WHFS Spirit of Place part 2

In part one I shared a story about a day of teaching at Denver Public School. To briefly recount– The middle school students convened in a science classroom. Some were in-person in the school while some students, via Zoom, tuned in remotely on computer screens like floating heads in a vat. The students were asked to (a) choose a film and watch it, (b) pick out one scene, (c) write/talk about how that scene defines the tone of the film for them.  They were on part C when I met with them.

A Student brought up the film Good Boys and all the Students fluttered. Some had seen it and all of them seemed to have heard of it. “Give your report” the students all asked, “without spoilers.” The student was willing to share her report and we adjusted the mics so that the remote students could hear her voice. Her address to the group sparked a great conversation about ethical teenage behavior. To paraphrase the student’s summary: The teenagers in the film acted like adults in uncomfortable ways. Sometimes teenagers and kids pretend to know and understand what is going on around them but really they don’t. The kids in the film were pretending to know what they were doing which is why they didn’t know it was wrong. They didn’t know the consequences of what they were doing. They were innocent but they still felt the effects of the consequences. 

I haven’t heard of or seen the film because i’m not it’s target audience yet I’m glad it has impacted them the way it has. At any age it’s fun to see a piece of art, like this film, that has us reconsidering who we are and how we act in the world. We had films like that when I was in middle school /high school as well. Kids (1995), Elephant (2003), Requiem for a Dream (2000) are examples of cautionary tales we circulated, watched, and talked about as teens and young adults. We questioned what the people in the films were doing and thought about how we could make ourselves resilient to those kinds of exploitations / What we would do or say to not fall victim to ignorance like some of the kids in the film did / How could we not be like them? I didn’t really recommend any of those films to them because they contain mature content that isn’t suitable for all age groups especially not as young as middle school. I also didn’t recommend City of God to the students but I did recommend it to the teachers. None of these films are ghost plots however they are a bit gruesome in their content and are interesting in the ways that they conflate reality, fiction, memory and history.

The students seemed spooked by Good Boys. When I watch a movie that creeps me out and I can’t sleep sometimes i watch a second movie as an antidote. I usually pick something cheery and mellow like the telecommunicating “floating head” Student who chose Spirited Away. If i were to chose an antidote movie to Good Boys I’d chose the film Pee Mak (2013) streamable on Netflix (and once the teenagers go to bed you can stream one of Dave Chappelle’s comedy specials).

Pee Mak is a hilarious horror-comedy-romance and it’s an ol’ Southeast Asian folk story that has been told over many generations. While the story is not always as campy as Dir. Banjong Pisanthanakun’s version, the plot remains the same after hundred of years and thousands of retellings: Returning home, a soldier is haunted by their spouse and child who died while they were away fighting in the war. Mak (Mark) and the other returned troupes mock the seriousness of war glory stories with their slapstick anxiety over who is and isn’t dead. 

Bonus: The film is in Thai with English subtitles so it’s almost like reading a book while watching a movie. Can you pick up on any Thai words they say repeatedly? It’s a ghost story but it’s actually a love story so try listening for the word for “I like” or “I love”. You can practice saying it so you know what to listen for–

Vocab: ฉันชอบ (Pronounced: C̄hạn chaawb: in english translates to “I like”)

ฉันชอบ the film Pee Mak because ฉันชอบ folklore and more specifically ฉันชอบ ghost plots in folklore. Ghost films are a fun way to learn about “movie & stage magic” or “special effects” since there are many ways to represent a ghost physique -or lack there of- in storytelling. In Diop’s Atlantics the ghosts are sleepwalking women in pj’s and some contact lenses. In Pee Mak, Nak’s ghost is a traditionally dressed, stoic woman and their baby Dang is often an empty bassinet slowly rocking. Later in the film Nak becomes more ghost-like by wearing effective and simple stage makeup. Actress Davika Hoorne lends a strong feminine presence to the film by playing Nak like a calmly deranged Stepford Wife who’s so lovingly connected to her home and family she stays even after death. Maybe Drew Barrymore watched this D. Hoorne’s work here for inspiriation for Santa Clara Diet–another oddly romantic horror comedy show which is the perfect genre combo if ya ask me. To add more layers there are several overlapping social commentaries in the subtext of this film. Under the camp humor there is an underlying social commentary about how spouses (often women) lose themselves in a marriage and become like ghosts and yet another social commentary about the effects on a community who’s young (mostly men) who go to war and either return or don’t, and a social commentary of the expectations of how men are supposed to act. AND there’s even a commentary on stereotypes about rural villagers. The complexity of the subtexts wrapped in the plot of the film is common in Thai films in general (in my opinion).

With so few special effects this film’s success leans on old school theatrics, the setting (mis-en-scene), and the chemistry between the actors. In one particularly hilarious scene, the group is in a small canoe trying to flee from a ghost, after foolishly throwing their paddles in a panic they try to paddle the canoe with their arms while Nak clutches her baby Dang at the back of the canoe. Their group dynamic and energy had me laughing more than most comedies let alone a horror-rom-com. It felt good to watch this and even though I’m not from Southeast Asia, I felt nostalgic for being goofy with my friends by the river.

To conclude–

In my opinion, Ghost stories like Spirited Away or Pee Mak and cautionary tales like Good Boys, Requiem for a Dream, City of God help us question how we think about and understand collective consciousness and spirituality. These stories give audiences an opportunity to see how past or present behaviors affect a person or a community overtime. They can be a tool for processing what past generations have done, how their actions affect our current generation and in turn this helps us imagine how our actions will affect future generations. We can learn a lot from what they caution us against. To find that out we gotta think about what the morals are of each of these stories. The ethical nugget of truth of Pee Mak, and for any of these films, is interpreted uniquely by every viewer. For me, the moral is “Don’t piss off Ghosts” or maybe “We don’t need to start wars, life has enough casualties.” 

As always thank you and raise hell peacefully,

Anne Arkhane 

P.S. This is the perfect season for water, snow-cones, sorbet/ice cream floats, and my favorite Lemonade. Enjoy those at any age in moderation like any other sugary snack.

If you’re over 21 (or the legal age in your country) and are comfortable having an alcoholic beverage in moderation I recently fell for a Thai Wheat by Second Self in Atlanta, GA

From their website: “Rate Beer Score 94

Bronze Medal Winner – Best Can Packaging by Tastings.com

Our flagship American Wheat. This spicy beer is as delightful as the country that inspired it. This beer uses both fresh LEMONGRASS and GINGER to give it a refreshing aroma and taste taking you on a trip across the globe. We keep the beer DRY letting the spices stand out on their own giving you a unique experience.

This flavorful wheat ale is great for an escape into your Second Self.

Pairings include: fish, chicken, pork loin, grilled vegetables, sushi, and Asian cuisine.

5.1% ABV

18 IBU”

Draft 3

WHFS  Spirit of Place part 2

In part one I shared a story about a day of teaching at Denver Public School. To briefly recount– The middle school students convened in a science classroom. Some were in-person in the school while some students, via Zoom, tuned in remotely on computer screens like floating heads in a vat. The students were asked to (a) choose a film and watch it, (b) pick out one scene, (c) write/talk about how that scene defines the tone of the film for them.  They were on part C when I met with them.

A Student brought up the film Good Boys and all the Students fluttered. Some had seen it and all of them seemed to have heard of it. “Give your report” the students all asked, “without spoilers.” The student was willing to share her report and we adjusted the mics so that the remote students could hear her voice. Her address to the group sparked a great conversation about ethical teenage behavior. To paraphrase the student’s summary: The teenagers in the film acted like adults in uncomfortable ways. Sometimes teenagers and kids pretend to know and understand what is going on around them but really they don’t. The kids in the film were pretending to know what they were doing which is why they didn’t know it was wrong. They didn’t know the consequences of what they were doing. They were innocent but they still felt the effects of the consequences. 

I haven’t heard of or seen the film because i’m not it’s target audience yet I’m glad it has impacted them the way it has. At any age it’s fun to see a piece of art, like this film, that has us reconsidering who we are and how we act in the world. We had films like that when I was in middle school as well. Kids (1995), Elephant (2003), Requiem for a Dream (2000) are examples of cautionary tales we circulated, watched, and talked about as teens and young adults. Like it or not those films were our DARE programs. We questioned what the people in the films were doing and thought about how we could make ourselves resilient to those kinds of exploitations / What we would do or say to not fall victim to ignorance like some of the kids in the film did / How could we not be like them? I didn’t really recommend any of those films to them because they contain mature content that isn’t suitable for all age groups especially not as young as middle school. I also didn’t recommend City of God to the students but I did recommend it to the teachers. None of these films are ghost plots however they are a bit horrifying in their content and are interesting in the ways that they conflate reality, fiction, memory and history. And the students seemed spooked by it. When I watch a movie that creeps me out and I can’t sleep sometimes i watch a second movie as an antidote, I usually pick something cheery and mellow like the other students film choice Spirited Away.

If i were to recommend an antidote movie to Good Boys i’d recommend the film Pee Mak (2013) streamable on Netflix (and once the teenagers go to bed you can stream one of Dave Chappelle’s comedy specials).

This hilarious horror-comedy is a thai folk story that has been told over many generations. While the story is not always as campy as Dir. Banjong Pisanthanakun’s version, the plot remains the same after hundred of years and thousands of retellings: Returning home, a soldier is haunted by their spouse and child who died while they were away fighting in the war. Mak (Mark) and the other returned troupes mock the seriousness of war glory stories with their slapstick anxiety over who is and isn’t dead. 

The film is in Thai with English subtitles so it’s almost like reading a book while watching a movie! Can you pick up on any Thai words they repeat? It’s a ghost story but it’s actually a love story so try listening for the word for “I like” or “I love”. You can practice saying it so you know what to listen for–

Vocab: ฉันชอบ (Pronounced: C̄hạn chaawb: in english translates to “I like”)


ฉันชอบ the film Pee Mak because ฉันชอบ folklore and more specifically ฉันชอบ ghost plots in folklore. Ghost films are a fun way to learn about “movie & stage magic” or “special effects” because there are many ways to represent a ghost physique -or lack there of- in storytelling. In Diop’s Atlantics the ghosts are sleepwalking women in pj’s and some contact lenses. In Pee Mak, Nak’s ghost is a traditionally dressed, stoic woman and her baby Dang is often an empty bassinet slowly rocking. Later in the film Nak becomes more ghost-like by wearing effective and simple stage makeup. Actress Davika Hoorne lends a strong feminine presence to the film by playing Nak like a calmly deranged Stepford Wife who’s so lovingly connected to her home and family she stays even after death. It’s a romantic comedy as much as it is a horror comedy and that’s the perfect genre combo if ya ask me. To add an extra layer, under the camp humor there is an underlying social commentary about how spouses (specifically women) lose themselves in a marriage and become like ghosts and yet another social commentary about the effects on a community who’s men who go to war and either return or don’t, and the humor specifically points to the social commentary of the expectations of how men are supposed to act. AND there are many ways this film speaks about stereotypes about rural villagers. The complexity of the subtext wrapped in a hilarious film is a common pattern in Thai films in general.

With so few special effects this film leans on old school theatrics, the setting (mis-en-scene), and the chemistry between the actors. In one particularly hilarious scene, the group is in a small canoe trying to flee from a ghost, after foolishly throwing their paddles in a panic they try to paddle the canoe with their arms while Nak clutches her baby Dang at the back of the canoe. Their group dynamic and energy had me laughing more than most comedies let alone a horror-rom-com. It felt good to watch this and even though I’m not from Southeast Asia, I felt nostalgic for being goofy with my friends by the river.

To conclude–

In my opinion, Ghost stories like Spirited Away or Pee Mak and cautionary tales like Good Boys, Requiem for a Dream, City of God help us question how we think about and understand collective consciousness and spirituality. These stories give audiences an opportunity to see how past or present behaviors affect a person or a community overtime. They can be a tool for processing what past generations have done, how their actions affect our current generation and in turn this helps us imagine how our actions will affect future generations. We can learn a lot from what they caution us against. To find that out we gotta think about what the morals of each of these stories? The ethical nugget of truth of Pee Mak, and for any of these films, is interpreted uniquely by every viewer. For me, the moral is “Don’t piss off Pee Mak” or maybe “We don’t need to go to war, life has enough casualties.” 


As always thank you and raise hell peacefully,

Anne Arkhane 

P.S. This is the perfect season for snow-cones, sorbet/ice cream floats, and my favorite Lemonade. Enjoy those at any age

If you’re over 21 (or the legal age in your country) and are comfortable having an alcoholic beverage I recently fell for a Thai Wheat by Second Self in Atlanta, GA


From their website: “Rate Beer Score 94

Bronze Medal Winner – Best Can Packaging by Tastings.com

Our flagship American Wheat. This spicy beer is as delightful as the country that inspired it. This beer uses both fresh LEMONGRASS and GINGER to give it a refreshing aroma and taste taking you on a trip across the globe. We keep the beer DRY letting the spices stand out on their own giving you a unique experience.

This flavorful wheat ale is great for an escape into your Second Self.

Pairings include: fish, chicken, pork loin, grilled vegetables, sushi, and Asian cuisine.

5.1% ABV

18 IBU”

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