It's hard work being an international film buff in Bangkok. Hollywood blockbusters have a monopoly on most cinema screens, and the choice of legal video releases is dire. The last time I looked at the new DVDs inside a video outlet, a shop assistant picked a box off the shelf and held it up. 'King Kong?' she asked. No thanks. Enter the pirates, ready to feed the small, but dedicated, pack of movie fans who don't think Einstein developed the theory of relativity. If you know where to look, Bangkok can yield a bumper crop of international DVDs, stretching from European art house to obscure Japanese animation. Chatuchak weekend market is a good place to dig up VHS versions of cult classics, and there are some interesting DVDs on offer, too. If nobody pays to watch movies, why bother making them? Clearly, the people of Bangkok are still paying to see the blockbuster movies that dominate the city's silver screens, but for Thai filmmakers, film students, commercial directors, or anyone else looking for unconventional fare, the options are few. Of course, piracy is a crime, and as a writer, I'm generally in favour of protecting intellectual property rights, but Bangkok has only a few art house cinemas, and distributors are more likely to chase lucrative Hollywood flicks than Russian classics. A lecturer in film at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University recently told the Bangkok Post he screened pirated films to his students because it was often the only way to get access to teaching material. 'I believe the legal DVDs available here do not always satisfy the students' hunger for knowledge,' he said. The pirates don't only take an imported DVD and crank out illegal copies. In some cases, they actually hire bilingual film fans to do the Thai subtitles for the films, making them a better bet than ordering expensive French or Russian versions online. Clearly, these art house pirates need to follow trends in world cinema and work out which movies will go unnoticed by mainstream pirates. Subtitles are a fascinating aspect of what could otherwise be cast as a simple story of consumers not wanting to pay the full price for copyright material. If the movie industry won't release a Thai DVD version, it seems that consumers are justified in turning to pirates. Sadly, the government-sponsored Bangkok International Film Festival rolls out the red carpet every year for visiting celebrities, yet rarely adds Thai subtitles to movies. The usual excuse is that there is not enough time to translate and prepare subtitles, plus they cost extra. But it seems pirates have worked out a cost-effective way to make them pay - and without government backing.