On my first day at HIFF, I went to watch the Thai film A Teacher’s Diary at the Dole Cannery Theatre. As expected, parking was hard to find, but when I got inside the theatre it was not as crowded I thought, probably because it was the morning showtime. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait in a long line to get my ticket checked in, and I had no trouble finding a good seat inside the auditorium.
A Teacher’s Diary is a film directed by Nithiwat Tharathorn and was featured as part of the Southeast Asian Showcase of HIFF. The film focuses on two characters, Ann and Song, who are teachers at a rural houseboat school, but each during different years. In the beginning, Song is first hired to teach at the houseboat, despite having no prior experience. As he struggles to adjust in the beginning, he finds a diary written by the previous teacher Ann. Through reading her experiences, Song learns how to connect better with his students. Eventually, Song is inspired to journal his own experiences using Ann’s diary. A year later, Ann returns to teach and finds comfort in reading Song’s entries in her diary. Though they have not met in person, the two young teachers develop admiration and a sense of companionship in each other through reading each other’s diary entries.
I thought the film was very well done. I liked how the film switched back and forth between Ann and Song, mirroring their experiences directly. In this way, it was easy to keep track of their stories and not get lost. It also showed their similarities of how they each had relationship troubles with their significant others not being very understanding of their choices to teach at the houseboat. In hilarious instances, both Ann and Song had to make personal sacrifices for the sake of their students: Ann had to pull a dead body out of the outhouse, and Song had to kill a snake even though he himself was very much afraid. Their differences were also noticeable, but in a way that complemented each other. Ann naturally possessed selflessness, patience, and understanding to teach her students, and was able to help them with difficult math problems. Song, on the other hand, was not as patient and selfless in the beginning, and he kept teaching the students the wrong math formulas, but he was able to convince a dropout student to return to school, something Ann was unable to do. What ultimately united Ann and Song was their dedication to teach their students about meaningful things about life.
Honestly, I expected some really horrible tragedy to happen, but luckily, that did not happen. Even though this wasn’t a melodramatic film, it was not boring either. It was very funny to keep me entertained. Overall, A Teacher’s Diary was a very sweet film, and I am glad that I saw it.