Christian Jil Benitez teaches at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he earned an AB-MA in Filipino literature. Currently based in Bangkok, he is pursuing his PhD at Chulalongkorn University, working on a manuscript on the nonhuman under the Second Century Fund Scholarship. His essays on time, tropicality, and materiality have appeared in Kritika Kultura, Rupkatha, and The Routledge Handbook of Literature and Ecofeminism, among others. He is the associate editor for Katipunan, and a co-editor of the recent special issue of eTropic on tropical materialisms. His first book, Isang Dalumat ng Panahon, was published by AdMU Press. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This Strange, Small Beast: On Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Sud Pralad (2004)
Abstract: This paper attempts to locate and assert the agency of nonhuman matters in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Sud Pralad (2004), to arrive at another understanding, one that refuses its typical appraisals as “impenetrable,” “incomprehensible,” and “inscrutable.” The paper first speculates on the film’s titular strange beast (sud pralad) as the Plasmodium parasite, commonly carried in the salivary glands of Anopheles mosquitos and whose transmission into the mammalian body causes malaria. This tropical malady is harnessed here as a heuristic through which the peculiar, bifurcated structure of the film is reconsidered, wagering it instead to be continuous and singular, albeit seemingly halved by the film’s performative transference of the malarial delirium through cinematic techniques. And yet, this diegetic disease is also obscured in the film by the imposing cinematic presence of the forest, whose interpellating verdure permits common sublimation of the film in often moralist terms. The forest and, by extension, Weerasethakul’s film materialize as material assemblages in and through which the parasitic beast and its malady stealthily persist, if only to critique a world that is otherwise dominated by colossal matters. The paper underscores how such nature-culture entanglement is crucial, for it poses the possibility toward a “cure,” so to speak, “for what ails a sickly film culture,” if not the anthropocentric culture that disregards the participation of nonhuman matters in each instance of its discourse.
Keywords: Thai cinema, forest, nature-culture entanglement, tropicality