Thai-American filmmaker wins top award at Hot Docs festival


A Bangkok-raised Thai-American filmmaker has won the award for Best International Documentary Feature at the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival in Toronto for her film about a grieving Thai family who decides to cryopreserve their deceased two-year-old daughter in hopes medical advances will one day allow her to live again.

Director Pailin Wedel’s film ‘Hope Frozen’ now qualifies to compete for an Academy Award nomination by virtue of its prize in the Hot Docs festival. She said, however, that her focus right now is to have the film seen more widely by screening it at more festivals.

Hope Frozen is enormously touching and insightful examination of how a Thai Buddhist couple, Sahatorn and Nareerat Naovaratpong, attempt to cope with the loss of their two-year-old daughter Einz to cancer in 2015. Einz became the youngest person in the world to undergo cryo-preservation.

“The documentary reveals a family in mourning, seeking answers not only from Buddhism but from their profound faith in science,” said Pailin. Founder of 2050 Productions, a Bangkok-based documentary company, she began her career as a photojournalist and filmmaker and has produced videos for the New York Times and National Geographic.

Hope Frozen is Pailin’s first feature-length documentary. The story “brings together philosophical thought, science, religion, and powerful emotion in one film. It doesn’t just allow the audience to reflect on their own beliefs, it also makes us consider where we’d like society to head to as technology advances at this incredible pace,” she said.

She said the family was willing to let her chronicle their experience because she was honest with them, and so gained their trust. The film took four years to make.

“I think very deeply about the ethics of documentary filmmaking. I hope people will watch and will first understand more deeply where the family is coming from. It might seem very strange to so many people, why they made that decision, but also to ask themselves, what do I believe? What is death? And how is Buddhism involved? And how is science involved? I want people to think about how technology is blurring the very meaning of life and death,” Pailin said.

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