“How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)” is an original and beautifully crafted coming-of-age story where sex between men is not taboo. The Thailand Oscar submission for the Best Foreign Film 2016 was carefully shot with a great sense of respect and beauty.
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 the land’s beauty on the screen with artistic austerity.
In “Checkers,” every character is fundamental to 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 in this corrupted environment.
Life becomes a game where some win, and 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 with all these nightmares. He is played by the famous Superstar Thai actor-model Toni Rakkaen.
Oak vividly remembers his childhood and 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. This tolerant society is more concerned about daily life and survival rather than worried about anybody’s sexual preferences.
The Aunt is a hard-working, superstitious lady who cleans houses and cares for 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 turn 21 and must go to the draft and join the military. Even Kitty and many of the “third gender” like her must get into the draft process.
Little Oak will do anything to exempt his brother from the army, even to brave the Mafia Guy to help him 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 who always looked after him.
“Checkers” is a surprising 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 gay “Wonder Years” with a touch of melancholy in a land full of contrast and beauty. After all, for some, the checkers game is not over.
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