How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)


Bay Area Premiere

Expected to attend: Director Josh Kim, Producer Edward Gunawan

Each year in Thailand, all 21-year-old males must appear for the draft lottery at their local Buddhist temple—where drawing red means military service and drawing black means being excused. As his own draft day approaches, Oat looks back on the time he did all in his power to keep his beloved older brother Ek close to home and out of the service. Hoping that love and luck will be enough, the 11-year-old Oat unwittingly sets in motion events that lay bare the limited options facing Thailand’s working poor.

Since losing both parents, the brothers have lived with their aunt and young cousin. Between Ek’s bartending and Auntie’s house cleaning, the family scrapes by in a village practically owned by black-marketeers. Still, they have each other and want to keep it that way. Like many other things in their lives, the lottery results are meant to be accepted as the luck of the draw. But as Ek, his wealthy boyfriend Jai, and their trans friend Kitty face the draft in their own ways, their differences grow increasingly apparent and threaten simpler bonds of love and friendship. An innocent primarily concerned with food and playing checkers, Oat sees the struggles facing those he looks up to and suddenly comes to know the very real problems of adults. Feeling the pressure of change, Oat tries to problem-solve on his own, with often-disastrous results.

Set in the economic fringes of Bangkok and inspired by the short story collection Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Korean American writer-director Josh Kim’s impressive and seamless debut captures a tender bond of brotherly love and the simultaneous whimsical innocence and devastating disillusionment of an adolescent striving to understand a world that is deeply unjust despite all of its beauty.

— Carol Harada

In Thai with English subtitles.

This film is a recipient of a Frameline Completion Fund grant.

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: F116

Co-presented by:
Center for Asian American Media
Gay Asian Pacific Alliance
Hyphen Magazine
ShangriLa SF

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