Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pen-ek's Paradoxocracy delayed indefinitely

Held back from its release last month due to supposed "technical problems", it turns out politics was the reason all along for the delay in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's political documentary Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิปไตย, Prachathipatai).

According to The Nation's Soopsip column today, the Thai Film Board has approved the film's release after "some censorship".

It was due to open in a limited run on February 7 at Bangkok's Lido cinemas, but the theater got cold feet.

"The problem is no venue wants to screen my film!" Pen-ek is quoted as saying.

It's a reflection of the state of the media under the current government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose administration inspires the same paranoia-fueled fear that kept the media cowed when her now-self-exiled brother Thaksin was prime minister until his ouster by a coup in 2006.

In order to continue doing business and getting access to government sources and advertising streams from Shinawatra business cronies, the mass media feel compelled to play ball, or else be shut out entirely. And rather than risk upsetting the status quo, the tactic is to simply avoid any subject that's even remotely political.

Another example of this was the abrupt cancellation of Channel 3's politically themed TV series Nua Mek 2. Channel 3 execs insisted that they hadn't been pressured by any political figures to cancel the series, which was produced by and starred Chatchai and Sinjai Plengpanich and was directed by Nonzee Nimibutr. However, the channel bosses said they felt "some content was inappropriate for broadcast".

"My film is rather childish," Pen-ek tells Soopsip, saying he doesn't think his documentary is particularly serious in tone. “I don’t understand what they’re scared of. It’s as if we’re back in the dictatorship era of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat – everyone self-censors.”

If Pen-ek can't find a cinema to show the film, perhaps it'll screen for a festival audience, or he might opt for a tour of places like universities and libraries, and pass around a donation box to defray costs.

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