bêka & lemoine and boonserm premthada during their trip to bangkok

world premiere of the film online FROM 25 TO 27 NOVEMBER 2022

designboom partners with Bêka & Lemoine for the exclusive online world premiere of “Big Ears Listen With Feet”, their latest documentary focusing on the moving personal story of Thai architect Boonserm Premthada from Bangkok Project Studio. Beneficiary of THE DESIGN AWARD 2021|22 in the category Social impactPremthada creates a kind of architecture that promotes respect and humility, taking into account “not only humans, but also nature and the environment that have always existed alongside humans.” Due to a hearing impairment he has lived with since birth, the architect developed another way of listening by using his whole body as a sounding board. Echoing this personal experience, his professional work revolves around an “architecture of the senses”, where sound vibrations become the voice of space through an enormous amount of material.

Instead of just focusing on his buildings, “Big Ears Listen With Feet” delves into the life story of Boonserm Premthada through a day trip through Thailand. Beka & Lemoine’The intimate road movie introduces viewers to the places and people who shaped the architect’s unique identity and sensibility. “We pay a lot of attention to forms of vulnerability and how you can find beauty, poetry and strength in these forms,” explains the famous artist-filmmaker duo.Despite the many adversities he has had in life, he has managed to do such amazing and very demanding work with extraordinary results, so we were very interested in giving voice to such an individual. It gives hope to so many people, compared to the success stories of perfect, invincible individuals. Perfection does not interest us, because we find no poetry in perfection. designboom spoke with Ila Bêka, Louise Lemoine and Boonserm Premthada to find out more about their collaboration. Read our interview in full below.

During the long screening weekend, which will run from Friday November 25 to Sunday November 27, 2022, the full film will be available for viewing. at the top of this page. The online premiere also coincides with the film’s Italian premiere at the Milano Design Film Festival, where it will premiere on November 25 at 9:30 p.m. at the Anteo Palazzo Del Cinema. More info on ‘Big Ears Listen With Feet’ at MDFF here.

all stills from ‘Big Ears Listen With Feet’ courtesy of Bêka & Lemoine

INTERVIEW WITH Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine

designboom (DB): What attracted your interest in the life and work of Boonserm Premthada? How was your first meeting?

Louise Lemoine (LL): The film begins with a Zoom conversation, and we met during this conversation. We asked him to speak because we are currently working on a book about experiencing space in a sensory and emotional way. It is a book that brings together very sensitive people from different generations, different continents and different cultures. Of course, his work has been aired, because these are subjects he relates to a lot, and we were interested in having his contribution. At that time, we actually only knew about his work, we didn’t know anything about his life story. Going through the conversation and meeting him, we thought he was so moving and amazing in his life, work and commitment to small communities, so we thought this would be an amazing opportunity to learn more about him. That’s why we flew to Bangkok to meet him and make the film.

world premiere of the film online: bêka & lemoine and boonserm premthada during their trip to bangkok
Boonserm Premthada at the Kantana Film and Animation Institute

DB: So the film happened a bit by chance, didn’t it?

Ila Beka: (IB): We are big believers in encounters like this, so whenever we can, we really jump at such opportunities and make films in this very spontaneous way. We love making films in the present. This is an experience we shared with him and his wife, who was always there because he had a hearing problem. We didn’t want to make a film about his architecture, we just wanted to share a moment and an experience with him. The film obviously goes into his buildings a bit, but the focus is on the places that move him the most. In fact, he said that more than the places, it’s the people that move him the most, so he brought us to meet people he loves. This is the story of the movie. We spent a day, from four o’clock in the morning until evening, and we stayed with him to go all around Bangkok, then to the countryside, and even to the center of Thailand with a plane and back in the same daytime. It was really hectic, but we just wanted to share a few moments with him because he is a very emotional person.

LL: In our work in general, what we are looking for is the human story behind the architecture. That’s why, as Ila said, we focused the film on him, because we believe his architecture is the embodiment of visions and ideas about how architecture can impact life. people. We thought he would be the real voice to make us fully understand his commitment as an architect.

BI: That’s a beautiful story. Despite his hearing problem and even his past – he was born in a Bangkok slum – he is a very strong man. Now he is doing very interesting and beautiful architecture and he is becoming a very important architect in Thailand and even in the world. For us, it was such a beautiful message, because architecture is normally something that concerns people from a different social level.

LL: We pay a lot of attention to forms of vulnerability and how you can find beauty, poetry and strength in these forms. Despite the many adversities he has had in life, he has managed to do such amazing and very demanding work with extraordinary results, so we were very interested in giving voice to such an individual. It gives hope to so many people, compared to the success stories of perfect, invincible individuals. Perfection does not interest us, because we find no poetry in perfection.

designboom premiere: bêka & lemoine and boonserm premthada on their trip to bangkok big ears listen with feet documentary
monks in Ayutthaya

DB: How did you experience Bangkok? Did you come across any places or encounters that were particularly memorable to you?

BI: The start of the day was very emotional as we drove for an hour to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, to meet monks. But more than the monks, we met the people who, every day at five o’clock in the morning, offer food to the monks. It was very strong because we saw so many people preparing food and giving it to them.

LL: It’s a very poor rural area, so that kind of dedication and generosity is incredible. These people live on little on a daily basis, but the monks survive this way, thanks to the generosity of the inhabitants. It’s a ritual, something that I think is totally common all over Thailand, but for us it was the first time to observe and document it.

BI: After that, we went to the slum where he was born, we stayed there with him and we went to his mother and sister. It was also a very moving moment. Also, it was incredibly loud when we went to Surin, for elephant worldto see its buildings and the elephants.

world premiere of the film online: bêka & lemoine and boonserm premthada during their trip to bangkok
every day at five o’clock in the morning people offer food to the monks

DB: Can you tell us a bit more about the title of the film?

BI: During our online chat, Boonserm told us a very interesting story. As you know, he is almost completely deaf and when he was a child he tried to adapt to this problem in order to be able to listen to those around him. He discovered a way to listen to what they were saying through the vibration of the voice. We perceive sounds through the vibration of our voice, there is a system that translates vibrations into sounds. As his system did not work, he tried to transform his whole body into a resonance chamber to feel the vibrations through his whole body and not just through his ears. If you talk to him, he understands what you are saying thanks to this vibration. In the film, you can see that he is able to understand my voice because I have a low tone, so I create more vibrations than Louise, for example.

When he started working with elephants he discovered something very interesting. Even though they have very large ears, they cannot hear sounds through them. Instead, they hear the vibration through the floor, through the feet. They therefore hear much better with their feet than with their ears. Their ears are very large as they use them to cool their blood as they always live in very hot places around the world. If you don’t know, you think elephants can hear very well because they have big ears, but in fact it’s just the opposite. They hear very well thanks to the vibration of the ground, they can hear other animals arriving several kilometers away because they are hyper sensitive. Boonserm told us he thought he was like a little elephant, with small feet but very sensitive. So we thought it was a great image to call this movie, ‘Big Ears Listen With Feet’.

LL: Elephants are not just a passion for him. Since this revelation, he continues to do projects with elephants, and also to work on them as a research subject.

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