The film was commissioned in 2006 for Peter Sellars' New Crowned Hope festival in Vienna, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.
Syndromes and a Century premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and then went on to be screened at many more festivals throughout 2006 and 2007, including the New York Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the London Film Festival, Vancouver, Pusan and Rotterdam.
It came home to Thailand in March 2007, where it was screened once for the press, with a limited release planned for early April. But then the censorship board informed Apichatpong that he would have to cut four seemingly innocuous scenes. Rather than cut his baby, the director pulled the film from release. (Update: It was later screened at least twice last year in Bangkok, on November 16 and 17, when Apichatpong introduced it at Alliance Francais.)
Syndromes and a Century made the rounds in theatrical releases in North America, France, the U.K. and elsewhere over the past year. The film is one of the centerpieces of a program devoted to Apichatpong's works this week at New York's Anthology Film Archives. It was listed on the year-end best-of lists of many notable critics.
I think that the more praise that is heaped on this film will only cause the conservative clique in Thailand's Culture Ministry to strengthen its resolve, which likely means more independent films will be punished if indie directors have the temerity to try and release them in Thailand. Or, there's the hope that so much rabble will be roused by the underground film scene, that the establishment will crumble. It's going to be an interesting year in Thailand.
Now, the DVD reviews for Syndromes and a Century are starting to roll in. Peter Nellhaus of Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee is one of the first to weigh in. I don't want to steal too much of this thunder, but I can't help myself, because he so succinctly states the case:
I think I understand why the Thai government banned the film. First, it must frustrate the hell out of the government officials that the most critically acclaimed filmmaker is openly gay, and gets his financing from foreigners. Equally damning is that the filmmaker with the familiar name of Joe makes films that look nothing like either the Thai films made for Thai audiences, or something stately like The Overture, a Thai film for non-Thais. Joe's films lack the frame of reference that connect them with traditional Thai films, which goes against the grain of a country where mainstream cinema means embracing the familiar.
Syndromes and a Century is available at Amazon.com. Get one for yourself and order extras for your friends.