The Bangkok International Film Festival got under way yesterday with a casual "soft opening" with Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
A few local celebrities paraded through and paused for a few moments to be snapped by shutterbugs -- Pen-ek Ratanaruang posed brieftly alongside fellow Thai director Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, the festival's artistic director -- before scurrying off to catch the movie.
It was a great way to start in a new, less ostentatious direction for the festival, which has come under new management this year after being run by a crew that was more concerned with appearances and glamour than the action of showing great movies.
But the old ways still cling. While the festival may be programmed by some hip indie filmmakers who'd like to shake things up, Thailand's establishment is still predominantly conservative with leanings toward authoritarianism.
Which is why they felt they had to ban a film like Children of the Dark.
When will they learn that when they ban or censor a film, the ensuing stink that's raised causes more problems than if the film had been allowed to quietly unspool? Perhaps if people had seen it, they might criticize it, but they'd also talk about the problems in society that allow children to be exploited.
As Lyn from Lakorn Central commented on my initial post about the film's ban:
[The authorities] clearly have problem. Why are they denying it? Forget about saving face, face the reality.
- Prostitution is rampant.
- Child prostitution is rampant.
- Sex-trade out of control.
- Yaba issue rampant.
Thailand has a social problem, censoring it is not going to solve the issue. Grr!
Children of the Dark director Junji Sakamoto, who struggled to make his film in the first place -- he was initially denied a permit by the Thailand Film Office and then got a permit when he reapplied as a Japanese-Thai co-production -- issued a statement. Hollywood Reporter's Joel Gershon has that:
This film must be shown (to) all of the world, especially in Thailand for the children's future. To stop this film is the same as shutting children's futures, also shutting the future in the country."
A press conference has been called for 2pm today with Sakamoto and his producers at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Freedom Against Censorship Thailand has more on that.
Earlier, Kong Rithdee covered the story for Variety. He quotes Jaruek Kaljaruek, chairman of the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, and president of the Bangkok International Film Festival:
Even though the bad guys in the movie are foreigners, the movie contains inappropriate content about child prostitution that does not fit with Thai society."
The movie depicts a child-sex trafficking ring that supplies children to foreign pedophiles. Aoi Miyazaki stars as a Japanese social worker trying to help the kids.
Kong also wrote about the ban of Children of the Dark in an article in Saturday's Bangkok Post (cache). Be sure to scroll down for readers' comments.
Yesterday, festival artistic director Yongyoot was kept before the bright lights for three hours yesterday, answering questions. He said the ban was more about the subject matter and the image problem it represents for Thailand. Here's more from The Hollywood Reporter:
It was hard to make the decision. I think the film was well-made and it's complicated. It's a very sensitive issue, and I think we as a society need to have more time to have a discussion about it. We need to educate people more about it first."
Yongyoot made similiar statements to Agence France-Presse. Daily Xpress also has a story.