Films & Schedules

  • In the Shadow of the Naga

  • Phawat Panangkasiri

94 minutes

Production Company:
Sahamongkolfilm International Co., Ltd.
Executive Producer:
Somsak Techaratanaprasert
Prachya Pinkaew, Sukanya Vongsthapat, Bandit Thongdee
Phawat Panangkasiri
Production Designer:
Sopohn Pulsawad Sound: Sunit Asavinikul
Teerawat Rujeenatham
Tawat Siripong
Production Designer: Sopohn Pulsawad Sunit Asavinikul
Narinthon Na Bangchang
Principal Cast: Somchai Khemklad, Ray MacDonald, Pitisak Yaowananon, Inthira Charoenpura

Thursday September 1109:30PM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Friday September 1205:30PM AMC 7 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Saturday September 1309:00AM VARSITY 1 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

The naga is a fierce, mystical serpent with many heads, revered as the protector of Buddha. According to Buddhist lore, a naga once magically transformed itself into a human and sought to become a monk. But the Buddha, detecting its false nature, expelled the naga from the monastery – though not before teaching it the path to righteous karma so that it could truly be reborn as a man.

This is the central allegory in the high-concept thriller In the Shadow of the Naga, which combines tense drama with a philosophical exploration of karmic retribution and redemption. The story follows three robbers – Parn, Por and Singh – who are on the run from the police after a successful heist. In desperation, one of them buries their loot on temple grounds, but after a few months, they are dismayed to discover that a new hall has been built on top of their stash. To retrieve the money, they have no choice but to coerce the monastery's elder monk to ordain them. Can Buddha's teachings free them from their dark nature, or will their violent impulses force them into desperate measures?

This is a provocative theme for a Thai film after the recent censorship of Syndromes and a Century (which screened at the Festival in 2006), in which scenes of monks playing the guitar and operating a remote-controlled UFO were censored for “violating Buddhist precepts.” The potential for controversy is strong here: while Parn and Singh are charismatic and masculine, they are also portrayed as dangerous loose cannons who don't hesitate to use guns while wearing their orange robes. But In the Shadow of the Naga also has a strong moral undercurrent, with Por acting as the trio's conscience. Though he decides not to become ordained, Por is nevertheless plagued by a sense of guilt, and seeks absolution from his sins in the teachings of the abbot. The sudden intrusion by Singh's girlfriend, sassily played by Inthira Charoenpura (of Nang Nak), lights a fire under the already simmering tension, and the enthralling denouement is as unexpected as it is brutal.

In Thai culture, “naga” also refers to a young man in his prime who renounces his sexual urges for monkhood. The film ends with a poetic ordination ritual of one such naga, thus taking us back to the legend and highlighting the cyclical nature of karma.

Raymond Phathanavirangoon

Phawat Panangkasiri was born in Nakorn Srithammarat, Thailand, and studied communication arts at Bangkok University. He has directed the feature films The Six (05), Orahun Summer (08) and In the Shadow of the Naga (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award