Released in cinemas today, the "monks-with-guns" crime drama The Shadow of the Naga (Nak Prok, นาคปรก),has predictably drawn a protest from Buddhist organizations which are calling on the Ministry of Culture to ban the film.
The story involves three thieves, Singha (Ray MacDonald), Parn (Somchai Khemklad) and Por (Pitisak Yaowananon), who hide their loot in the grounds of a temple but when they return to collect the money, they find it’s been buried under a new chapel. Their solution is to force head monk Luangta Chuen (Sa-ad Piampongsan) at gunpoint to conduct an ordination ceremony for them so that they can stay in the monastery while they dig for their ill-gotten booty. Inthira Charoenpura also stars.
Directed by Phawat Panangkasiri, Shadow of the Naga was actually completed in 2007, but its strong subject matter -- the idea of guns being pointed at an abbot and men posing as monks and acting violently -- made producers at Sahamongkol Film International too skittish to release it. The director organized private screenings for friends and monks, and the response was favorable. "They understand my intention,” Pawat said in 2008.
It premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and then sat back on the shelf at Sahamongkol while producers mulled over what do with it.
Eventually, Thailand got a movie-ratings system, and it's been classified 18+, the highest unrestricted advisory rating. The studio has also taken the unusual step of placing "pop-up" warnings on certain scenes that show inappropriate behavior.
But that's not enough for Adisak Wannasin, president of the Buddhism Relations Association, who says his association and the Network of Buddhist Organisations want Nak Prok banned.
Rather than viewing Nak Prok as a tale of redemption and affirmation of faith, Adisak says the movie is full of harmful images and it will destroy the two-and-a-half millenia religion of Buddhism.
I better go see it before it's pulled from theaters.
(Via The Nation, also at Thai Audience)