Saturday, August 5, 2006

See how they offend

See How They Run (Koy Ther Yom) is the latest horror-comedy to come out of Thailand (MovieSeer synopsis and review). Which means it also must be the latest movie to offend someone.

A Buddhist organization is complaining that the movie shows disrespect to the religion and insults the image of Buddhist monks, according to a print-only edition article in The Nation on Friday ("A new spectre: Insensitivity", Page 12A, by Parinyaporn Pajee).

It's another black mark in the book for the Thai film industry, which earlier this year produced Ghost Game, which offended Cambodia by using a mock-up of the Khmer Rouge's torture center as the stage for a reality-TV horror flick. Then there was the soccer comedy Lucky Loser (from GMM-Tai-Hub), which the Laotian government protested as demeaning to Lao people. It was shelved before it was released, burning a 60 million baht hole in GTH's coffers.

See How They Run, about a little ghost boy running around making mischief and scaring villagers (and a monk), is also from GMM Tai Hub. The title is a comedy line that the protagonist – a monk – uses to tell people to flee the ghost. And it’s the scene used to publicise the film that shows the monk himself fleeing from ghost that’s causing the problem.

According to The Nation, the Council of the Buddhist Organisations of Thailand submitted a letter to the National Police Bureau demanding that parts of new comedy be changed, citing the inappropriate title and scenes that insult the image of monks.

"A monk is respected as a mature follower of Buddhist teachings. He should be calm and help people, not run away himself," said Suphin Thongtara, the council's president. "There are many ways of making people laugh. If filmmakers mock our religion, who will respect the Buddhist monk?"

Thailand is 98% Buddhist, so instead of offending its neighbor countries this time, it's offended itself, as well as a religion.

GTH officials deny the accusations, saying the movie has passed the censors, and the filmmakers took the extra step of making sure the film and its promotional materials passed the muster at the Religious Affairs Department.

Anyway, the movie is in cinemas. The money will talk on this one. The protest isn't widely recognized. Contributors on say they think the Buddhist groups are misunderstanding the film, the Nation said. Perhaps they should be more concerned about what is going on in today's society, such as monks who sleep with women or practise sorcery, than some as worldly and trivial a work of fiction, the folks said.

It is, however, another chance to push for a ratings system in Thailand.

"We have followed the rules and adapted the film until we had the approval from the Office of National Buddhism. I don't want to accuse them of narrow-mindedness," said GTH president Visute Poolvoralak. "But, on the other hand, there may be some groups who don’t understand the movie. If Thailand had a rating system, I believe that we could prevent these situations from recurring."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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