Manta Ray

Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s beautiful debut feature, about a Rohingya refugee and the Thai fisherman who rescues him, tells a complex story of friendship with minimalistic ease.

Please note that this film is in Thai, with Dutch subtitles.
Time & Tickets

Dedicated to the Rohingya refugees who have perished at sea or were found dead in mass graves, MANTA RAY ponders the concepts of identity and foreignness, and the reluctance to welcome ‘strangers’ into our lives.

A fisherman living near a coastal village in Thailand, collects stones from the forest to help him catch giant manta rays. A tangled mess of roots, branches, and vines glimmering with twinkling lights, the forest, its surface covered in fallen leaves, hides not only the shiny rocks, but also human bodies, buried in haste. The ‘mute’ is one of those bodies, except when Nobi finds him, he is alive, covered in mud, and severely injured. The fisherman takes him home, cares for him, and names him Thongchai, after a famous singer.

The fisherman has difficulty communicating with the non-verbal Thongchai, but the two men nevertheless grow fond of each other. When the fisherman suddenly disappears at sea, Thongchai anxiously looks for him around town and on the fishing boats. Unable to find him, he continues to live in the fisherman’s house, fishing in the way he had been taught. His identity blurs into the fisherman’s until one day he’s surprised by an unexpected visitor.

Images of great beauty accompany the concise dialogue of a simple script that perfectly embraces the narrative style of this jewel-like film. (source:

Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, Thailand, France, China, 2018, 105 min. Thai spoken, Dutch subtitles. With Aphisit Hama, Wanlop Rungkumjad, Rasmee Wayrana.

Relationships between Buddhist Thailand and the predominantly Islamic Rohingya are extremely painful. The conflict has been going on for decades, but the summer of 2012 marked the start of a new wave of violence against the people. Since then, many Thai government atrocities have come to light. In 2013, Reuters discovered an official Thai government document containing a plan to get rid of the Rohingya by selling the refugees to human smugglers; in 2015 the government again refused to offer asylum and in the same year mass graves full of Rohingya refugees were found in southern Thailand. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Around 2009 - when six boats with 300 Rohingya were pushed back into the ocean, left to die - director Phuttiphong Aroonpheng decided to devote a film to the tragic situation. Signifiers are sparse and impliciet, yet therefore really effective and poignant: take the Islamic prayer of the refugee, or the fact that the film is set on the Thai coast, where smuggling of Rohingya has taken place for a long time.