STOP10: Wall-of-death riding in รถไต่ถัง (Surrender Wheel) by Nutworajit Udomlikitwong

Trigger warning: rape

Surrender Wheel, by Nutworajit Udomlikitwong and co-director Suchalita Pawaranchanaphong, was screened at the Thai Short Film and Video Festival 2018. SINdie writer Varun reviews the short film and interviews director Nutworajit below. 

Surrender Wheel starts off at an amusement park where we see a wall-of-death rider, the main character Choke (played by director Nutworajit), ending his ride. We are then shown the other characters in the show through an innocent end-of-work social drinking scene which leads Choke to see two of the workers having intercourse in the tents. 

The next scene flashes to Choke sleeping and waking up with scratches on his arm. His memory jogs back to him being raped by his boss, Madame Nim (played by Songporn Na Bangchang). When he reports it to the police, the police initially brush it off, but then decide to tell Madame Nim off. But this backfires on Choke, who has his poster removed from the park. Choke also suffers through being ostracised from the other workers, who even questioned why he did that. After receiving some advice, Choke decides to reconcile with Madame Nim, who will let him ride again if she is allowed to have non-consensual sex with him. Choke is thoroughly traumatised, and initially intends to leave the amusement park for good. But he returns, surrendering his bike. Hence the title, "Surrender Wheel". 

Nutworajit, along with co-director Suchalita, captured an issue which is not usually talked about in society – men being raped by women and the stigma associated with it. The work dynamics as well as consequences associated with visualising sex between workers and pursuing rape in Thailand are also highlighted. 

The ending paints a sad message for his successor, Chai, who witnesses the same workers having intercourse as Choke did, and we, the viewers, might interpret this as a vicious cycle for the young male wall-of-death riders at the park.

SINdie: What inspired you to write this film? What motivated you to explore the theme of females raping males in the film? There is a lot of stigma associated in society with regards to men being raped and the media more commonly portrays women facing sexual assault. Was this a challenge for you? 
Nutworajit: In Thailand, sexual harassment cases have increased, while law enforcement to protect victims is weak. There is a stigma when men are raped by women, often it is seen as humorous, or less cruel compared to women being raped or same-sex rape. Sexual harassment severely affects one's life, and even shapes victims’ personalities. Most victims are frightened by power, and socially ignorant. They are afraid to speak up. The main goal of this film is to convey that every one of us can be a voice for someone.

What inspired you to create the character Choke, a wall of death rider? Also, why focus on a wall of death rider? 
The wall of death was very common in the past in Thailand. It involves risks and traps on the part of the riders. Audiences were entertained by the rider’s risk and are “trapped” to continue watching the show. The wall of death is a good icon to raise the issue of social ignorance – showing how society often overlooks problems while being entertained. Choke is a teenage boy who has little opportunities, making the wall of death his everything. We created Choke as a teenage boy to emphasise his love for his dignity, which leads to both excitement and sadness. Our audience sees his past experiences shaping his behaviour-- men being raped can suffer harmful life-long consequences. We hope our audience can self-reflect, question and examine issues. 

What inspired you to act as Choke? 
Choke was created based on questioning myself - how I would feel or react in cases of sexual harassment. Our team researched past cases to understand how Choke's personality should be. I attended acting workshops to better understand Choke's characterisation. At first, I was unsure if I could handle both directing and acting tasks so our team did some casting. However, we could not find the right match, and given the time constraints, it was best that I take on Choke’s role, as I truly understand the character.

The interview with Nutworajit has been edited for length and clarity.

If you missed Surrender Wheel at the Thai Short Film and Video Festival, you can watch it here on Youtube:

Written by Varun Naidu
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