Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Free Thai Cinema Movement returns with Freedom on Film

Enacted in 2009, the Thai Film and Video Act replaced an antiquated 80-year-old censorship regime for Thai films. It instituted a film-ratings system that was supposed to make things better but instead made things worse for filmmakers, especially independent directors.

Under the new system, the process of getting official clearance to release movies has been made even murkier, with the bureaucracy of censorship banning two films, the sexually explicit Insects in the Backyard and the political satire Shakespeare Must Die. A third film, the Thai-Cambodian border documentary Boundary, was initially banned but then, after a bit of confusion, was cleared for release with the condition that it be edited to mute out an incidental reference to His Majesty the King.

Following the Boundary episode, there has been a resurgence of the Free Thai Cinema Movement, which started in 2007 to protest the Film and Video Act that at the time was being railroaded through the post-coup rubber-stamp Parliament.

Filmmakers are now taking to Facebook to post Instagram-type photos of themselves along with quotes and the movement's "No Cut, No Ban" logo, calling for an end to the banning and censorship.

According to Shakespeare Must Die co-director Manit Sriwanichpoom, the movement "is an attempt to organize ourselves, do away with the censors and regulate ourselves as the [Thai] TV people have the right to do."

On Saturday, June 1, from 1 to 6.30 in the fifth-floor auditorium at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, the Freedom on Film event will beging with a screening of a new 2.5-hour documentary on censorship. That will be followed by panel discussions with filmmakers, legal experts and rights advocates.

Panellists will include Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who fought a lengthy battle with scissor-wielding censors over his 2006 feature Syndromes and a Century, which was eventually released in Bangkok with the censored scenes replaced with black, scratched film leader.

Others will include Prachya Pinkaew (Ong-Bak), Nonzee Nimibutr (Nang Nak), Pantham Thongsang (Ai-Fak), Tanwarin Sukkhapisit (Insects in the Backyard) and Nontawat Numbenchapol (Boundary).

The panel talk will be in Thai with no translator, but the film has English subtitles.

The event is organized by the Film Department of Kasem Bundit University with participants including iLaw, the Thai Film Director's Association and the Free Thai Cinema Movement.

Check the Facebook events page for more details.

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