Junji Sakamoto, the director of Children of the Dark (Yami no kodomo-tachi) held a press conference yesterday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand to address the banning of his film from the Bangkok International Film Festival. Producers Yukiko Shiii and Masaomi Karasaki also flew to Bangkok to talk to the press.
Sakamoto says he offered to recut the drama about child-sex slavery so it would be more appropriate for Thai sensibilities. He and his producers also clarified that they hadn't shot the film illegaly. And, they're still waiting to hear a more detailed explanation as to why his film was banned from the festival.
Absolutely Bangkok has coverage of the press conference, as does Deutsche Presse-Agentur, and The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Daily Xpress has a followup to its earlier story, but it hasn't been put online. Here's some a quote from Absolutely Bangkok:
We are very sorry that we can’t play this film at this fest - since it’s shot in Thailand,” Sakamoto told the FCCT. “We were very ready to edit the film to cater for the censorship in Thailand. The festival had actually asked us to bring the film without any cuts. Original films can be played at the festival, they said.”
Of course the programmers would want the original version -- they aren't afraid to show the truth. However their decision was overridden by higher authorities in the government, the Thailand Film Office, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism and Sport.
When the ban was initially reported, the reason stated was that the filmmakers didn't have or weren't granted the proper permission to make their movie in Thailand. Here's more from the press conference, via Absolutely Bangkok:
The semi-official uninvite came from the Ministry of Tourism, says director Sakamoto: “In August we were invited, on September 17th we were uninvited. They used a tricky way. Said we didn’t have the proper permissions. Said that “we’d filmed something that is hidden. We just tried to open up the issues,” says directer Sakamoto. “We got all the visas and permissions needed. There is nothing unlawful.”
Producer Masaomi Karasaki wants to cry, but politely laughs off the Thai powers that be politely: “Every foreign film producer must get an approval from the Thai authorities to shoot here. Our first request was denied. We then proposed it to be a joint production between Thailand and Japan. Many foreign movies do that. So we got the permissions of all the authorities. And the film became a huge success in Japan. We didn’t expect this.”
There have been implications that by reapplying as a Thai co-production, the filmmakers went around people's backs to get their permit -- that they were being sneaky. It's true, though, that co-productions don't have to have their scripts vetted as foreign productions do. Here's more from Kong Rithdee's Variety story:
Sakamoto and his producers, Yukiko Shii and Masaomi Karasaki, flew to Bangkok with an obvious intention to clarify some reports in Thai newspapers that the film Children of the Dark was shot illegally in Thailand.
"We strongly stress that we shot the movie by entering a co-production with a Thai company, and we got working visas for the crew," said Sakamoto. "We didn't shoot the film unlawfully."
Since the initial report of the film's ban, festival officials have said the issue with Children of the Dark is its sensitive content.
In earlier stories, festival president Jaruek Kaljaruek, also head of the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand and managing director at Kantana Group, said the film had "inappropriate content" and festival artistic director Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, a producer at GMM Tai Hub, stated that "it's a sensitive issue".
Those two men have higher authorities to answer to. They are being made to carry water.
The film premiered at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic in July and was released in Japan in August. It stars Yôsuke Eguchi and Aoi Miyazaki Aoi as a Japanese journalist and social worker in Thailand who are trying to rescue children from a ring of foreign pedophiles.
Here's more from the press conference, via Absolutely Bangkok, on just how strong the film's content is, and how it was rated in Japan:
Explains producer Yukiko Shiii, ironically: “The film is that bad, in Japan it first got a R-15 rating for children older than 15. Then it was rated as a PG-12. Under parents’ guidance children older than twelve are allowed to see it in Japan.”
In short: What kids in Japan are legally allowed to see is to hard to swallow for grown up Thais.
Shiii: “You’ll find more sensational images everywhere on the Internet, they’re that widespread. The film is nothing in comparison to that. We just wanted to show people how reality really looks.”
Sakamoto, Shiii, Karasaki, they again and again emphasize how sorry they are that the film is rejected in Thailand. Director Sakamoto: “I wanted to see the reactions of the Thai people when they see the movie. How they feel. I’m very sorry not to see those reactions.”
“This film must be shown to all of the world,“ reads an earlier statement, 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.”
Producer Karasaki: “We expected an open Thailand. But this film is not just about Thailand. It’s about the whole region, helping people on the outside to understand the problem.”
Thing is, as one of nearly 80 films in a festival, Children of the Dark was barely on my radar, even if I'd heard about it months ago. Now that it's been banned, everyone wants to see it. It's interesting how that works.