The Flaherty Film Seminar is one of the nonfiction film world’s most interesting annual events. Founded by Frances Flaherty in 1955 in honor of her late husband, Robert—the documentarian best known for Nanook of the North (1922)—the Seminar brings together scholars, artists, programmers, critics, and more to watch and intimately discuss a selection of works curated by rotating guest programmers. But here’s the twist: none of the films are revealed to the audience in advance of the screenings, in accordance with a principle that Frances Flaherty described as “non-preconception”—an open-minded encounter with the unknown. Typically, the Seminar is held in Upstate New York, but this year’s curators, Julian Ross and May Adadol Ingawanij, decided to host it in a new location—in Thailand, at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya. It’s added a whole different dimension to the Flaherty experience, with audiences and films drawn primarily from Southeast Asia. 

On today’s episode, Film Comment Editor Devika Girish, who’s been on the ground as a Fellow at the Seminar for the last week, invites May and Julian—as well as Thai Film Archive deputy director Kong Rithdee and Thai filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong—to discuss the making of this year’s seminar. Their engaging conversation charts how the works of featured artists—Jumana Manna, Chikako Yamashiro, Riar Rizaldi, Ho Tzu Nyen, Saeed Taji Farouky, Korakrit Arunanondchai, and more—elucidate overarching themes of solidarity and communion.