A film by Sompot Chidgasornpongse
2017, 102 minutes
No. 087

The first railway line in Thailand was inaugurated in 1893 – a sign of progress and prosperity. Shot over eight years on every active line of the country’s railway system, this extraordinary documentary debut, directed by Sompot Chidgasornpongse and executive produced by award-winning filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, offers an unprecedented immersion into the country’s past and present.

While the camera mixes with the passengers as if it itself were one of them, Railway Sleepers skillfully collapses its massive trove of footage to simulate a two-day, two-night journey through the country. Looking out the train windows, you can still see rice paddies and palm trees. In first class, foreign tourists mingle with wealthy locals, toasting one another before retiring to generously sized couchettes.

In the back of the train however, the wagons are jam-packed, with four passengers squashed on to benches meant for two. People selling food skillfully make their way through the train. Life gets on and off. A woman sells cheap novels, children do their homework, armed soldiers conduct their checks, more and more veiled women board the train.

Amidst this constant bustle, Railway Sleepers emerges as a contemplative portrait of this ever-shifting country as well as a fascinating illustration of the powerful economic and psychological role the railway system played in its history.

Official Selection, Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection, True/False Film Festival
Official Selection, Busan Film Festival

"Recommended. Will appeal to those with a passion for Asian travel - not to mention admiration for Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who is the executive producer." - Video Librarian

"Railway Sleepers demonstrates the beauty in observation." - Vox Magazine

"Trains are one of cinema’s most romantic visual motifs—add Railway Sleepers to the canon." - Paste Magazine