers.

In real life transgender actress Natarat Lakha “Nut” plays the gorgeous Kitty -- her performance is natural as the sexy girl who drives men crazy. She is an irresistible and fearless woman who’s close to Ek and Jai and cares for little Oak.

The Mafia Guy and his son Jr., (The bully), control all economic activity in the community. He also owns a gay bar where hustlers and sex-workers gather to sell their bodies. Ek is the bartender.

Things get complicated when the boys turned 21 and have to go to the draft and join the military service. Even Kitty and many of the “third gender” like her, have to get into the draft process.

Little Oak will do anything to have his brother exempted from the army, even to brave the Mafia Guy to help his brother out of the draft. By doing so, he puts his brother in jeopardy.

Oak soon discovers that his brother is not less of a man because he’s gay. He is still his brother and someone that always looked after him.

“Checkers” is a surprisingly directorial film debut for Korean-American Josh Kim, who teams-up with veteran Hollywood producer Chris Lee (“Superman Returns,” “SWAT,” “Valkyrie”) to make this a beautiful movie.

“Checkers” flows evenly, provoking the spectator to fall in love with the film, making you forget about yourself and live through the eyes of those great characters.

This motion picture has won many audience awards at The Atlanta Out on Film, The Film Out San Diego, LA Asian American Pacific Film Festival, and The Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival.
“How to Win Checkers (Every Time)” is reminiscent of “The Wonder Years” with a touch of melancholy in a land full of contrast and beauty. After all, the checkers game is not over.
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