*By Florian Bardou
Born in Bangkok, and educated in the U.S, Ohm Phanphiroj began his professional career as an artist and photographer in 1997, while working on a graduate degree in filmmaking at Georgia State University. His video Underage has been shortlisted by Vimeo Festival + Awards 2012 in the Category Documentary. His 7 minute video made us totally cry and think.
Thailand has long been known as the sex capital of Asia, and according to a survey in 2004, there are approximately 800,000 underage prostitutes in Thailand in a trade worth 4.3 billion baht per year or three percent of the Thai economy. Underage explores the minds of these underage male prostitutes in a most candid and visceral way. Here is our little interview with Ohm:
I grew up in Thailand and had witnessed the problem of prostitution and underage prostitution since I was in my teens. After I came back from living in the U.S for 18 years in 2006, the problem was still widespread and concerned me. So I decided to take on the project to portray the reality of the rotten political and economical situations and corruption we have here in Thailand.
After finishing law school in 1991, I got a scholarship to study communication and film in the U.S. and I ended up with 3 masters’ degrees. I have been in the fashion industry, ranging from fashion director for Esquire magazine, photographer with Marge and Case associates in NY. Currently I am a professor in Photography at Bangkok University International. I still split time between Thailand and NYC/Atl.
The film is being extremely well received for most of the people, although there are few negative criticism whether the film is exploiting the children or not. But I believed in the integrity of the film and I’m sure it serves a greater purpose for the general public to know. Without informing the public what has been going on, the problem will never be corrected. And as an artist, my intention is to always share my concerns about the problem in my hometown and to get the visual out to the world to be a part of the change. Moby kindly allowed us to use his original music in the film.