Legend of Suriyothai

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


From the Ramayana to the Old Testament and Braveheart, every civilization boasts large-scale stories that celebrate the strength of its shining heroes and articulate underlying cultural values. The extravagant epic film, Legend of Suriyothai, breathes life into fabled Thai heroine Queen Suriyothai, who valiantly died in a 1548 battle against Burmese invaders. Maneuvering her elephant in front of the Burmese king, Suriyothai took the sword thrust meant for her husband, King Chakrapat, and saved her kingdom.

Based on five years of archaeological and historical research, and drawing on accounts by a Portuguese traveler of the period, the visually sumptuous film winds through the dramatic twists and turns of Suriyothai's life from teenage years to her royal wedding, from courtly intrigues to internecine bloodletting, and of course the Burmese invasion. With dazzling period costumes and lavish production design, veteran director Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol, himself a distant relative of current Thai queen Sirikit, resurrects a glorious past of gilded court splendor and grand, bloody battles. This most-ambitious Thai film ever made involved 2,000 extras, 80 elephants, and 70 horses over two years.

Intended to spark Thai interest in tradition, this unforgettable spectacle will most certainly awaken in western audiences an appreciation for Thai aesthetics, history, and a society that valorizes its courageous women!

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

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