Joshua Gordon’s latest film follows the story of a thai motorcycle gang who have formed a subculture of drugs, crime and riding fast.
Thailand is known as the land of smiles. Bangkok, it’s capital and cultural and commercial centre, the “City of Angels”. But look a little closer, and all is not quite as it seems.
Krahang explores a seedy underside of this beautiful city. It shows how biking provides a sense of freedom for young boys aged 17-21 living in poverty in Bangkok.The act of biking is romanticized, and the boys are addicted to speed – even more than they are to drugs and partying.
One of the boys called Arm says, “Riding a bike is not like a car. When you ride in a car, the metal covers you. When you ride a bike, you cover the metal.”
The director immersed himself in the gang to make this documentary and the result is an intimate portrait of a young biker gang. Together they cruise through the chaotic bustling streets of Bangkok, laughing and joking.
Escape from poverty
Despite their light-hearted banter, the film lingers on the poverty of these bikers in Bangkok. It shows how some of them arm themselves with guns in fear of their lives. Arm talks about his troubled childhood, expelled from school and playing snooker. His friend, Lik, says he has always had to fend for himself.
Biking is sometimes an escape: “The faster I go, the happier I am,” says Lik. But in reality, it’s not always that simple. Members of law enforcement are interviewed about their work delivering the corpses of these boys to their families.
Haunted by ghosts
Thai people are deeply superstitious, and they claim to see the ghosts of dead boys who have died in biking accidents or stabbings. “People always seem to see ghosts when we’re around.”
The officers lament the dangerous lifestyle that these boys are currently leading, harming themselves, their families and the community. Krahang (the name of the film) is actually the ghost of a teenage boy in Thai folklore who only appears at night. It invokes the many boys who have died pursuing this dangerous past time.
One of the bikers, Arm, is caring for the daughter of a friend who died in a biking accident. Though they have their honour, there is a dark underside to the youthful cavorting of this thai motorcycle gang.
Not everyone in Bangkok lives life quite so on the edge. Motorcycling across Thailand is a popular way to explore Bangkok and reach outside the city to the rippling countryside and ancient temples – as long as you can handle the hair-rising driving culture.