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A still from The Lost Lotteries. Director Prueksa Amaruji hopes his Netflix heist-comedy will promote Thai pop culture abroad, but there may be a long way to go before Thailand can compete with South Korea as a cultural powerhouse. Photo: Netflix

New Netflix movie The Lost Lotteries ushers in a slate of new Thai content – will it boost Thailand’s pop culture to compete with K-pop and K-dramas?

  • Prueksa Amaruji’s new heist-comedy centres around lottery tickets, a theme the filmmaker hopes will appeal to audiences not just domestically, but abroad, too
  • Netflix’s foray into Thailand will open ‘doors of opportunity’, but the director sees challenges in becoming a regional cultural powerhouse like South Korea

Ushering in Netflix’s latest slate of Thai content is The Lost Lotteries, a “heist-comedy” that director Prueksa Amaruji hopes will resonate with not just viewers in Thailand, but also international audiences.

The subject that underpins the film is universally relatable: playing the lottery, or huay in Thai. Amaruji says he and executive producer Ekachai Uekrongtham agreed that Thai people from all walks of life, regardless of social class and financial condition, buy lottery tickets.

“Winning the first prize in the Thai lottery is like a national dream – I’m also one of those dreamers – so both of us thought that creating a film about the lottery can appeal to the masses, and surely our Thai fans,” says the director, who is best known for his comedy duology, Bikeman.

“After deciding that the lottery would be central to the film’s plot, I thought about how hilarious and ironic it would be to win first prize, but then have the ticket stolen by someone too formidable to stand up to.”

Although he enjoys watching heist movies, Amaruji has never made one before, and says that his latest offering is not “as cool as Mission Impossible or Ocean’s Eleven, but is a chaotic comedy instead”.

Scheduled to begin streaming on November 16, The Lost Lotteries is among the six new titles – four films and two series – that Netflix has slated to boost its original Thai content. Other projects in the works include full-length features from directors Wisit Sasanatieng, Nonzee Nimibutr and Sitisiri Mongkolsiri.

Wongravee Nateetorn in a still from The Lost Lotteries. Photo: Netflix

Amaruji says that, as with his previous commercial offerings, The Lost Lotteries will feature teenagers as protagonists.

Headlining the film are Wongravee Nateetorn and Phantira Pipityakorn, as well as the popular Napapa Tantrakul.

“In Thailand, most film-goers are teens. So presenting characters from this age group helps the audience feel more connected and interested in watching,” explains Amaruji.

The lottery is central to Amaruji’s new film. Photo: Netflix

“However, it doesn’t mean that I only stick to youngsters. Looking closely at most of my films, you’ll see that I also include relationships between teens and their families or mother-and-child relationships.”

The director, whose comedy Jaifu Story was released in August, says working with Netflix has enabled him to learn “about delivering at a global standard – balancing work and rest time, [prioritising] safety on set, and [completing] the licence-related checklist, all of which need special care.”

Amaruji adds that the arrival of streaming platforms provides a potential career boost for Thai actors, directors and production staff.

A still from The Lost Lotteries. Photo: Netflix

“It’s like doors of opportunity are opening for Thai content creators, which is great and challenging at the same time – to create work for an international audience.”

Thailand’s standing in global cinema has been bolstered by Thai filmmaker pioneers such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who has received international recognition.

However, when compared with pop culture behemoths like South Korea – which in recent years has exported its K-pop and K-dramas to adoring fans around the world – Thailand still has a long way to go.
Wongravee Nateetorn in a still from The Lost Lotteries. Photo: Netflix

Amaruji concedes that South Korea’s entertainment sector is much stronger and surpasses Thailand in terms of revenue, accolades and global recognition.

“One of the most enviable advantages is that the South Korean government has been supporting this sector firmly and fully, whereas in Thailand, the entertainment industry has been struggling to sustain itself,” he says.

“As for the advantage, since Thai production teams are used to dealing with a variety of problems – the most significant being financial issues – on a regular basis, we have become adept at solving problems, especially those that don’t require finance.”