Tate Modern Film

Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Uncle Boonmee - woodland scene

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives 2010

Apichatpong Weerasethakul A Letter to Unlce Boonmee 2009

​Apichatpong Weerasethakul Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives 2010 - waterfall

This programme presents Weerasethakul’s Palme D’Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ) 2010 alongside A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (จดหมายถึงลุงบุญมี) 2009, a short film made in the northeastern Thai village of Nabua during a location scouting trip for the celebrated feature work. Weerasethakul originally visited the region in search of the surviving relatives of the real-life Boonmee, a man who, according to legend, retained memory of all of his former lives. Both films are connected to the artist’s larger Primitive project, a series of works created in response to the precise lack of social memory he encountered in the region. The project includes Weerasethakul’s groundbreaking eight-channel video installation of the same title, which was acquired by Tate in 2011. This screening serves as lead-in to the June opening of Primitive 2009 in The Tanks, which will be presented as part of the new collection displays. 

Watch the trailer

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ)


Film programme

A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (จดหมายถึงลุงบุญมี)

Thailand / UK / Germany 2009, DCP, colour, sound, 18 min, Thai with English subtitles 

A slowly moving camera captures the interiors of various houses in a village. They are all deserted except for one house, where a group of young soldiers can be seen digging outside. It is unclear whether they are exhuming or burying something. The voices of two young men are heard rehearsing a letter to a man named Boonmee, telling him of their desire to create a film about his life. The wind blows fiercely through the doors and windows, bringing with it a swarm of bugs. As evening approaches, the sky turns dark, the bugs scatter and the men are silent. 

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ)

UK / Thailand / Germany / France / Spain 2010, Super 16mm transferred to 35mm, sound, 113 min, Thai with English subtitles
Print courtesy New Wave Films

Suffering from acute kidney failure, Uncle Boonmee has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. The ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long lost son returns home in non-human form. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave, the birthplace of his first life. 

Programme duration: 135 min

Tate Modern

Starr Cinema

London SE1 9TG
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Date & Time

10 April 2016 at 16.00–18.30