Monday, December 26, 2005

The art of scary trailers

Good points made in an article a few days ago in ThaiDay (which finally has an online presence) about the need for film ratings in Thailand, and along with them, trailers that have also been rated and are approved for general audiences, similar to what is done by the Motion Picture Association of America.

The article highlighted the gory trailers for Art of the Devil 2 (found at Twitch), which were shown ahead of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, an animated feature that many kiddies (and squeamish adults like me) went to see.

Thailand's film industry still has no ratings, and is subject to the long-outdated 1930 Censorship Code, which is enforced by the police. In some cases, the cops physically get into the films with scissors and snip stuff out, or blur offending frames with Vaseline. Every film, video, VCD and DVD that is sold in the Kingdom must get the stamp of approval from the Censorship Board.

The enforcement is spotty, with some DVDs simply getting rubber stamped, but others getting censored. An example of some DVDs I bought recently: Locally sold Region 3 versions of Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino (with Thai, Korean, Mandarin and Bahasa subtitles) haven't been touched, but still have the Royal Thai Police stamp. However, a Thai-dubbed version of Silver City has booze bottles and guns pixellated out. I'll be selling that one back, by the way.

A ratings system, proposed by the Culture Ministry, has been presented for Cabinet approval, but things are taking time. Scuttlebutt has it that the cops don't want to give up their cushy job of watching movies. Each viewing is an extra 500 baht in their pockets. Where's that money going to go when the Culture Ministry takes over?

And, understandably, filmmakers are wary of the Culture Ministry, which has acted positively Orwellian in the past, more like a Conservative Values and Morals Ministry than anything to do with culture.

"I don't underestimate them. But what kind of concept do they have?" an anonymous producer was quoted as saying by ThaiDay. He said he doubted that the Culture Ministry's board would be efficient enough, because most of the appointees are government officials who know nothing of how the film industry works. "Why don’t they just take some of us...and ask for our help with something we know about?"

Adirek "Uncle" Watleela (whose new directorial effort, Ghost Variety, opens on Thursday), was quoted as well. "Those selected to be on the board, have they been to the theater during the past 30 years? How many films have they seen, and how much do they understand them?"

Ladda Tangsupachai, head of the Culture Ministry’s monitoring center, countered that she regularly sees movies and that as an audience member, she doesn’t like to see cut or blurred films either. Once the ratings are in force, she says, everyone will understand their rights: filmmakers will know what to make, parents will know what to buy for their kids and marketers will know how to present their products.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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