Pulled from last year's Bangkok International Film Festival because higher-ups decided it was "inappropriate", the Thailand-set Japanese drama Children of the Dark will be shown next week at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.
Part of the FCCT's Contemporary World Cinema series, the screening will be followed by a panel discussion with director Junji Sakamoto, Bangkok-based Japanese producer Masaomi Karasaki and members of the Thai cast, including actor Praptpadol Suwanbang. Last year, Sakamoto flew into Bangkok and used the FCCT as his forum to protest the banning of his film.
Children of the Dark is a drama about a Japanese reporter in Bangkok who finds out that the heart donated to an ailing Japanese child was harvested from a Thai child prostitute. The discovery draws him into the dark world of child-sex slavery, pedophilia and black-market organ trafficking. Here's more from the FCCT bulletin:
Based on the book Blood and Bones by Japan-based Korean author Sogil Yan, acclaimed Japanese director Sakamoto, noted for his insightful and intense human dramas, creates a film that deeply moves and disturbs.
The film has undergone three minor "cuts" at our request, but that does not detract from the impact of the explicit scenes.
Children of the Dark premiered at the prestigious Karlovy Vary festival (held annually in the Czech Republic) and was also screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival. It was to be shown at the 2008 Bangkok International Film Festival, but was dropped at the last moment because it was considered "inappropriate."
However, the controversy helped ticket sales in Japan, and from an original seven theatres, the film was released at more than 100 cinemas, with a PG-12 rating.
The much-respected Japanese director has several top stars of his country acting in the film, including Yosuke Eguchi (reporter), Aoi Miyazaki (NGO worker), Satoshi Tsumabuki (photographer), and veteran Koichi Sato (father of the stricken Japanese child).
But it's the young, unprofessional children of the film who almost steal the limelight from the big stars. Director Sakamoto auditioned more than 300 children for the roles. Also in the film, is Thai actor Praptpadol Suwanbang as the abused child prostitute-turned-pimp. (His previous movie was the well-known historical drama Naresuan).
Even the hardened members of the FCCT can't stomach the film uncut.
The showtime is at 7:30pm on Thursday, February 19. I'm not sure if reservations are accepted, so it's best to arrive plenty early if you want to try and get a seat, because if you show up at the last minute, you'll be left standing in the back of the bar.
Update: Asia Media Forum has coverage from the screening, with FCCT officials saying the cuts involved some obscenities and that no visuals were cut.