The Last Movie Painters
Most of you forgot or might never have seen those hand-painted movie posters by the side of the roads or on trucks passing by, loudly announcing coming up movies in remote areas. Here in Phuket, it has been part of our daily life for decades, and there use to be a lot more of these huge billboards that would mostly put a smile on our faces… is that Brad Pitt or Bruce Willis? So yes we were laughing at it sometimes, but I always found it kind of cute.
Time passes and these large hand-painted billboards are becoming rare, I only see them on trucks now: technology is catching up, faster and more accurate, probably not yet cheaper here. But one place in Phuket still carries on this disappearing art. Two elderly Thai men are receiving weekly orders from Phuket Coliseum Cinema for the ‘coming soon’ shows. So we went to visit them, in their tiny remote little soi (lane) of Phuket.
Friendly and smiling, they both have been doing poster painting since they were teenagers and painting for Phuket Coliseum for twenty years. Imagine that: they know better than anyone else what movies have been playing each week of the past twenty years!
It only takes them half a day to paint one of these. Tracing the outlines in the morning, the truck must be on the road at 3 pm. But it is not simply reproducing an image based on the movie distribution provided sample. Without prior sketches, they mix and match details of that image to come up with their own version. One of the reasons is simple, posters are verticals, but trucks are horizontals. So the display often follows a simple rule: action or landscape in the background, actors face in the corners.
So what do you think is the hardest for them? Painting the face of a Farang (foreigner) because faces are a bit different? Wrong guess! Thai actors are the most difficult because people will recognize them!
So for the past twenty years, with three pieces of plywood, three brushes and a lot of paint and skills, Khun Pong and Khun Yid have been doing a disappearing form of art in their tiny over-heated workshop, and no one will ever know about them.